Kelly St. John Screens her Astonishing Film

The Malott Commons hosted an evening with Kelly St. John ’96, San Francisco Chronicle reporter and producer of the Emmny award-winning documentary Forever Fourteen, on March 25. St. John’s film was screened to a hushed audience, as the subject matter is at once shocking and angering and astonishing.

Forever Fourteen examines the 1987 rape and murder of 14 year-old Wendy Osborn and St. John’s own rape at 14 by the same man the following year.

Honoring Wendy’s memory, the film reviews the tragedies through interviews with the parents of the two girls, home video footage of the two girls at age 14, and Kelly’s own memories of the attack most poignantly recalled in images from the diary she kept at the time. The film deals with the events leading up to the attacks, the aftermath, and the two families’ ultimate acceptance of what happened.

The Q & A session with the audience that followed began hesitantly, with a few guarded questions to St. John about the making of the film as a catharsis. Soon, though, questions came fsster, as St. John’s composure and frankness invited more sensitive questions.

“Would I change my history? No,” she revealed to a stunned audience. “The rape, that time, is a part of me – who I am and who I’ve become.

“I can’t explain why I survived, why my attacker let me go, or how I coped so well,” she mused:”Yes, the film was a cathasis of sorts. Talking to Wendy’s parents, and to mine, I tried to be honest, to find the moments most surprising and honest…other than the tears. And, fortunately, I found that the rational reporter in me took over the interviews. When I was in the studio, I was able to digest it – to feel it all. I realized that I’m still affected by certain things…Mr. Osbom remembering what I wore the day I testified in court at his daughter’s murder trial, the sadness I feel for my attacker’s wasted life, my own fither still not able to say the word ‘rape.”‘

St. John was lucky. She was let go, and she came through her experience with grace, strength, and not a trace of “victimhood.” She went to high school dances, graduated from college, studied abroad, went to graduate school, got married, and has pursued a remarkable career. The film is a testimony to and model of the strength and courage of survivors.