Rape prosecutions lagging in Juneau, police say

Posted: Friday, December 27, 2002

JUNEAU -- Juneau police say only one of four reports of rape that led to much-publicized investigations since October may be prosecuted. A women's advocate is worried about the message the disclosure sends victims.

"It takes so much courage for a woman to come forward and say she was raped," said Saralyn Tabachnick, executive director of AWARE, Juneau's shelter for abused women and their children. "When the police or district attorney are unable to proceed or prosecute this violent crime, it sends the message that the system is unable to support you, there is no justice," she said.

According to police, recent alleged rapes include a woman claiming she was sexually assaulted after she passed out while outdoors downtown Oct. 11. Another woman said a man broke into her Mendenhall Valley home Oct. 26, put a towel over her face, threatened

to kill her and then sexually assaulted her.

On Nov. 11, a resident of a corrections halfway house in the Lemon Creek area claimed another resident came into her room and assaulted her while she slept. On Nov. 30, a woman claimed she was raped while she and her infant child were asleep in their downtown home.

In the Nov. 11 incident, Ryan Hendrickson has been charged with second-degree sexual assault, a felony, according to court documents.

"It just seems to be a stronger case all around," police head of investigations Sgt. John Boltjes said last week. He said so far, the other three cases lack evidence to prosecute.

Boltjes said examples of evidence are physical injury from a forcible rape or witnesses coming forward who heard the victim say, "No."

He said in the Oct. 11 and Oct. 26 cases the women can't remember or identify their attackers. But Boltjes said in the Oct. 26 case, police are waiting for results of a DNA test from the state crime lab in Anchorage.

He said police have a suspect, but if the samples don't match, the case also may lack the evidence to prosecute.

In the Nov. 30 case, he said the alleged victim and the suspect were the only people in the room, and their stories conflict.

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