A woman who was sexually assaulted as she slept in her Boston University dorm room confronted her attacker in a packed Boston courtroom Tuesday, telling the former MIT student that he “changed a 20-year-old girl from a student, to a victim, to a survivor.”
The woman, now 22, spoke directly to Samson Donick, moments after he pleaded guilty to indecent assault and battery, assault and battery, and breaking and entering in the 2015 attack.
Donick was sentenced to five years of probation, avoiding jail time, under terms of a plea agreement reached after the woman told prosecutors that she didn’t want to go forward with a trial, which was slated to begin Thursday.
Donick had been charged with aggravated rape, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. But prosecutors said Monday that they could not win a conviction at trial without the woman’s testimony.
Judge Janet L. Sanders said she was accepting the plea agreement “with some reluctance.”
“The recommendation being made is a lenient one,” Sanders said, noting that Donick’s crime would normally “cry out for some jail time.”
Donick admitted that he entered the woman’s room in the predawn hours of Oct. 18, 2015 and assaulted her. At Sanders’ insistence, he described his actions in graphic terms.
“I am extremely sorry, and I always will be,” Donick said, speaking quietly from the witness stand. “I always will be.”
Donick said his behavior was “inexcusable” and said he felt “deep shame” for his actions.
“She’s incredibly courageous,” he said. “And it breaks my heart that I’m responsible for this.” Donick and the victim did not know each other before the attack.
The woman, whom the Globe is not naming because she is a sexual assault victim, cried as she read a statement from the witness stand. She recounted the agony she felt immediately after the assault, as she was laying in a hospital bed with a friend and her lacrosse coach by her side.
“The sudden and intense breakdowns and anxiety attacks because someone had taken advantage of me in my supposed ‘safe place,’ my bedroom,” she said. “The muffled murmurs outside the door of nurses discussing how a rape victim was in the emergency department and how they could hear my sobs.”
Telling her parents what had happened was heartbreaking, she said.
“Tears streamed down my face as I grabbed my coach’s hand and asked her if she would do the horrible, life-altering call to my parents to tell them because I wasn’t strong enough to,” she said. “The sobs of my mom filled her phone and my dad yelling behind: ‘What happened? Is she OK?’ The overwhelming guilt of making my parents feel this way overcame me. But wait — why did I feel guilty? I had done absolutely nothing wrong.”
As a condition of his probation, Donick will have to perform 1,000 hours of community service and undergo sex offender treatment. Sanders agreed to waive the requirement that he register as a sex offender in Massachusetts but said he will probably have to register in his home state of California.
At a hearing Monday, the woman said she didn’t want Donick to have to register because she believes “everyone deserves second chances.” On Tuesday, Sanders commended her for showing “a level of compassion to the defendant that he was not able to show her that night.”
The woman said she did not find that strength easily.
“I had to look my best friends in the eyes and tell them, and all I wanted was to take away their pain,” she said. “I began to question everyone’s trust around me and quickly became isolated. I had to learn to fall back in love with my boyfriend because men became my enemy.”
She thanked her family for helping her heal and urged Donick to atone for his actions.
“I ask that you make your future untainted,” she said. “I ask that you make a positive impact in every life you touch, because the many negative impacts you made in mine and my family’s are enough for a lifetime. I ask that you take seconds, minutes, and hours, and truly realize how one early morning you changed a 20-year-old girl from a student to a victim to a survivor. I ask that you live each day with a little reminder of what you did and make up for it.”
The woman didn’t make eye contact with Donick when she walked past him after her statement. Before she reached her seat, she was met by her father, who extended his arms to embrace her.