Travesty can’t be forgotten

The frightening truth: It’s only because serial rapist Marc O’Leary photographed his crimes and victims that a young Lynnwood woman is a known victim, rather than a young woman with a conviction of filing a false rape report on her record.

The woman’s rape — in 2008 at age 18 — was the beginning of a nightmare in which she was revictimized until she was inexplicably transformed into the guilty party.

On June 6, O’Leary pleaded guilty to raping the woman, now 22, and a Kirkland woman, now 67, and sentenced to prison — terms to be served concurrently with the 327-year sentence he received for rapes in Colorado, where police used his photographic evidence to identify victims and convict him. (One photo showed the Lynnwood woman’s identification card placed on her bare chest.)

At O’Leary’s hearing, The Herald’s Diana Hefley reported, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell, speaking of the victim, told the judge that the rapist “…crushed her dignity and sense of security and belief in the goodness of people.”

True.

Tragically, however, our legal system did the same thing.

On Aug. 11, 2008, the woman told Lynnwood police she woke up to find a strange man in her apartment, who then sexually assaulted her. When he left, the woman called 911. She submitted to a rape exam, offered to take a polygraph test, provided a hand-written statement and spoke with investigators on the day she was raped.

Six days later the police reported that the woman confessed to making up the story.

Police said her story was inconsistent; people who knew her told police they doubted her. (Maybe she changed her story, some of the horrific, unbelievable details in an attempt to get someone to believe her.)

After the Kirkland woman reported being raped, investigators sent the shoelaces the attacker used to tie her up to the Washington crime lab. The DNA didn’t match anyone on file, but was later used to identify O’Leary when Colorado investigators found the woman’s name in his computer.

There’s no evidence the Lynnwood police collected any evidence at all.

Once the traumatized victim gave up trying to persuade the police to believe her, and made her “confession,” she was charged with false reporting. Represented by a public defender, she pleaded guilty and was ordered to undergo mental health counseling.

As a society, we’ve come along way from “blaming the victim” in rape cases, in order to get women to report such assaults. Or so the victim assumed. Painfully, it took the Lynnwood woman’s rapist to “exonerate” her.

Last year, Lynnwood police chief Steve Jensen said, “We’re doing our best to make it right.” We will all wait with the victim to see what that means.

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