The Journalist Who Was Arrested for Investigating a Pedophile Orphanage
Jersey is an island of around 100,000 people nestled into a cozy nook between Guernsey and the coast of Normandy. It’s mostly been recognized in recent public memory for its potatoes and the fact that it’s basically in France but everyone there speaks English. In 2008, however, small human remains were found at Haut de la Garenne, a former orphanage on the island. A subsequent investigation exposed a history of sexual abuseat the orphanage, tainting the good name of the people of Jersey in the world’s media.
The list of suspects in the case included British government officials and—according to the detective who led the three-year child abuse probe—Jimmy Savile was also investigated by police, four years before the full extent of his crimes would eventually be exposed. The problem is, because Jersey is self-governing and has its own, slightly unorthodox courts system, decades of potential crime against children in the orphanage remain almost entirely hidden, unexamined, and untried. Since the initial media Mardi Gras, international interest has faded and locals who have continued searching for justice—including bloggers, senators and police—have been shouted down.
When American journalist Leah McGrath Goodman heard about the story she made plans to write a book about the orphanage, but was met with resistance. In July 2011, she went to Jersey’s immigration office to check that the apartment and office space she was leasing to help with her research was in order. The officer assured her that everything was fine and they were happy to help, until she told him about her specific interest in the orphanage. The officer left the room and returned with his boss, who repeatedly told her to get a “writer’s visa.” These are hard to obtain in Jersey, primarily because they do not exist.
That September, after stopping in London on the way to Austria, Leah was held under arrest in Heathrowairport for 12 hours, searched, and granted no opportunity to contact her consulate or family. The UK Border Agency said it was all being done at the request of Jersey. Leah was then sent back to New York and banned from the UK. A year and five months later, with the help of a petition and parliamentary member John Hemming, Leah has permission to re-enter, so I thought it would be a good time to ring her for a chat.
The War Against Street Harassment
Despite the insistence that cat calling is a form of flattery, it’s actually sexual harassment and most women wish it would stop. Emily May is the Executive Director of Hollaback!, an organization working to fight street harassment. Hollaback! educates the public about street harassment and collects data to present to legislators, encouraging them to take action against the constant bombardment of lewd comments many women endure every day. They work with local activists all over the world — 62 cities in 25 countries and counting — and want to create a world where everyone can walk down the street without the fear of being leered at, harassed, or assaulted. In addition to on-the-ground activism, Hollaback! uses digital storytelling on their website to help victims of harassment share their stories and find a supportive community.
VICE: How did Hollaback! come into being?
We heard this story of a young woman who was riding the New York City subway [in 2005] and she saw a guy publicly masturbating across from her, and she took his picture with her cell phone camera. She took it to the police, the police didn’t care, she put it on Flickr, it went viral, made it to the front cover of the Daily News and ignited this city-wide conversation about public masturbation. And here was this girl, she was in her early 20s, and she was just able to take out her cell phone camera, turn the lens off of her, put it onto him, and in doing that ignite this huge conversation. It resonated with so many people because so many people had had that same thing happen to them. And we were like: that is so awesome. Why don’t we start a little blog where everyone can submit their stories and we’ll see how it goes, and it just exploded.
I think part of it was that we were using technology in a way that was interesting to people, but most of it was just the fact that this was an issue that everyone was sick and tired of, everyone was at a loss for a solution, and all of a sudden we had cell phone cameras and blogs and people were like ‘awesome, game on. There is a glimmer of a hope of a solution in here somewhere, let’s do it.’
What do you mean when you say ‘street harassment?’ How is it different from a man respectfully approaching a woman on the street, and is there a way to do that?
I think street harassment kind of ruins it for the good guys in the world. I would love to live in a world where dudes said, “Good morning, you look awesome,” and it was totally nice and pleasant and that was that. But the reality is that with street harassment, as soon as you respond to a comment like, “Good morning, you look awesome,” or even just “Good morning,” you run the risk of it escalating into something worse.
We just heard this story that happened in San Francisco last week where the woman just ignored this guy. The guy turned around and slashed her in the face and stabbed her in the arm. I mean that’s an extreme example, but in my own life I’ve seen “Good morning” escalate into “I wanna fuck the shit out of you” really quickly, which is not only unpleasant, but actually really scary because I don’t know where it goes from there.
I Was Raped—and Then the Police Told Me I Made It Up
If you think India is the only place cops treat rape victims like shit, think again . At age nineteen, Sara Reedy was working as a cashier in a gas station in the 1000-person burgh of Cranberry, Pennsylvania when one night a serial rapist named Wilbur Brown opened the door to the station with cellophane wrapped around his fingers. He forced her out in front of the station, where he made her perform oral sex on him, while holding his pistol against her head. There were no security cameras. He then went back inside with Sara, robbed the cash drawer of around $600, and afterwards, hid her in a room behind the office in the back of the service station, where he forced her to tear out all of the phone lines in sight. Incidentally, tangled with one of those phone cords was the power cord to the station’s meager security system, a screwy detail that would later endanger Sara’s chances for justice. The office also happened to have an emergency exit, which Sara bolted through to safety. She sought shelter in the mechanic’s shop next door. One of the tow-truck drivers on duty at the shop telephoned the police while the other went out with a gun to look for the assailant.
What followed, even after such a nightmarish encounter, was worse. Sara was accused of lying to the police. Frank Evanson, the detective who interviewed her in the hospital room where she was undergoing her rape kit examination, accused her of stealing the cash from the drawer and fabricating the assault story as a cover-up. She was put in jail for five days, and waited eight torturous months for her criminal trial. All the while, she was pregnant with her first child.
Wilbur Brown was arrested for a similar crime a month before Sara’s trial date in 2005. He confessed to both Reedy’s assault and the robbery in addition to numerous other rapes. In response, after Sara was released, she sued the Cranberry Township Police Department. But the suit was dismissed in 2009, after Detective Evanson presented evidence claiming that Sara had pulled the power cord to the gas station’s security system an hour before the time she claimed to have been assaulted. She pulled the cord, he testified, in order to steal the $600, and then invented the rape story as a mere diversion.
Except, it turns out, the good detective had misread the security company’s timestamp data indicating when the cord was disconnected, and failed to consult the security company experts who actually knew how to read it. This fact came out when, in August of 2010, attorneys of the Women’s Law Project, a civil-rights nonprofit based in Pennsylvania, volunteered to help Sara challenge the dismissal of her lawsuit. The result was that, this past spring, Sara won a settlement of 1.5 million dollars. Part of the settlement was a gag order that said Sara couldn’t talk about her case—until now.
VICE recently spoke with Sarawhile she was on Christmas vacation at her parents’ home in Florida.
VICE: Tell me what happened at the hospital.
Reedy: When I was brought to the hospital, Detective Evanson was already there. The police walked me through the waiting room and they basically put me in an office space like one of the nurses would use. It was a very small room, like a cubicle-type space, but it had doors. Evanson was sitting there waiting for me and that’s when he asked me to tell him what happened and I told him, and after I was finished telling all the details about the assault and the man, and how I was robbed, his first question to me was “How many times a day do you use dope?”
I thought that he was referring to heroin, because heroin had been a problem in that area, and I told him straight up that I did not use heroin, that I smoked pot occasionally but that I hadn’t smoked pot in about a week. Eventually, they moved me into an actual hospital room to give me the rape kit, but actually, before giving me the rape kit, Evanson and the corporal, Corporal Massolino, came in and questioned me again. And I had to go through the details of the assault all over again. Evanson basically led the whole thing—it’s cheesy to say, but it almost felt like they were playing this “Good Cop, Bad Cop” game, because Corporal Massolino just sat there. He really didn’t say anything. Evanson just kept on grilling me and it eventually turned into “Where’s the money? If you’d tell us now about what actually happened, you’d save yourself.” And he actually went to the extent of saying, “Your tears won’t save you now,” when I finally started crying. It was like a horrible Lifetime movie.
What was the first thing you felt when you realized he was accusing you?
I honestly felt like they were just playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” I was trying to reassure myself that this wasn’t actually happening. I was in total shock—I was trying to reassure myself the whole entire time that everything was going to be okay. I was giving myself every excuse as to why it was going to be okay, but I was definitely getting frustrated with dealing with Evanson. I almost felt like, “This couldn’t happen. It won’t happen.” You know, you’re brought up to believe that the cops are there to help you.
When did you decide to pursue litigation? You waited for your trial for several months, right?
I didn’t really have any basis to sue them until my vindication. That was the position I was in. Innocent until proven guilty, when, in the reality of it, you’re guilty until proven innocent. It’s hard to go ahead and sue the police until you actually have solid evidence. I’m sure I could have pursued it if I was found innocent in a trial, but I don’t think I would have had success if Wilbur wasn’t caught and had confessed to assaulting me.
Is Poking Holes in Condoms Sexual Assault?
I’m not sure if most of you remember Craig Jaret Hutchinson? He is the 42-year-old Canadian man (and by man, I mean psycho) from Clyde River, Nunavut, who poked holes in an entire pack of condoms in hopes of knocking up his girlfriend so that she would be forced to stay in a relationship with him.
Hutchinson and his girlfriend (who, for obvious reasons, has kept her name private during this long, complicated trial) began dating in 2008 and when things got rocky, Hutchinson executed his genius plan to sabotage condoms so she would get pregnant. It worked. His girlfriend got pregnant and they struggled through the relationship for the sake of the unborn child, but (big shocker) it eventually fell apart. When the couple split, Hutchinson broke down, called his girlfriend and admitted what he had done to the condoms because he was afraid she might contract an STD from another partner if she used the ruined condoms. The girlfriend called the police and scheduled an abortion.
Hutchinson was charged and went to trial in 2009, but the Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge found him not guilty of aggravated sexual assault.
Not guilty of aggravated sexual assault.
I’m going to stop right here. By definition, aggravated sexual assault means that the victim’s life was put at risk. Somehow, a judge found that this was not true. Excuse me? The woman had to have an abortion (which left her with an infection in her uterus and two weeks of “painful complications”). She had to endure the beginning stages of pregnancy without consent on her behalf, plus she had to deal with the emotional, mental and physical trauma of not only this very public case, but the abortion and severed relationship to this pathetic low life. Yes, there was no gun held to her head. Yes, there was no gag rope strangled around her mouth. Yes, the actual sex was consensual, but the absence of valid contraception was not. So was this an assault?