Couple refuses to open door to naked rape victim: Sensible but sad reaction

July 12, 2013

It’s nearly midnight. Suddenly, you hear someone pounding on your door and then a woman screaming that she’s been raped. You look out and see her. She’s nearly naked and obviously distraught.

But you live in an isolated area. No one is nearby. You don’t know how long it will take the police to arrive.

The man tells the dispatcher, “There’s a girl at my door screaming and crying that she’s been raped. I will not let her in.”

You can hear a dog barking in the background and then the man reassuring the woman that the police are on their way, while another woman (I’ll assume his wife) talks to the dispatcher. She emphasizes that the woman is “nude” and says she’d like to give her a blanket but won’t.

“I’m afraid to open the door,” the woman says.

Afraid? There’s a woman nearly naked, screaming and crying that she’s been raped, and you’re afraid to help her? My first reaction was that these two failed the test for Good Samaritan.

It brings to mind the case of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death in her Queens neighborhood in 1964 while as many as 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack. Although subsequent stories have called the details into question, it’s become shorthand for a society turned unfeeling and unresponsive to crime victims.

No one even called the police in 1964 when they heard Genovese’s screams, while the Florida couple did call 911 and begged for police to come quickly.

Should they have opened that front door and invited her in? Given her a blanket to cover herself?

Consider that Deland, Fla., while calling itself “The Athens of Florida,” has a higher crime rate than Florida’s average and “a much higher” rate than the national average for burglaries and assaults, according to usa.com.

Movies like “Cape Fear” and “The Strangers” don’t help the comfort level of anyone living in an isolated area, either.

Could this have been a diversionary tactic to allow someone to gain entry into the house? Sure, if she was naked, she had no place for a concealed weapon, but what if she was working with someone else? A comical scam was set up late last month in Crossville, Tenn., when a woman asked if she could swim nude in her neighbor’s pool. While the homeowner watched her skinnydipping antics, the woman’s husband robbed the house of $2,000 worth of jewelry, medications and a firearm.

Lt. Jack Waples, a Deland police spokesman, gave residents advice in a statement:

“You control how you respond. For example, tell the person to back away from the door to a place (you’re) comfortable with so you can throw out a blanket or something, then go back inside. Always beware of your surroundings around the entry way such as high bushes someone else could be hiding behind. Every situation will be unique in its own way and the decision to help is up to the individual depending on how much they can do to assist.”

Fans of the Second Amendment will say this is a situation where you need to be armed and ready; maybe having a shotgun handy might not be a bad idea, but I’d hate to open the door and risk further traumatizing the poor woman.

Police report that she had been at a gas station that evening where she was forced, at knifepoint, to enter a man’s  car. He drove her to another location and raped her a number of times, police said. She managed to escape and ran to the couple’s home, seeking help.

Juan L. Vera-Soledad, 29, of DeLand has been charged with kidnapping and sexual battery with a weapon.

So what would I have done? Probably allowed fear — or is it caution and common sense? — to dictate my actions, especially if my children were home with me, and followed the choice made by the Florida couple: Call 911 and wait for the police.

It would have been a long, painful and agonizing 11 minutes, but my imagination takes over and wonders. If the case had not been what it turned out to be, another headline that might be making the rounds right now:

“Couple attacked and robbed after opening door to naked, screaming woman.”

And yes, that is a sad commentary on our times.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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Mary C. Curtis · July 12, 2013