This story isn't supposed to be about the crime. It's supposed to be about what happened after the crime. At least, that's how the victim -- I'll call her Mary to protect her identity -- wants it.
The crime against her occurred three weeks ago, while the state was threatening to cut funds to rape-recovery centers. The way Mary tells the story, it's scary to think what she might have gone through had those cuts already been made.
The crime started in northwest Baltimore, near Mary's home, and ended in northeast Baltimore two hours later. The ordeal went on for six hours after that.
At first, Mary, an intelligent, articulate health professional in her mid-30s, thought she was the victim of one of Baltimore's terribly common nighttime holdups. But first one man, then a second forced her into her own car at gunpoint. And they didn't stop there.
As one man drove the car, stopping once to use Mary's bank card in an automatic teller machine, his partner in the passenger's seat talked about risks -- how the escalation of the crime could increase possible jail time. Both men seemed to be well-versed in maximum sentences.
Mary listened to the debate from the back seat. The driver was far more brazen -- and angrier and potentially violent -- than his partner. He launched into tirades against white people. The man in the passenger seat was relatively timid. He worried about jail. He thought things had gone too far. He didn't want to harm the woman in the back seat.
At the end of the ride, the driver of the car forced Mary to perform a sex act on him. He left her in the distant, dark corner of a high school parking lot and drove away.
It was 11 o'clock when Mary reached a nearby 7-Eleven. Someone called police. The thugs had taken Mary's keys; she was worried they would go back to northwest Baltimore to attack her teen-age daughter, who was home alone. She asked the police to dispatch a patrol car to her apartment. As far as Mary knows, that never happened.
Two officers -- "both male officers," Mary pointed out -- arrived at the 7-Eleven. Mary was crouched on the floor. "You have to stand because we have to question you," one of the officers said.
"Then the two of them debated whether to call the ambulance," Mary said. "The whole tone of this was very disturbing. One of the cops said, 'Get in the back of the car,' meaning the patrol car. And I refused. I had just been in the back of a car for two hours. I was upset. I refused to stay alone in the car. He said, in essence, 'Don't give me any lip.'
"Then he and another cop started debating whether it was rape [or sexual assault]. Then the ambulance driver started debating whether it was rape. . . . They took me to the police station . . .
"It was just about midnight. There was a change of shift at the station. These two other cops are assigned to take my statement in a small, windowless room. They appeared to have no training in dealing with a sexual-attack victim. One of them said, 'Maybe we ought to take her to the hospital.' "
She was driven to a hospital with a rape-crisis center. Two officers went with her. After she registered and filled out insurance forms, Mary was told that a gynecologist, in the hospital to deliver a baby, would examine her after the delivery. Mary waited. While she waited, she gave her statement to police.
"Now it's 2 a.m. and I have still seen no one," Mary said. "This is supposed to be a 24-hour rape-crisis center. The police interrogated me while I waited. They were polite, but obviously not trained to do this. . . . At 3 a.m., I announced that I was going home. The nurse said, 'Wait, wait!' I was in the emergency room. Finally, at 4:35 a.m., I saw a doctor. He was very sensitive and good."
After that, two officers agreed to give Mary a ride home. But even that got messy. First, they had to bring her report to headquarters. Then they had to drive back to the station. And then Mary had to wait even longer for another officer to give her a ride home. "By then the bums in the holding cells were stirring awake," she said.
"The investigating cops have been just great. Please say that. They've been great. But the front-line cops, the first-line interventionists, just didn't know what to do. They were either callous, like the one who said, 'Get back in that squad car,' or they acted scared of me. And the crisis center, which is supposed to offer counseling . . . I was told there's an eight-day wait for counseling -- unless it's an emergency. Unless it's an emergency!"