Kate Lacroix is a strong and outspoken young woman, a performer by training. Yet the assault she suffered almost a year ago shook her to the core.
It was the kind of attack some people have difficulty even classifying as rape: She was taken in her sleep by a roommate. But the Boulder County District Attorney's Office considered it rape. The rapist, Akin Green, ultimately pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor. He served no time, nor was he placed on probation. But by state law, he was required to place his name on the registered sex offenders list. He never did.
"He could be working in a sorority as a cook," says Lacroix, speaking by phone from New York City, where she moved after graduating from the University of Colorado. "No one ever checked to see that he registered. Whose job is it to do this?"
Lacroix and Green were both University of Colorado theater students last year when Lacroix learned that Green wanted to move from Denver to Boulder. She offered him a place in her apartment -- essentially a curtained-off futon in the living room.
"We lived together three months," she says. "We had opposing schedules. We'd exchange a few words; we were in a class together; I'd go to his room and wake him up. There was no sexual frisson. I had a boyfriend."
On October 25, 1998, Lacroix left her waitress job at the Mediterranean restaurant and headed to the sushi bar where she hosted a karaoke session every Saturday night. She had a couple of shots of sake and a glass of wine, then went dancing with some friends. Back home, talking on the phone, she heard Green come in with a friend. She was playing an Erykah Badu CD. "I hollered, Akin, come here -- this is our CD of the week," she remembers. The two of them danced together. Then he popped a tape into the video player in the living room.
The curtain shielding the futon was pulled back, Lacroix says, and all of the lights in the apartment were on. Green's friend stretched out on the couch, and Lacroix settled on the futon to watch the video. Green had left the room.
The last thing Lacroix remembers is her eyelids falling during a scene about ten minutes into the movie. "I'm a very heavy sleeper," she explains. "My boyfriend Caleb always said, 'When Kate sleeps, she just sleeps. The times I've wanted to wake her up to be romantic, I can't even move her.'"
Lacroix says she awoke to a "rocking motion" -- Green had penetrated her from behind. "I was just like, 'Oh, my God, what's...Is Caleb here? What's going on?'
"All of a sudden, panic seized me. I got up and ran. I had drawstring pjs, and they were around my knees. I tripped. I said, 'Get out of here. What are you doing? What were you thinking?' I ran into my room, slammed the door and called the police."
She was examined by a SANE nurse at the Child and Family Advocacy Center in Niwot. "They very carefully explained everything," she says. "They do all sorts of weird things. You can't believe how much you're prodded and poked. They stick a camera inside of you and see if there's been some kind of forced entry.
"They did the rape examination, and after they had talked to him, they brought me back in to swab my breasts. He said he had fondled my breasts. The bizarre thing is that he used a condom."
Over the next few weeks, Lacroix worked with the district attorney's office and the University of Colorado Judicial Board. She is still grateful for the empathy of the detective who handled her case; she found the DA's victim assistance program particularly helpful in dealing with such practicalities as getting her locks changed. But she also felt overwhelmed by the phone calls she had to make and the niggling details she was forced to cope with.
"I went through all the motions to pick my life up again," she says. "I told myself, he's not going to make me quit school. I kept going."
Deputy District Attorney D.D. Mallard prosecuted the case and arranged the deal for Green to plead guilty to third-degree sexual assault. "She said because he was a roommate of mine and I was raped in my sleep and woke up to him inside of me, rape would be hard to prove," says Lacroix. "I was told if he pled guilty, at the very least he'd be on the sexual-offender list for ten years." Lacroix took comfort from that.
Green was also suspended from the university. But if Lacroix had hoped for support and understanding from her department, she was disappointed. Green had been cast as the lead in Six Degrees of Separation; in the playbill, the actor who'd replaced him wrote this under his name: "This one's for you, Akin Green." When Lacroix asked the director to remove the words, he became enraged.
"You think that once a person's convicted, people are going to believe you," Lacroix says, "but it didn't matter. The department was still divided.
"It all takes a lot away from you, saps you of what is most recognizable in yourself -- creativity and awareness and passion," she adds. "And on top of that, to have to stay on people and make sure they do what they're supposed to do..."
In the weeks before she left town, Lacroix says, she saw Green coming out of the house next to hers several times. She became afraid, contacted police and got a restraining order. Once in New York, she felt safer -- but she still wanted to see his name on the sex-offenders' registry.
According to Detective Chuck Heidel of the Boulder Police Department, a sexual offender is required to register in the jurisdiction where he or she lives and to update the entry every birthday. If the offender moves, he must re-register. This information is kept by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation as well as local police departments.
Because Green had not been placed on probation as most sexual offenders are, however, there was no probation officer to ensure his compliance.
Alerted by Lacroix to Green's failure to register, Mallard promptly issued a warrant for his arrest. Not registering, the attorney says, is a crime in its own right, carrying a mandatory ninety-day minimum jail sentence and the possibility of a year in jail.
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Although some states post their lists of sexual offenders on the Web, in Colorado names are released only if the person making the inquiry is a resident of the area he's inquiring about or has some other compelling reason for the inquiry. But legislation was recently passed that will require community notification, and a state board is currently exploring ways to implement this, Mallard says. That legislation applies only to sexually violent predators, however -- and that category does not include Akin Green.
Through her activism and her persistence, Lacroix has fought her way back from the rape. "Slowly," she says, "you come back to what you know is true about yourself.
"The alternative is to always know you could have done something and you didn't. And that other women will have to go through this." -- Wittman