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'Central Park Jogger' speaks out

Trisha Meili appeared on Larry King Live Wednesday.
Trisha Meili appeared on Larry King Live Wednesday.

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Trisha Meili talked to CNN's Larry King about her long road to recovery after being beaten, raped and left for dead in a 1989 attack in Central Park. CNN's Beth Nissen reports.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The woman who was beaten, raped and left for dead in a 1989 attack in Central Park says the thing that angered her the most as she recovered was that her family "saw me at my absolute worst."

"They wondered was I going to survive? Was I going to come out of the coma? In what state was I going to come out of the coma?" Trisha Meili told CNN's Larry King in an interview that aired Wednesday night.

"And so they had to live with all that uncertainty. I was basically unconscious for 12 days of it, and then I was going in and out of delirium for another five weeks. ... I didn't have to live through the worst, and they did."

Meili kept her identity hidden for 14 years until the publication of her recently published book, "I Am the Central Park Jogger."

She said she had wrestled with the decision for years about whether to come forward with her story, wondering: "Do I want to become more public? Do I want to share my story and try to give other people the sense that 'yes, it is possible that we can come back from whatever our circumstances are?' Or was it that I want people to know me not as the label of the Central Park Jogger, someone who has a head injury, and someone who's been raped.

"And for a long time, that was very, very important to me. But over the last few years, I thought, you know what, I think it's more important to get this message out there that, 'Yes, we can come back,' and that I'm an example, I think, of how much the love and support of others helps and how much it makes a difference."

Meili, who has no memory of the attack, said she went through years of psychotherapy after the assault and it made "me reflect on my whole life."

"I had issues. I was a compulsive runner. I had an eating disorder. And I needed to look at that ... how to get peace with that in a way, and how to deal with not being the same person that I was before the attack, and come to some peace that that's OK -- that different doesn't mean worse."

Of the attack, she said, "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's not my fault. But I took responsibility for my own healing."

The Central Park rape case garnered national headlines and stirred fear within the city. Meili, then a 29-year-old investment banker, was left unconscious and near death.

Five teenagers -- who later became known as the "Central Park Five" -- were convicted in the rape and served sentences ranging from seven to 11 years. All of them confessed to police.

But a judge late last year threw out the convictions after a convicted serial rapist and murderer, Matias Reyes, told New York prison officials that he alone raped the jogger. DNA testing confirmed his story. Reyes was 18 at the time of the crime.

Meili said she did not know what to make of the news when she learned the five teens gave false confessions.

"I guess there are lots of theories out there but I just don't know and it's almost too confusing for me to understand," she said. "I've had to come to peace with it by saying: 'You know what? I'm just not going to know.' "

Meili said she did return to the site of her assault. It was a Sunday, and she went with a friend of hers who is a priest.

"I wanted to go back with someone that I knew and trusted. But I needed to go back, really for two reasons. I had heard that there was a makeshift memorial there from people who were putting flowers down, and I thought, 'You know what? I want to see that.'

"And also it was a bit of my defiance coming out and saying, 'You know what? I'm not going to be stopped by this. I need to go back.' Also, to see would it trigger something, would it trigger a memory. There was that. But also just to say, 'You know what? I'm going to go back, and it's going to be OK.' "


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