O’Boyle was 22 years old, working the early-morning anchor job at WMAZ, a CBS affiliate in Macon, when she was unknowingly stalked for months by James Starling, an auto mechanic who regularly watched her morning program at his gas station.


“So many people responded, telling me, ‘I was raped and I never had the courage to tell anyone,’ ” she tells PEOPLE. “And for a long time, I didn’t tell anyone either.”


“I was flabbergasted – my world stopped,” adds O’Boyle. “I’d never been told anything about it. If we hadn’t watched Lady Gaga perform the song, and if Keagan hadn’t asked me that question, I probably still wouldn’t know about it now.”


“I’d heard the song about four days prior to the Oscars and had been playing it over and over again,” she says. “When I saw Lady Gaga singing it with all of these rape victims and survivors standing around her, I got choked up. I didn’t know how to comfort and ease the fear my daughter saw in me. Keagan said, ‘Mom, how old would the man be now who raped you?’ I wondered about that, so I Googled his name. And there it was: James E. Starling, up for parole in April 2016.”


“Many of them had assailants who were released from prison and raped again,” O’Boyle, a single mom of a teenage daughter, tells PEOPLE. “This has become something not just for me, but for other victims who never had a voice. Rape is a pervasive, horrible crime, but we live in a culture where it’s not considered the vile, life-altering crime that it is. It is always with you. Always. It never goes away.”


To protect other women from the man she says has a “hatred toward women” and “a desire to control with fear and violence,” the newswoman, 52, has started a petition that she plans to give to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, hoping to prevent Starling’s early release.


James E. Starling, now 53, was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 1986 for the rape of O’Boyle and another woman in Macon, Georgia, and still has 20 years to serve in prison. So O’Boyle, a former host of


Thirty years after she awakened to find a naked man pinning her down and holding a sharp and cold knife against her throat, news anchor Maureen O’Boyle is reliving the most terrifying day of her life with the realization that her rapist could soon be walking free.