Friday, October 09, 2009

Hunting my rapist, Part 2 (by Suzie)

“What are you going to do after you track him down?” asked a friend in journalism who helped with the hunt. I emailed back: “I'm not sure. I joke that I'm like a dog chasing a garbage truck.”

I talked about the rape in last Friday’s post. Today, I want to give a snapshot of the search. I don’t recommend such a search for everyone. Not only can it depress you further, but it also may be dangerous if a rapist knows you’re tracking him.

Most people I contacted were helpful, and their caring helped erase much of my self-blame. One of his former colleagues emailed me:
This is a terrible event and I would love to find and
 the guy.
I learned from a rape crisis line that the statute of limitations had run out. I felt foolish calling after so many years, but a counselor assured me that I wasn’t the only woman who had tried for years not to think about her rape.

Although I had quoted X in a newspaper article, I later put his name in some locked compartment of my mind. When I found the old article and read his name, I had to fight feelings of panic. But I didn't stop.

Online white pages yielded his age, a wife’s name, his address and his telephone number. I called a couple of times, and left the most neutral of messages. He didn’t call back. What would he have said: He didn’t remember me? He thought I was either nutty or slutty? It wasn’t like he was going to beg my forgiveness.

An Intelius report gave his past addresses and his date of birth. Knowing where he had lived – on a major street I knew well – explained why I had been able to drive home drunk and/or drugged.

The details of his current house came from his county’s appraisal district. Because his wife’s name wasn’t on the deed, I searched civil court records and found she had died. From another county, I got the divorce records for a previous marriage. These records told me that he had no children.

I put in a public-records request at his old job, searched the archives of the local newspaper and the university where he had gotten his degrees, and finally got a photo of him from the state licensing board. The photo was taken at age 47, the same age I was when I decided to investigate him. He no longer appeared handsome – or professional. He held no power over me.

An investigator at the licensing board told me it was too late to file a complaint. By law, however, I was entitled to X's education information and his current place of employment, which was also a public agency. No complaints had ever been filed against him, according to the agency and the board.

His employer gave me his job title, contact information, resume and salary, which was surprisingly low. His degrees on his resume didn’t match the ones reported to the licensing board. I filed a complaint with the licensing board, and after many months, he was required to explain the discrepancy. The board didn’t discipline him, but they did tell him to give the correct credentials in the future.

Some readers may have hoped for a grand finale, in which I got justice. Sorry. Some may ask, as many of my friends did: “Why did you waste so much time and energy on this guy?” In my career, I often checked people’s backgrounds, and I enjoyed solving mysteries. In this case, as I pored over the mundane facts of his life, he became demystified.

I stuffed all my notes and documents in a folder marked “rapist,” and I filed it away.
On a rape-related topic: The House passed the bill that would add gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate-crime legislation. The NYT coverage is typical in that it focuses on hate crimes against gays, with no discussion of gender. Apparently, male hatred of women never leads to crime. An AP story mentions statistics on hate crimes, without pointing out that these statistics don't include crimes motivated by gender. I've written about this before.