Washing Away the Evidence
"Mom, the phone's for you," Chloe's daughter yelled out the back door.
"Find out who it is and tell them I'll call them back," Chloe responded, as she patted down the soil around her new Bird of Paradise plant.
A few minutes later, her daughter was back at the door. "Mom, it's your work. They say it's an emergency. They need to talk to you now," her daughter said.
"An emergency? On a Saturday?" Chloe thought, brushing the dirt off her hands. "Okay, I'll be right there," she yelled back. Chloe was the human resources manager for a large publishing warehouse and distribution center.
When she got into the house, her daughter handed her the phone. "This is Chloe," she said into the receiver.
"Chloe, oh Chloe!" an excited voice answered. "We've got trouble with Eva Cassis. Morris Albroton . . . he hurt her last night," Rosita, the warehouse supervisor, stammered.
"Hurt her? Hurt her, how?" Chloe asked, while she rinsed her hands in the sink and searched for a pen.
"Her mother says he raped Eva last night in the warehouse," Rosita said.
"Oh no," Chloe gasped. "How did this happen?"
"I don't know, exactly, but I tell you, Chloe, I knew something was wrong when I saw Eva last night. She was acting strange . . . like, fidgety. When I asked her if she had a problem, she said that she was just feeling weird. I thought maybe she was getting sick, so I sent her home early. I had no idea he did this to her. I want to strangle that Morris when I see him," Rosita fumed.
"Rosita, let's not jump to conclusions. We don't have all the facts yet," Chloe said, realizing that Rosita was upset. "Do you have her mother's name and number handy?"
"Yes. Her name is Mrs. Brighton. The number is 555-1001." Chloe knew Eva. She had hired Eva through a social service agency in a pilot program to broaden employment opportunities for the mentally disabled. Eva was about 27 years old, but had an intellectual ability of a 10-year-old. Despite her mental limitations, she was a wonderful, dependable employee.
She worked in the warehouse. Each day, hundreds of packages entered and left the facility. The company distributed everything from books on how to patch drywall and fix your toilet to educational videos on creative lovemaking strategies for the '90s. Eva's job was to restock all returns according to their stock number.
Chloe also knew Morris Albroton, a retired army officer about 50 years old, who worked as a part-time warehouser evenings and weekends. There was nothing particularly memorable about Morris. He arrived on time and did his job satisfactorily.
When Chloe called Eva's mother, Mrs. Brighton, Chloe got more information. Mrs. Brighton told Chloe that her first clue that something was wrong was when Eva came home a half-hour early from work. When she asked Eva why she was home so early, Eva said she wasn't feeling well. She walked around the house acting agitated and nervous, shaking her hands and pacing.
Shortly afterward, Mrs. Brighton said that she observed Eva go into the bathroom and take a bath. When Eva was done, she picked up her clothes in a very odd manner. Instead of bundling them up in her arms and putting them in the hamper, she pinched them together with her fingers at a corner and held them about a foot from her body. It was as though she didn't want to touch them. Next, she almost ritualistically walked to the laundry room and tossed them in the washing machine and turned it on.
When Eva finally seemed to calm down, Mrs. Brighton decided to talk to her to find out what was going on. Eva acted very guilty at first, as if she had done something wrong. Then Eva told Mrs. Brighton that during the middle of her shift, Morris had lured her into a room in the warehouse that was normally kept locked. He told her that he had some of her favorite candy there. Then, he locked her in and raped her. After he was done, he left Eva in the room by herself. She didn't know what to do, so she just went back to work until her supervisor told her to go home.
Chloe got Mrs. Brighton's address and drove there immediately. When she arrived, she saw Eva sitting limply in a chair. Chloe hugged her and assured her that she had done nothing wrong. Then she turned to Mrs. Brighton.
"Have you called the police?" Chloe asked.
"Well, no. It happened at work, so I didn't think I was supposed to call the police," Mrs. Brighton said, surprised.
"Mrs. Brighton, this is a crime. We need to report it as such. I'll stay with you the whole time. Would you like me to call or do you want to?" Chloe offered.
Mrs. Brighton called, and the police took the report. They went through all the questioning with Eva, as Chloe held her hand and encouraged her. Then Chloe drove Eva and her mother to the hospital so they could take the necessary tests for evidence. Unfortunately, the hospital exam was of limited use. Morris had allegedly used a condom, so there was no evidence of semen. Since Eva did not fight, there was no skin under her fingernails. Additionally, she washed away any possible remaining evidence when she bathed and washed her clothes, so there were no hairs or fibers.
The police went to Morris's home to question him. He refused to go down to the station since they did not have a warrant. In the meantime, Chloe called her boss and filled him in. They realized they had to keep an open mind, and planned a strategy accordingly. The first thing they did was to investigate the case as though it were a conventional case of sexual harassment.
When Chloe interviewed Eva, she asked, "Did Morris ever approach you for sex before this incident?"
"Well, he'd show me some of the books we stock. They had bad things in them, like naked people kissing and touching each other," Eva said, making a face. "Once he asked me to watch a tape that someone returned. He told me it was a cartoon. But when I watched it, it had naked people on it, doing nasty things, so I left the room."
After Chloe completed the interview, she obtained a signed complaint from Eva regarding the sexual harassment.
To learn how Morris responded, read Part 2
Excerpted from Sex, Laws, & Stereotypes, by N. Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.©