Advertisement

Rape Victim Fights Back and Takes Story Public : Crime: Woman breaks a taboo and spurs community to act. Officials laud her ‘tremendous display of courage.’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The night she was raped, Kim Caldwell wanted to die.

A serial rapist broke into her Pacific Beach home at 3 a.m. and put a knife to her throat as she lay in her bed. For an hour she was violated and terrorized by the masked attacker.

After she reported the rape to police and was taken to a hospital for an evidence-gathering pelvic examination, she returned home confused and in pain.

“For three days I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “If I thought about what happened, I vomited. My emotions were a mix of fear and rage.”

Advertisement

Rape counselors say Caldwell’s initial reaction was a common one among sexual assault victims. But her reaction in the weeks and months that followed the Aug. 17, 1993, rape has been anything but common.

Against the wishes of her friends, her family and the police, the 33-year-old airline sales agent has become one of a tiny but growing number of women who are willing to break one of the oldest and strongest cultural prohibitions that still exist in a tell-all society: the taboo against publicly identifying a woman as a rape victim.

Some women have shed their anonymity to decry date rape or spousal rape. Lyn Miller, a former radio show host from Pasadena, revealed in December that she had been a rape victim as she rallied public support to keep her attacker from being paroled.

But rarest of all are the women, such as Caldwell, who allow their names to be used and their faces to be shown by the media in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, while their attackers are unidentified and at-large.

Advertisement

Charles G. Brown, a Virginia lawyer, former West Virginia attorney general and author of the book “First Get Mad, Then Get Justice: The Handbook for Crime Victims,” applauds Caldwell and believes there is a lesson in her story for other victims.

“I think victims have to realize that in order to get their crime at the top of the list of law enforcement--and this is especially true in urban areas like San Diego--there is an advantage in cooperating with investigators and making the crime a public issue,” Brown said.

Diane Alexander, an official with the Virginia-based National Victim Center, said the importance in what she called Caldwell’s “tremendous display of courage” is that it may help dispel the sexist notion that women who are raped have done or said something to provoke the attack and that “nice” women are not raped.

In a 1992 study, “Rape in America,” the center concluded that only 16% of the estimated 683,000 women who are raped annually in this country report the crime to police and that a major reason for rape victims remaining silent is fear that their names will become public.

Advertisement

“There is still a stigma attached to women who are raped,” Alexander said. “That may not change until more women are willing to voluntarily say (as Caldwell has): ‘I was raped. I have nothing to be ashamed of.’ Maybe her case can be motivational for other women.”

To make the crime against her and several previous victims a public issue, Caldwell decided to go public. The anonymity granted by the media to sexual assault victims, however well-intentioned, perpetuates a destructive notion that rape victims should feel shame, Caldwell reasoned.

“I had an overwhelming sense of responsibility that I had to tell the women, to do everything I could to prevent another rape,” Caldwell said.

To do this, she gave interviews warning women that a cunning, violent rapist was loose in their community, a rapist so dangerous and determined that normal safety measures were not enough. Her story, her picture and her name were displayed on the front page of local papers and at the top of local television news broadcasts.

Advertisement

She goaded the beach community’s citizens’ patrol into action. She argued against the patrol leaders’ initial inclination not to cooperate with reporters.

Despite Caldwell’s efforts, another woman was attacked by the Pacific Beach rapist in late October, 1993, near San Diego State. The police investigation appeared to be stalled.

Caldwell, who is single and lives alone, met with police officials and Mayor Susan Golding’s staff to demand that a task force be assembled to catch the rapist. The mayor’s staff made an inquiry to the chief about the status of the case.

Caldwell’s message at City Hall and police headquarters had been direct: If the rapist was not caught soon, she was prepared to put an ad in the newspaper asking every woman in Pacific Beach to donate a dollar to a reward fund, a move sure to turn up the political heat.

Advertisement

She helped keep the case in the news, even though it was not the city’s only--or even its most violent--unsolved serial rape case at that moment. The ad was not needed.

“She mobilized the community and the Police Department,” San Diego Police Chief Jerry Sanders said in admiration. “She showed incredible courage.”

The publicity surrounding the Pacific Beach case helped make it a priority with the Police Department, according to Sanders and Sgt. Joanne Welter, who supervises the sex crimes unit. “Kim had a lot to do with that because she was very vocal,” Welter said.

Police officials assigned a third detective to the case, authorized overtime and gave the case priority at the DNA laboratory, ahead of some murder cases.

Advertisement

A few weeks later, in mid-January, police made a startling announcement: They had arrested Kenneth Bogard, 36, a popular guitarist and leader of the reggae/Caribbean/hip-hop band Dr. Chico and the Island Sounds, on charges of raping or assaulting Caldwell and six other young women (including one woman on two occasions). Bogard has pleaded not guilty.

Reporters discovered that Bogard, despite his public acclaim for doing charity concerts for such worthy causes as providing services for sexually abused children, had a history of indecent exposure and lewd conduct convictions in California and New Jersey.

Prosecutors say DNA evidence from semen and saliva links Bogard to several rapes. They hope to link him to the others by showing a pattern of bizarre behavior in which the rapist stalked and attacked his victims but then acted solicitously and inquired about their well-being and sexual satisfaction.

Alexander said the victims’ description of the rapist’s behavior in the Pacific Beach case is in keeping with what the center’s research has found: Rape suspects fit no particular profile, are not all ominous-looking villains, and often have normal relationships with a wife or girlfriend while stalking and attacking other women.

Advertisement

In one significant way, however, the Pacific Beach rapes are atypical. In 78% of rapes, Alexander said, the victim knows her attacker, and in only 22% of rapes is the attacker a stranger.

As Bogard has remained in jail awaiting trial, Caldwell has continued to speak out in favor of rape victims reporting their crimes and being active participants in the investigation and prosecution of their attackers.

She has been given awards for heroism by two local groups. She is featured in a cover story in this month’s San Diego magazine.

Bogard’s trial on 40 felony charges is set to begin soon, and as Caldwell did during the preliminary hearing, she is prepared to testify without flinching and to fix Bogard with a contemptuous glare. And again she will ask the media to show her face.

Advertisement

Initially, Caldwell had tried to temporize. Her first television interview, at which she was accompanied by her father, was done in the shadows, with the reporter referring to her only as “Donna, the Pacific Beach rapist’s seventh victim” in the previous 12 months.

When Caldwell saw the interview she recoiled at the thought that women who have been attacked should have to hide.

“It was so wrong,” she said in a calm but assertive voice. “ I looked like the criminal. I hadn’t done anything. I’m not Donna. I’m not a statistic. My name is Kim Caldwell. This man raped me. He’s the one who’s at fault, not me. He’s the one who should be ashamed, not me.”

Her family members, who had warned her that going public would only make matters worse, have come to admire her actions. She has refused to flee from her house or shy away from friendships with men, as many rape victims do.

Advertisement

“She told me, ‘I want to help catch this guy. I can’t just hide and be a cowering victim,’ ” said her father, George Ward Caldwell, a nurse at the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane.

“She’s got a lot of guts,” said her uncle, Charles Brantley, a lieutenant in the gang detail of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Before the rape, Brantley said, his niece was “a happy-go-lucky young woman, living the beach lifestyle, not at all a Gloria Steinem-type” in terms of social activism.

As the Jan. 17 date for Bogard’s trial approaches, Caldwell describes her emotions toward her alleged attacker as “beyond rage, beyond anger, beyond fury into a place where there is no language, beyond the red into the black.”

Advertisement

Prosecutor Dan Lamborn calls the Pacific Beach serial rapes “the weirdest case” he has seen because of the rapist’s combination of threats and patronizing behavior toward his victims, including tucking them in bed and warning them to lock their doors and fix their windows.

The victims, Lamborn said, run the gamut, from those who have told their families and friends that they were raped to those who do not want anyone to know.

Bogard’s public defender, Michael Popkins, said he plans a vigorous defense based on the controversy about DNA evidence and inconsistencies in the victims’ testimony.

He said he does not believe that the media attention given to Caldwell will hurt his client’s right to a fair trial, although he may ask prospective jurors during jury selection whether they have seen her on television or read about her in the newspapers.

Advertisement

Popkins plans to point out to jurors that only one victim--not Caldwell--has identified Bogard, and then only by his voice, and that some victims have picked out other suspects in a lineup. Also, one victim’s physical description of the attacker does not match Bogard in some respects.

Caldwell is determined to attend every minute possible of Bogard’s trial. “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away,” she said.

Victims were once routinely excluded from trials, but a 1990 law protects their right to attend, once they have testified, unless the defense can convince a judge that their presence would prejudice the jury.

Judith Rowland, a former sex crimes prosecutor and now director of the Crime Victims Legal Clinic in San Diego, stands ready to intervene on behalf of Caldwell if the defense seeks to have her excluded. Caldwell sought Rowland’s advice before going public.

Advertisement

Rowland is skeptical that more San Diego women will be emboldened to report rapes or take part in the investigation and prosecution.

She cites the impact of the William Kennedy Smith case in 1991, in which the name of his accuser, Patricia Bowman, was used by the media without her permission and her lifestyle was probed for instances of loose morals. Smith was acquitted.

“Women will remember the ridicule of Patricia Bowman rather than the courage of Kim Caldwell,” Rowland said.

As the trial approaches, Caldwell is apprehensive about its outcome and uncertain about her future. Someday she would like to marry and raise a family.

Advertisement

A graduate of South Pasadena High School, she lived in Hawaii for a time and worked her way through technical school to prepare for a career in the travel industry. Recently, she got a promotion at her airline.

Although she was part of a Take Back the Night rally, she has not joined any organizations. “I don’t march and I don’t shout or chant,” she said.

She does not advocate that rape victims allow the media to use their names and photographs. That is an individual decision, she said. But she believes it is an absolute responsibility to report any rape to the police because keeping quiet does not help.

“It doesn’t make you safer,” Caldwell said. “The irony is that it makes you 10 times more vulnerable. To stop this kind of insanity we have to start by refusing to accept the blame.”

Advertisement


Advertisement
Advertisement