WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - Last year, a Waterville woman stood in court, bravely telling the man who brutally assaulted her that she forgave him.
Linda Alderson's powerful victim statement came the same day that Mark Halle was sentenced to 27 years in prison for the crime.
Taylor Kinzler sat down with Alderson on the anniversary of her attack.
Rape isn't easy to talk about. Neither are the details of this case. 2016 was a year of unimaginable trauma for 75 year old Linda Alderson.
But her story isn't defined by what happened in her Waterville home the morning of February 7th. It's about the future and what she can now do for others.
"Why did he pick me?"
Two years later, and it's still impossible to make sense of an attack that rocked this Waterville community.
"This is a book that I put together."
Looking back on a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings and court documents, it's not the headlines that stand out, but Alderson's unwavering strength.
"He doesn't define me. He messed with the wrong woman."
"Have I ever heard of a case more violent than this? No."
Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney has prosecuted dozens of assault cases throughout her career.
"When you're targeting either children, or someone who is over the age of 65, you're targeting a vulnerable population."
Most cases involve someone known by the victim, but this was different.
"This is really the definition of stranger rape. He was a neighbor, not someone that she had many interactions with before."
"I had no idea until he knocked on my door and said 'Hi I'm Mark. I live next door. Would you like me to shovel off your deck?'"
A week later, Mark Halle, the man who offered to help Alderson, came back.
"He broke into her home in the middle of the night. She was asleep."
"Before I knew it, he was already in my bedroom door. He had a hoodie pulled down over his face and he was pointing a gun at me."
She's told this story before. Both in church services and on the stand in the courtroom during Halle's sentencing.
"I told the judge I forgive him. I had to do it for myself. If you harbor hatred, it's just going to make you miserable and I can't do that."
For Alderson, forgiving Halle was the only way to move forward, but that can never erase what he did to her.
"He made me kneel down in front of my bed and he took a pillowcase off my pillow and put it over my head. My husband passed away 18 years ago. I haven't been with anybody… And he said if you scream one more time I'll kill you right here."
"He proceeded to assault me again, rape me again. The whole time he was attacking me, I was praying. I'm not afraid to die. But I didn't want my family to know that that's the way I had died."
"You'd think he would look up while he was attacking me and... A normal person would have. But I guess he's not a normal person."
"I have a very strong will. I always have. I'm 75 now and I hope I have quite a few years left."
She doesn't intend to waste any time. Alderson has completed a training and education course to help other victims of sexual assault.
"I want to be the one in the hospital, like the girl that was with me, and just to be able to help somebody."
It was in that hospital room, just hours after her assault, that Alderson gained strength from a stranger, an advocate, willing to stand by her side.
And it's when we stand together, that Alderson says, we can overcome anything.
"Linda has been able to stand up for all victims by the way that she stood up for herself."
"Try to find forgiveness and find beauty in the world."
Thursday night, we'll hear from an advocate who found purpose through her tragedy, dedicating her life's work to supporting survivors of sexual assault.