Though her daughter's rapist has pleaded guilty and been sentenced, Leslie Camp said she has no plans to stop advocating for the victims of sexual assault.
Earlier this year, Camp spoke out about her concerns with the way the Niagara-Wheatfield School District handled her daughter's situation, and later with the sentence that was given to her rapist. Today, she's still speaking out, but now her goal is to generate changes she feels would have lessened the difficultly her daughter experienced and help make sure history doesn't repeat itself.
"I'm definitely not done yet," she said. "They are taking steps in the right direction, the district attorney's office, the school, the administration at the school and the board, which is good, but she still never should have dealt with everything that she dealt with last year."
Camp's daughter, Taylor Gordon, was the victim of an assault that took place during the summer of 2018. Charges were brought and the defendant, Elias Dowdy, pleaded guilty to third-degree rape in May. But while legal proceedings were underway, Gordon still had to attend school with Dowdy, and would regularly see him in the hallways as she passed between classes.
Gordon also faced issues with other classmates and was often unable to bring herself to go to school at all. One student even sent her a photo of Dowdy with a caption which read, "your boyfriend."
One of Camp's biggest concerns was the fact her daughter and her rapist were kept in the same school. While she said she knows that Dowdy was considered innocent until proven guilty, Camp said the district had alternative options to ensure that he was not deprived of an education, but still kept away from Gordon.
"I don't ever want to see another child, male or female, any other student, have to go to school with their rapist ever again," Camp said. "He was entitled to that education, but the New York State Department of Education says (he's not entitled to) the venue. They should have taken him out of that school on day one."
Camp said she noticed discrepancies between what the school's administration said it would do to protect her daughter and what was actually done. She also condemned the school's choice to suspend students who participated in a walk-out in support of Gordon.
After she spoke up at a board of education meeting earlier this year, Camp was invited to join a committee that would assess Niagara-Wheatfield's policy for dealing with students who are in similar situations. Camp said the committee hasn't met yet, but she's eager to start working toward some solutions.
Camp was also approached by the Niagara County district attorney to have a meeting about the way these matters are handled in court.
Though she's looking forward to working with local establishments to advocate for victims, Camp said that's only part of her plan. The other part is to make the issues stay relevant by keeping the conversation going.
On Oct. 25, Camp and Gordon appeared on an episode of "Dr. Phil," where they shared Gordon's story.
In the episode, Gordon says she believes Dowdy was protected because he was an athlete. Camp says that when she confronted former principal Michael Mann, who has since resigned, he emphasized Dowdy's right to be in school rather than the trauma Gordon was dealing with.
"The rapist got a time-out," Camp said on the show. "My daughter got a life sentence."
She said the school assured her that they would take steps to keep Gordon and Dowdy apart, but she was furious when she found out that they accomplished that by taking her daughter out of classes and placing her in an in-school suspension room.
Other guests on the Dr. Phil episode had backgrounds as judges or lawyers, who debated the merits of the sentence of Brock Turner, a former Stanford student who was convicted of raping an unconscious woman back in 2015. He was sentenced to six months in jail, but only served three.
Camp said she was furious listening to some of the panelists who agreed with the Turner sentence, and other minimal sentences for convicted rapists. She said that it doesn't seem like justice considering the long-term impact a rape can have on the victim.
"These victims of these crimes ... they get a life sentence," she said. "How is that not taken in into consideration? Why do we care about the perpetrator's future? So what? They chose to do these crimes. These victims, they don't choose to be victims."
Dowdy's sentence was much lighter than Turner's. He was sentenced to a year of "interim probation." This means he'll be eligible for youthful offerer status he he stays out of trouble for a year, which could result in no jail time, no sex offender registration and a sealed conviction.
Gordon is still dealing with the aftermath, though her mother said she'll likely need counseling for many years to come as she continues in her recovery. Camp said her daughter has "OK days, bad days and worse days," but "no good days."
Though the sentence was not what they were hoping for, Camp has no plans to stop speaking out on her daughter's behalf. She said she's been contacted by a lot of people who had been through something similar to what Gordon experienced, and now Camp is speaking up for them, too.
"We have been reached out to by so many people," Camp said. "Thanking us for giving them a voice, thanking us for standing up, thanking us for being strong enough to talk about it, because not everybody can talk about it. But it's time, this is a reality."