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Dart Award Winner

Rape in a Small Town

May 2003

Laura has retreated to the sofa again.

Laura has retreated to the sofa again.

She's fuming. She's angry with people at school, injustice, absolutely everything.

One hot evening in late April, she drove with two girlfriends to the Lincoln Mall — a popular place for Burrillville teenagers to hang out.

She let her guard down and left her beloved red Pontiac Sunfire in the lot with the windows down. It was that hot.

When they came back after eating at Papa Gino's with some other friends, the back seat was drenched with milk. Puddled on the floor, the cloth seats, the seat back.

Laura heard that some Burrillville students, friends of Nick's, had been in a nearby Stop & Shop that evening. All they bought was milk.

She filed a police report, but nothing has come of it. Her car still smells — "like vomit."

Plus, one of Nick's friends has been following her lately. The girl calls Laura a slut, asks if she wants to fight, tells her she didn't get raped and she ruined Nick's life.

Then the girl got "wicked pissed" when Laura confronted her.

"I was like, 'What the heck is your name?' " Laura says. "I was like, 'You don't mean anything to me. You mean this much.' "

And Laura holds her thumb and forefinger a hair's width apart.

What's it going to take for them to leave her alone, she wonders aloud.

You'd have to leave, says her mother, who is just as frustrated as Laura is.

But Laura — the girl who was begging to move a year ago — doesn't like that answer.

Why not?

"Because they don't win," she says. "It doesn't work like that. I don't have to fight any more fights. I won. I'm done."

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Kate Bramson

  • Kate Bramson, a 1993 graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, has been on the Providence Journal reporting staff since August, 2002. Prior to joining the Journal, she was the education writer for the Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota. From October, 1995 to Feburary, 1997, she was news editor for Budapest Week and The Budapest Sun in Hungary.

Bob Thayer

  • Bob Thayer is an award-winning feature photographer who has been on the Providence Journal staff since 1978. He is a graduate of Bowdoin College and the Columbia School of Journalism.

Mimi Burkhardt

  • Mimi Burkhardt has served in several roles since joining the Providence Journal's copy desk in 1980. She has been night metro editor, an assistant city editor, and a projects editor. For the past three years she has been a training editor, working closely with the newspaper's two-year interns and other reporters on the state staff. It was in her role as a consultive editor she worked with Kate Bramson on the award-winning story.

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