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Speaking out for elderly victims of rape

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; 10:37 PM

For years, criminal profilers and psychologists have studied rapists who target elderly women.

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Two such victims from Montgomery County offered their own opinions Friday as they spoke publicly about their attacks for the first time.

"Arrogant little twerp," said the 69-year-old, who suffers from spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal canal, and walks with a cane.

"A dehumanizing being, a controller," said the 87-year-old, who uses a walker and until recently lived across the street from the other woman in Germantown.

Detectives think that the same man sexually assaulted both women a total of three times. Police asked the women to speak with reporters Friday to help generate more attention to the case. Officials also announced a reward of up to $5,000 for help in solving the case.

The Washington Post generally does not name victims of sexual assault without their consent.

The 87-year-old, a grandmother of two, was raped on Aug. 21 after the attacker entered an unlocked window of her residence at an assisted living facility.

A longtime practitioner of yoga and meditation, she has used them both to help get through the aftermath. She also recently wrote a poem called "Hell."

"I did not think I believed in you, the opposite of heaven, love, compassion, caring, but now I do," the poem begins. "I have experienced Hell in the form of a man, an intruder. . . . You made a choice to prey on elderly women, knowing they could not defend themselves."

Detectives describe the suspect as a black male or dark-skinned Hispanic, possibly 16 to 25 years old, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10, with a thin build and no facial hair.

"My hunch is this guy lives in the area. He has kept these women under surveillance," said Ann Wolbert Burgess, a nationally known expert in forensic nursing who has studied rapists who target older women. "He has to have seen them to know they couldn't get away."

She said there are no national statistics on how often older people are raped but that it is more common than people think. "It's incredible that there are so many victims out there," she said.

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