This is in response to the rape that happened on the Madison bike path, which is now one of four attempted attacks since July.
To my friends in Madison–and those who do not live here but have friends here–SHARE this. Share this. Share this. A smart and informed community has the opportunity to be a proactive, preventative, and restorative one.
WHAT WE KNOW
Monday, August 10, 2015. A man attacked me from behind on Paterson near Willy Street, just as a I passed the bike path. He grabbed the back of my shirt, came in front of me and held a knife to my stomach, and when I screamed, he hit me in the stomach and we broke apart and ran in opposite directions.
Saturday, September 12, 2015. A man attacked a woman on South Livingston by the bike path. He grabbed her from behind, hit her on the back of the head, dragged her off the bike path, brutally raped her, and nearly murdered her.
I have spoken with the detectives at MPD, and yes, there is a high correlation between my attack and the one on Saturday, which can’t be ignored. This is, of course, *only* a correlation until the attacker(s) is/are found. But if it IS the same attacker, then he should be considered highly dangerous. When he attacked me, he came in front of me so I could see his face, and he seemed startled when I screamed. In this second attack, the man was wearing a hoodie, came at her from behind, and hit her in the back of the head before dragging her off. So if it is the same person, then he learned from the previous attack. We can also presume that with all the attention now that he will probably not attack in the same spot.
WHAT WE NEED TO DO
1) Catch this criminal. We need to be vigilantly on the lookout for someone who fits this description.
2) Understand the nature of the crime to get to the root of the problem, so that we can have a long-term solution rather than a band-aid.
I am thankful to live in a community that organizes so readily around a tragedy like this. I want to ask this SAME community to be proactive rather than reactive in how we resolve this. We need to be good communicators. We need to be informed. We need to be purposeful and organized in our actions. Remember that good intentions can be as harmful as bad ones. Remember that our goal is not merely to organize, but to deliver justice and make sure this NEVER happens again.
Share this. Share this. Share this.
WE NEED TO DO OUR RESEARCH
Thursday, July 9, 2015. Cristian Sanchez Vargas attacked a woman on the bike path from behind, hit her in the head, and tried to drag her off the path into the woods. She screamed, alerting passersby. Police caught and detained Vargas, who remains in prison today with a $25,000 bail.
Monday, July 13, 2015. Donovan Stone assaulted a woman on the bike path. He placed her in a “bear hug” and tackled her to the ground. The woman screamed and was able to hit the man with her right elbow before Stone got up and ran from the scene, pulling up his shorts.
It is abnormal to have four attacks, all carried out by strangers, in a span of a few months. If this is a more prevalent problem in our community, then placing a $25,000 bail on one man’s head does not call into question a larger systemic problem that underlies these types of attacks. We can’t be afraid to talk about race and socioeconomic status as a part of this. We do have poverty and racial divides in our culture, and it’s a problem we need to get to the root of and not ignore as a factor in these kinds of events.
WE NEED TO CONSIDER THE ACTIONS TO TAKE NEXT
How do we as a city function, from the effectiveness of our justice system to our media to our community efforts? Many events go unreported if they are “close calls,” where the criminal doesn’t succeed in robbing or hurting someone. Even when people do report these incidents, they do not receive the same media response, same resources, or same sense of urgency as an actual attack. That’s gravely unfortunate. It’s unfortunate because what happens is we only are able to deliver justice AFTER the damage has been done. It’s unfortunate that we do not treat these events with urgency until they are catastrophic. Following my own attack, I realized just how slow and ineffective the process really is, and how unlikely it is to catch a person who runs from the scene, and how the only way we as a city *would* dedicate resources to this would be if this man attacked again. Whether it’s the same attacker or not, it makes me sick to my stomach that it happened this way.
Consider the amount of media coverage this rape is getting, as it rightly should. And be willing to ask, what it will take to be AS adamant about communicating before the stakes are this high.
Consider how the law enforcement is pouring resources into this pursuit, as it rightly should. And be willing to ask, what are the roadblocks that our justice system as facing, and what needs to change?
Consider how passionately our community is responding to this, as it rightly should. And be willing to ask, how do we channel the anger we feel about this, how do we use our organizational power, so that following this symbolic act of our charity, we can have the discourse and actions for solidarity?
There are soooo many things I wish had taken place following the earlier incidents this summer on the bike path. There are so many things I wish, that we had a proactive, preventative, and restorative approach to crime rather than reactive. For now as a community, we need to be proactive in catching the criminal, and then equilibrate and fact-driven in our solutions, so that this NEVER happens again.
Additional relevant information:
I have also shared this write-up as a public Facebook post and as a comment on the recent Take Back the Bike Path event in Madison.
Since writing this, many people have messaged me–either in Facebook comments or personal messages–asking for my description of the attacker and whether it bears resemblance to the recent case, which you can read in the news release. Yes, the man who attacked me was similar to what’s been released to the media. The description I gave to the police working on my case is as follows: a man in his 20s to 30s of Hispanic descent who yelled something in Spanish when he grabbed me, close to my height (5’5″ to 5’7″), medium/compact build, a buzz cut, sharp-looking almond-shaped eyes with angled eyebrows (this is the biggest difference for me compared to the sketch the PD released), high cheekbones, and that night he was wearing a black t-shirt with a white graphic and khaki-colored short pants.
Online Resources Worth Looking At
Madison Crime Rates & Statistics
Rule of Law Index, courtesy of the World Justice Project