“This came as a surprise to her mother,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney George Freeman IV said in a Fairfax County courtroom. The woman “did not indicate in any way to her mother that this was the case.”
Attempts were made to explain what it meant to be pregnant, but the woman did not comprehend because of her disability, Freeman said. Months later, after the woman went into labor, doctors were forced to perform a Caesarean section because she did not understand their requests for her to push.
As disturbing as the case was, the same scenario would play out again. Freeman said a doctor discovered that a 33-year-old woman with autism was also five months pregnant, after she went to have a mole examined in August 2018. She also had a limited understanding of her situation before she gave birth.
The women did not know each other, but both attended the MVLE day program for the intellectually disabled in Springfield. On Tuesday, a 61-year-old former employee pleaded guilty in Fairfax County Circuit Court to raping both women. Bernard Betts-King faces 10 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in November.
DNA tests showed he was the father of both children, who are being cared for by the victims’ families, Freeman said.
Betts-King spoke during the plea hearing only to answer a judge’s questions and ask the judge about health issues he was facing. Abu Kalokoh, his attorney, declined to comment after the hearing.
The case has highlighted an issue that has gained less attention than others in the #MeToo era — sexual assaults against the intellectually disabled. Experts say such cases often go unreported or without prosecution because the victims don’t have the capacity to understand what has happened to them, communicate it or serve as effective witnesses in court.
People with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at seven times the rate of people without disabilities, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Fairfax County police said they were able to zero in on Betts-King as a suspect only after interviewing the second victim, as the first victim was unable to give any details about her attacker, according to a search warrant filed in Fairfax County court.
Freeman said in court Tuesday that the second victim told police a man named “Bernard” had touched her and that she didn’t like it. Freeman said the woman had the intellectual capacity of a 12-year-old and had never been taught about sex.
The first woman’s baby was born in February 2018, while the second woman’s child arrived in November of that year. Betts-King was arrested in February, after a DNA test proved he was the father of the second victim’s baby.
After Betts-King’s arrest, Freeman said Betts-King told detectives that he had had sex once with the first victim in the offices of MVLE’s Springfield facility. Betts-King relayed that he had told the woman it had to be quick, so they didn’t get caught by his supervisor.
Betts-King put the onus for the sexual encounter with the second woman on her.
“Bernard said the sex was consensual and she was coming onto him and many people knew it,” Freeman told a judge. “Interviews with people at center proved that wasn’t the case.”
Under Virginia law, a person with a significant intellectual disability is deemed incapable of consenting to sex.
The rape cases also prompted an investigation of MVLE by state regulators. The nonprofit has been providing activities and job training to the intellectually disabled since 1971. MVLE maintains a contract with Fairfax County.
The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services did not find MVLE had violated any regulations in its handling of Betts-King. Betts-King did not have a criminal record and passed a background check before he was hired.
MVLE did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday but said in a previous statement that it was cooperating with police in their investigation.