A Georgia jury has decided a security company owes a young woman $1 billion after one of its former employees raped her when she was 14-years-old, The New York Times reports.
Hope Cheston, 20, was at a friend's birthday party at an apartment complex in Jonesboro, Georgia, with her boyfriend in 2012 when an armed apartment security guard approached them.
That guard, Brandon Lamar Zachary, told Cheston’s boyfriend not to move while he raped the 14-year-old on a picnic table. Zachary was later charged and convicted of statutory rape in 2016. He is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence.
After the incident, Cheston believed she would never get justice.
“I was 14, he took my childhood from me," Cheston told the Associated Press. "I just thought it was swept under the rug, and that it no longer mattered."
Her mother, Renatta Cheston-Thornton, filed a suit on her behalf against the security firm Zachary worked for, Crime Prevention Agency, in 2015. On Tuesday, May 22, a jury decided Cheston’s suffering mattered.
The company was found liable for neglect because Zachary was not licensed to be an armed guard.
According to Cheston’s attorney, L. Chris Stewart, jurors left their posts to embrace Cheston and her mother after the announcement.
Following the verdict, Cheston requested media outlets use her name because she wants to be an example for other sexual assault survivors.
“I feel like my case is just to show that you may not get it immediately, but you will get what you’re worth,” Cheston said. “This shows that people do care about the worth of a woman.”
Since the company isn’t worth $1 billion, and the final amount the firm will have to pay is subject to the judge's approval, Cheston probably won’t receive the full amount. However, Stewart believes the decision sends a message.
“A jury, from now on, will know there is no ceiling on the damages that rape causes to a woman,” Stewart told The New York Times. “They literally thought a billion dollars was the value of a 14-year-old being raped in public.”