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Exclusive: Central Park Jogger Speaks Out Against Oprah

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In an exclusive interview with NY1, the Central Park jogger who was brutally raped and left for dead in 1989 said she was stunned by the questions Oprah Winfrey asked her during their 2002 talk.

Trisha Meili, who decided to break her silence and give her very first interview to "O" Magazine, said Oprah asked her what she was doing in the park at that hour.

"If she were to ask me that question now I'd say, ÎIf that isn't a blame the victim question, I don’t know what is,’ because that's exactly what it feels like,” said Meili. “So it’s like, okay so it’s my fault that I was out there? And what about all those young men who were out there at that time? I think that's still one of the most difficult battles that sexual assault survivors and those who support them need to fight."

In response, a spokesperson for "O" Magazine said, "We’re sorry to hear Ms. Meili felt this way about her 2002 interview with Ms. Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey is and has always been an advocate for victims of sexual abuse of any kind."

Meili's 2003 memoir, "I am the Central Park Jogger," is a tell-all about one of the most horrific crimes in modern New York City history. On April 19, 1989, shortly before 10 at night Meili — a 28-year-old investment banker — went for a jog in Central Park. She was brutally raped, beaten with rocks and pipes, and left for dead.

“One of the ironies of what happened is that my compulsion with running nearly killed me, but because I was in such good shape from all of that exercise and running, I lost almost 80 percent of my blood but my heart still kept the blood going around and giving oxygen to my brain,” she said.

Police arrested five teenagers: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. All of the defendants, except Salaam, confessed on videotape. All five were convicted in 1990 and sentenced to jail.

Then in 2002, Matias Reyes — a convicted murderer and rapist serving a life sentence for other crimes — admitted that he and he alone attacked Meili in Central Park.

“I certainly know that he raped me,” said Meili. “I don't know if he was the only one there."

DNA evidence backed up Reyes' claim and the convictions of the so-called Central Park Five were vacated.

For the first time publicly, Trisha Meili expressed her doubts to NY1 that the teens are completely innocent.

"I'm never going to know if the others who did make the confessions, although the defense says those were invalid confessions, two judges ruled that they weren't, and I always wonder about one piece of evidence," said Meili. "One of the guys, when asked about a scratch that he had on his cheek, referred to me before I was ever found. 'Well, that lady did it,' (he said). What lady?"

Meili says she doesn't remember a thing from that attack. She doesn't even remember going to the park that night. She was in a coma for 12 days following the assault.

"There's a medical explanation for why there is no memory there," said Meili. "The short-term memory never physiologically implanted itself or had the time to implant itself on my brain to long-term memory. So it's not a case of 'Oh I'm just repressing this memory,' but it's actually not there. I'm never going to know. And as part of my own healing, I've had to accept the fact that I’m never going to know."

Meili is sharing her healing process with the world. As an inspirational speaker, she's actively involved with Mount Sinai's Sexual Assault Violence Intervention Program and the Achilles Track Club.

“To me, the Central Park Jogger means healing, hope, and possibility. I think that was also one of the reasons I wanted to come out,” she said. “I realize that I could be a symbol of hope and possibility rather than violence and victimization and that's what I hope people will think of when they think of the Central Park Jogger."

- Cheryl Wills
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