Monday, April 23, 2012

A close encounter of the disturbing kind

I have to confess that if I had a choice, I would prefer not to have to wake-up at 2 AM on a Sunday morning to go to work. Although I rarely see anyone on my way to the bus stop, when I do it rarely portends to anything good. For example, one person I “met” mugged me, and another followed me around in his little cart, and on another occasion a Kent cop was waiting to ambush me. This past Sunday morning I encountered a young man who was also disturbing to me, but for entirely different reasons. After my encounter at one end by the mugger and at the other end by the cop, I try to avoid the more obvious routes, taking a bike/hike trail for a few hundred yards and then cutting across a deserted parking lot. I had mostly completed my trek down the trail when I heard this rather ghostly moan: “Help me. Help me.” I could make-out a figure on his hands and knees about 50 feet away; I have to admit that my initial reaction was a combination of the following: Anxiety, fear and irritation. Was this man a drunk? If I got close enough, would he jump-up and attack me? If he truly was in need of assistance, what could I do? I was also aware of the fact that I was already cutting it close for making for the bus stop in time to catch the Redeye. “Oh, why me?” was my general evaluation of the situation. Didn’t I have enough troubles of my own?

As I drew near this person I moved off the trail into the grass on the other side just in case I had to make a run for it if the man had some evil design on my person. But as I passed him he sobbed “Help me” even more piteously. He was on the slim side, and by his youthful face he could have been anywhere from 15 to 25 years old. He also appeared to be a “white” Hispanic. I observed two items in particularly that forced me to reevaluate my stance: His distressed visage matched the disturbing sounds he was making, and his trousers were pulled down, exposing boxer shorts. Still keeping my distance I asked what was wrong with him, and he moaned out that he had been kidnapped and raped. This was certainly not something I was prepared to deal with this early in morning—especially when I had one bus to catch to the airport that left early enough on a Sunday (this was no little thing to me; if I don’t clock in on time I lose out on $60 of “incentive” pay, which at my pay grade is a lot of money). But conscience got the best of me; after all, if indeed his story was true, the person who committed this crime wasn’t counting on me being out this early on a Sunday in the middle of nowhere. This meeting was fated.

It was also fortunate for both of us that I had purchased some minutes for my “go” phone a few days ago, because I normally don’t use it for anything except as an alarm clock. I called 911 and alerted the dispatcher that I had encountered a male who said he had been kidnapped and raped. I gave a description of his attire and our location, and when asked, I told her that he appeared to be Hispanic. The dispatcher then revealed the “racial profile” of Hispanics by asking me if he was of medium or heavy build; why did she assume he was either? When I was this person’s age, I barely registered 100 pounds. I told her he was medium to slim. In response to an inquiry as to the victim’s state of sobriety, I said that it was possible he was not, but I had smelled no alcohol. I then affirmed when asked that I was “comfortable” in allowing the victim to use my phone; the victim moaned some words and then gave me back the phone. At that point, rightly or wrongly, I decided I had done what I could, since the police were presumably on their way. I looked at my watch and decided if I jogged I could catch the bus. I also must confess that I did not relish an encounter with the Kent police in the wee hours of the morning, and questions about why I happened to be there.

A few minutes later the dispatcher called me back, requesting another description of the victim, and few more minutes later to ask for directions again before announcing that the victim had been found, which I had to confess was a more rapid response by police than I had anticipated. When I reached the bus stop, I observed the lights of what I assumed was an emergency medical vehicle at the location I assumed that police would have taken the victim off the trail.

I did try to contact the Kent police sergeant who had responded via email to a complaint I had about the above-mentioned officer, although he told me he wasn’t familiar with the case. I do know, however, that a Kent police van did take a drive down the trail the following evening, which was swell of them. With the lack of knowledge of the particulars of this case, I can only conjecture what happened, assuming that a rape was committed. Although I assume a female did not commit the act, that isn’t to say that a female was not involved. The victim could have been “kidnapped” by some Anglos who didn’t like the attentions he was giving to a white female. This is hardly an absurd scenario; this was the case in the Spring, Texas sexual assault on a Hispanic teen by two white skinheads a few years ago—the gruesome details of which a Times editor told me the paper couldn’t publish because they might “revolt” readers. Another theory is that the victim, who appeared to be more typical of the so-called “white” Hispanic, may have been targeted by gang members who thought he was too “white.” Of course, this is just guessing, and I won’t find out anything more than you unless the media picks up on this. That, of course, is the $64,000 question. Even if the victim’s claims are indeed true, I would frankly be surprised if the local media would even touch this. It goes against the accepted stereotypes and myths, not just in regard to rape, but of domestic violence.

I must confess that my previous view concerning rape as a crime has not changed because of this episode; rather it was confirmed. I saw firsthand the trauma such an act could have on the victim. It had an almost immobilizing effect, both emotionally and physically. This is quite different from other incidents that I have read or heard about—from people who make casual accusations against anonymous homeless men in order to receive attention, or seem to be motivated by vindictiveness, such as in the Duke lacrosse case; I am also less convinced as some are by the phenomenon of “date rape” when the accusation is that the “victim” was allegedly too drunk to make an “informed decision.” On the other hand, it is impossible to deny the reality that violent sexual assault has a terrible, whether short term or long term, effect on the victim. That is something I cannot forget.

(Postscript: I seem to have been more concerned about this episode than the police. The rape of a male is an “uncommon” event, so you would think that there was some talk of it in the precinct (Kent basically only has one). However, the officer I contacted, who was a supervising sergeant, had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, then after some prodding, he told me he had spoken to the detective involved in the case, and it had been investigated. This was only a few days after the incident. I was a little incredulous that the case “had” already been “investigated,” suggesting that the police had washed their hands of it. Not hardly surprising; I recall an incident when I was employed at a sports apparel warehouse, when a temp who had been spending a lot of time in and near the restroom left unannounced before the end of the day. The break area was “outside” in the main warehouse space where people worked, so the female employees felt “safe” to leave their purses and handbags on the break area benches—which were also near the restrooms; they had done this for years without incident, but it may have been inevitable that not everyone who walked through the door could be trusted. When people were preparing to leave, the women noticed that their purses were either missing or had money missing. The missing purses were found in the women’s restroom trash can. Someone noted how strange the now missing temp was acting, and the Kent police were called; despite the suspicions of all and even having a name and the temp agency that could be contacted to make an inquiry, the female officer tried to deflect suspicion from the female suspect and attempted to sow suspicion and mistrust amongst the long-time employees. No one was buying that line, and when the officer left the feeling was that the police were going to do nothing at all.)

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