While many 18-year-old girls look forward to college and the beginning stages of adulthood, Abigail Brookshire found herself in the throes of despair that would change her life forever.
It was in the fall of October three years ago when Brookshire said she was violently raped by an in-law at her home in Midlothian. After being unable to shake the frightening incident from her memory, she told her father, who then reported it to police. Justice, however, she found out would be far from swift.
"My report did not result in a conviction due to lack of protocol in place and the lack of information I received regarding resources available to me," Brookshire told the Mirror. "I won my civil case and now have a permanent restraining order against the assailant, but he is still free and without criminal consequence."
Being dissatisfied with the handling and outcome of her case, Brookshire decided to turn her focus to advocacy in the hopes that no one else would be put through the rigors of "an incompetent justice system that allows victims to slip through the cracks and never see retribution."
"I've been working to help make new laws and advise leaders on appropriate steps to take to help other survivors," The University of Texas at Arlington psychology student championed. "I want to be a part of helping survivors of crime in every way I possibly can."
The statistics are staggering. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network purports that a sexual assault occurs every 92 seconds, and only 230 out of every 1000 cases are reported to the police.
TAKING ON STATE LAWS
Last week it was announced Gov. Greg Abbott had appointed Brookshire as one of 12 people to serve on the prestigious Texas Crime Victims' Institute Advisory Council.
"Abigail Brookshire has played an important role in combatting campus sexual assault and as a survivor herself, Abigail will provide a vital perspective on behalf of crime victims in Texas," the governor's press office expressed to the Mirror via email.
The task at hand for the 12-member team is no small feat. It will be "charged with conducting an in-depth analysis of the impact of crime on victims, close relatives of deceased victims, guardians of victims and society," according to a press release.
At 21, Brookshire is the youngest member on the team.
"It feels great, but it's also a little intimidating," she admitted. "I'm excited but also humbled to be a part of this, and I will put in all my extra time doing more research to further this cause that is so important to me."
It's easy to see why Brookshire was a top choice for the governor. She is credited for taking the lead on amending a 2018 Republican Party of Texas plank concerning the handling of rape cases to include a standard statewide protocol. The plank was later renamed Abby's Law.
The psychology major's foray into politics was just beginning. In the summer of 2018, she worked with State Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie) to amend House Bill 8, known as the Lavinia Masters Act. The amendment makes way for further guidelines for law enforcement and medical professionals when responding to sexual assault victims.
"I'm thankful for Ms. Brookshire, who came to my office with the goal of making a difference for her fellow Texans," Wray explained in an email to the Waxahachie Daily Light. "Her passion and experience inspired me to file this legislation. After a lot of research, we identified two simple steps, which will create a more accurate and efficient process during a sexual assault report."
Brookshire will serve on the governor-appointed council, based in Austin, until January 2021. She will also graduate from UTA in the summer of that year.
"My career goal is to be able to go into a job where I can help others deal with their trauma as my therapist helped me get through mine," Brookshire expressed with optimism.
Patrick Clarke | @PatrickClarke1 | 469-517-1456