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June 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Lynnwood police’s callous treatment of rape victim

My anger boiled over at this  Times story about a rape victim suing the City of Lynnwood after police did not believe she had been assaulted.

In August 2008, a serial rapist broke into the apartment of an 18-year-old woman and raped her. Two Lynnwood detectives, for reasons they should be compelled to now explain, did not believe the woman, despite a medical exam that found injuries consistent with rape. Adding insult to horrific injury, police charged her with making a false report and she was fined $500.

Fast-forward 2-1/2 years, past the weeks, months and years of emotional hell this woman endured,  to the capture of her rapist for several assaults in Colorado. Detectives there found photographs of the woman and her ID card in the possession of a former Washington state resident, Marc O’Leary. Not even the Lynnwood police could ignore that kind of evidence. They re-opened the case. Voila! O’Leary was convicted of raping five women, three in Colorado and two in Washington state – besides the Lynnwood woman, O’Leary raped a 63-year-old Kirkland woman. He is serving a 327-year prison sentence in Colorado. Good. Justice served.

Now for justice from the Lynnwood police department.  To get it the victim has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Lynnwood, the police chief and two detectives, one who has left the department and one who is still there. She says detectives disregarded evidence of the rape, bullied her into saying it didn’t happen and threatened to kick her out of her apartment when she tried to tell the truth.

There should be hell to pay.

I do not know how this woman held onto her sanity. She endured a brutal attack and for a long while, no one believed her. The very least the Lynnwood police department can do is nix any defensiveness or effort to protect their brothers in blue. Take responsibility. It is the least they can do for her, since once before they did nothing.

The woman had been living at Cocoon House, a residential at-risk youth program.  Apparently no adult there believed her either.  Cocoon House CEO Cassie Franklin is quoted in the Times story as saying the program and its employees acted appropriately. Then they believed her when she told them she had been assaulted? What steps were then taken to help her? Police reports? Sexual assault counseling?

This goes beyond one vulnerable woman taken advantage of in more ways than one. More than half of all sexual assaults go unreported, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. At least some of the victims may fear that like the Lynnwood woman, they’ll be branded a liar, and worse, charged with a crime and forced to pay restitution while the real criminal goes free.

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