She never told her family that her then-stepfather had raped her when she was 8, then revealed the allegation in a college application essay. Telling her painful story to a jury finally put it to rest, she wrote in a statement read Monday as her ex-stepfather was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
"Getting closure and justice on this horrible situation is the best thing I could have gotten from this experience," she wrote, adding that after testifying, "I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders."
"I feel a lot happier than before," wrote the woman, who didn't attend the sentencing. "I will not forget what happened, but I will move on from it."
The 63-year-old man, who came into the Brooklyn courtroom carrying a Bible, stayed silent as he heard her words and his sentence, hanging his head. His lawyer noted that he plans to appeal.
"He denies he committed the crime," attorney Ernes Hammer said, calling the case "a difficult matter and a very, very unattractive one."
The Associated Press is withholding the man's name because disclosing it could identify his accuser. The AP generally does not identify victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.
The man was charged with the 2003 rape nine years later, after the woman penned an essay to apply to a Florida Christian college, prosecutors said. She'd been asked to write about what made her who she is.
She responded with an account of how her churchgoing childhood was upended after her mother embarked on a marriage that "changed my life forever." While her ex-stepfather seemed all right at first, "toward the end of the marriage he began to rape me," his accuser wrote. At the time, "I never told anyone ... at that point in my life, I was scared," she added.
Her mother, by then divorced and remarried, read the essay and called police, prosecutors said.
During her ex-stepfather's trial, his lawyer suggested that the mother was trying to get back at her former spouse and that the student was bidding for sympathy to get into college.
A jury convicted his client of rape and other charges.
The man "has never accepted responsibility for his actions," Assistant District Attorney Anna Krutaya said Monday, urging that he be sentenced to the maximum 25 years behind bars.
State Supreme Court Justice Dineen Riviezzo noted that the man had no prior criminal record.
By the time she wrote the essay, his former stepdaughter had moved to Florida with her mother, rejoiced in her mother's new marriage and recommitted to her faith, according to her essay.
"All I have been through has made me the person I am today," she concluded.