She stood up to speak in a hushed courtroom, two decades after she had been attacked by her boss in a darkened Edgartown bedroom. Only now, she was not a 15-year-old girl, but an articulate, educated, professional woman.
Twenty years after Chad M. Edward had been convicted of sexual assault charges, sentenced and served his time, he was back in Dukes County Superior Court earlier this month — and so was his victim.
And despite the passage of time, the woman told the court, she still felt powerless, ashamed and fearful. The difference was that she was able to stand up and speak publicly about those fears and describe the powerful undertow the case has had on her life.
Kealee Rainaud, now 37 and an Island resident, agreed to be identified in this story, despite her initial concerns about what others might think once her identity was revealed to a wider audience. The Gazette does not ordinarily publish names of victims alleging sexual crimes.
“And then I thought, who cares? Who cares what everybody thinks?” she said in an interview last week. “Because the people who are close to me are the only ones who matter, and they are not going to judge me in any negative way.
“And the bottom line is: If one person — one person — goes to [Martha’s Vineyard] Community Services after reading the article and gets help, then that’s something. If one person gets some sort of knowledge or opens their mind and heart to a victim or survivor and becomes more educated because of that, that’s fine,” she said.
“So why am I going to hide myself and hide my story when just being honest about something can be helpful?”
Earlier this month, Ms. Rainaud and Mr. Edward returned to the very same courtroom because Mr. Edward had been granted a new trial on charges of statutory rape of a child, indecent assault and battery on a person 14 years or older, and unnatural acts with a child.
He had already served his prison sentence, two years, and spent most of the years since on parole. But he persisted in his appeal and finally won a new trial on grounds the trial judge had improperly closed the courtroom to the public during the 1991 testimony of Ms. Rainaud, who was 17 by then.
But instead of a trial, the prosecution and defense reached an agreement in which Mr. Edward pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of assault and battery and received one year probation. Prosecutors were prepared to go to trial, said Ms. Rainaud, who was closely consulted on the plea. But a second trial conviction after so many years was no guarantee and likely would not mean another day in prison. It was also unclear whether a second successful prosecution would qualify him for the state’s registry of sex offenders, 20 years later, she said.
Cathleen E. Campbell, a Boston attorney, represented Mr. Edward in his appeal and spoke on his behalf at the hearing, but declined comment when reached by telephone this week. In 2010 court documents, she had said Mr. Edward had not been in any trouble with the law since his release. Efforts to learn his whereabouts to seek his comment were unsuccessful.
Twenty years earlier, the teenaged Ms. Rainaud wrote an eight-page victim witness statement in which she yearned to be “normal” again, rather than the constantly crying, tormented person she had become.
“I truly believe in the saying, ‘what goes around, comes around.’ I believe somewhere along the long road I’ve yet to travel something will make up for this terrible traumatic incident that has happened to me and my loved ones,” she wrote.
But that statement, penned in clear cursive on lined legal paper, was never read in court, only submitted to the judge.
This time, Ms. Rainaud did not pass up an opportunity to stand up and speak. And Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard later described it as “one of the most compelling and impassioned victim statements I’ve heard in 25 years.”
Addressing the Hon. Cornelius J. Moriarty 2nd, Ms. Rainaud described the enduring psychological scars of an attack that ripped away her innocence and trust. That August night in 1990, she testified, was followed by years of depression, symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome and even a nervous breakdown.
“The bottom line is the justice system cannot fix or change what the defendant did that night,” she told the court. “Years of therapy hasn’t, becoming more educated hasn’t, helping others hasn’t and time certainly still hasn’t. As often as I’ve wished it, nothing will erase it.”
And yet, she says now, there was relief as she walked out of the Edgartown courthouse with her younger sister and two friends.
She said she knew she had spoken not just for herself but others incapable of giving voice to their own pain. She could look forward with cautious optimism, and not just steal glances backward. Perhaps there would even come a day when she would no longer relive the events of in early August 1990, and ask herself: What should she have done differently?
In 1990, Ms. Rainaud said she was that “normal” kid, someone who did well in school — her father, after all, was a teacher in her school district. In the summer, she stayed on Chappaquiddick with her mother and worked two jobs to earn money, hoping to save enough to buy her own car some day.
One of her jobs was as a salesperson at Leather and Lace, a store on Kelley street in Edgartown owned by Mr. Edward and his wife.
With her mother’s consent, the girl agreed to babysit the child of one of Mr. Edward’s friends at the Edward household. With Mr. Edward’s wife and children away, Mr. Edward and the friend stayed out late, returning at about 1 a.m., according to court testimony.
Because they planned to return after the Chappy ferry stopped running for the night, she had offered to stay with friends in Edgartown but finally agreed to stay at the Edward house. When the men returned and Mr. Edward’s friend left with his son, Ms. Rainaud soon retired to a bedroom, put on a nightgown, read for a bit and turned out the light. It wasn’t long before Mr. Edward came in the room, naked, got into the bed and the sexual attack began, she testified.
After he fell asleep, she quietly got up, dressed and fled the house, walking in the predawn darkness to the wharf by the Chappaquiddick ferry, and waited for her mother to come across the harbor that morning, as she headed to her job. But when she arrived, Ms. Rainaud did not tell her mother what happened then, and it was more than a day later that she finally went to the hospital and later to the police.
Why did she wait?
Ms. Rainaud, who has since advocated for abused children and women, explained in an interview that it was the paralysis of a 15-year-old victim’s mind.
“It’s those ideas: ‘They’re going to think it’s not that bad,’ ‘It’s my fault,’ all those things,” she said. Later that night, when she hinted to a friend what had happened, she was counseled to keep it all quiet.
“‘Whatever you do, don’t tell anybody. Trust me, trust me, don’t tell anybody. It’s not worth it. Don’t tell anybody,’” Ms. Rainaud recalled her friend saying.
But eventually she did tell and Mr. Edward was arrested. The next October, the trial in Dukes County superior court featured Ms. Rainaud’s testimony about the night in the house on Dark Woods Road, and Mr. Edward’s testimony and that of his wife vehemently denying the charges. The defense portrayed Ms. Rainaud as a “problem child,” a disciplinary problem as an employee and someone who even drank some of Mr. Edward’s beer the night she babysat.
She now laughs at the thought. “I don’t think that I drank anything before [that night]. My drinking happened afterward, as an adolescent. It happened afterward,” she said.
A jury of three men and nine women deliberated about two hours before convicting Mr. Edward. Judge Walter E. Steele sentenced him to 20 years at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord, which in the days before truth-in-sentencing laws meant he could apply for parole after two years.
As Mr. Edward headed to prison, Ms. Rainaud said she encountered a life that too frequently included bad choices, dysfunctional or abusive relationships, depression and anxiety.
But she remains thankful for her supportive family and friends who helped her through her struggles. And ultimately those struggles would lead to a career helping other victims forced to walk a similar path. The epiphany came one day when she was managing a large retail store, working 60 or 70 hours a week, probably during the frenetic holiday shopping season. “What am I doing with my life?” she said she asked herself. “Is this what I want to do? I mean, what is the point? I’m selling this stuff. I need a purpose. I need something.”
Ultimately, it pointed her back to her education and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she finished her undergraduate studies, obtained a degree in counseling psychology and social advocacy and worked as a counselor for the campus rape crisis hotline. She would go on to serve as a victim witness advocate in the child abuse unit of the Northwestern Massachusetts district attorney’s office. And she has served as a counselor at Connect to End Violence, a program for survivors of domestic and sexual violence at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
And just as she was finishing her master’s degree in clinical social work from Boston University earlier this year, she got the phone call from the district attorney’s office.
Mr. Edward had been granted a new trial.
“I pulled off the road to take it in. I was in shock. I was angry. I was sad. I got off the phone and completely broke down,” she said.
As the months passed, and then the Nov. 3 date approached, Ms. Rainaud vowed to be prepared for a return to the courtroom. To stand up and speak up this time. To tell her story. As it happened, she had no way of knowing that a few feet away from her in the courtroom that day were other handcuffed defendants waiting for their cases to be called — including a man accused among other things of raping a 15-year-old girl this past summer.
“I did everything I needed to get me in a place psychologically to be able to speak, to be strong, to be grounded,” she said. She considered filling the courtroom with her friends, to really make it uncomfortable for Mr. Edward. But it turns out the words in her typewritten statement were powerful enough. “I know I don’t have to be here,” she told Judge Moriarty, “but I’m angry and I’m sad and that 15-year-old little girl in me wants to scream and yell and call Mr. Edward names and even hit and kick him so he hurts.
“I wish I wasn’t so scared and had the courage that night to hit and kick and scream harder and louder. I still beat myself up today for not being strong enough then . . . to physically overpower an adult male.”
She spoke of how the experience has seeped into every corner of her life — her relationships, her school, her work, her eating habits, her life choices. While she is grateful to police and staff in the district attorney’s office, she also spoke of fighting within a justice system that has “been almost as intimidating and scary as Mr. Edward was the night of the assault.”
She never filed a civil lawsuit “because it was not about the money,” although she and her family have spent thousands of dollars for counseling over the years, restitution she said criminal courts need to more seriously consider.
Ms. Rainaud looks forward to a career helping women and children, starting her own family and remaining on the Island, where she’s lived for the past five years. In other words, “normal.”
“I did get closure in court that day,” she said. “It was neither good nor bad, it’s just what happened. I did what I could in the moment, given the circumstances. I realize that I must work each day to make peace with the past.
“I suppose we all do.”