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Dennis Hanson's sex-assault trial inspires fight against culture that tells men rape is okay

Last October, we reported about the sex-assault charges against Bojan Vuckovic and Dennis Hanson, who were accused of getting two girls drunk and violently raping them. In the end, the only conviction against Vuckovic that stuck was supplying alcohol to minors, despite shocking injuries to the young woman. Now, with Hanson's trial just over a week away, an activist group has joined forces with the mom of Vuckovic's victim to call for an end to what they see as a culture that forgives rapists and punishes their prey.

As we've reported, Vuckovic worked as a barback at Yeti Bar and Grill in Old Town Fort Collins, while his roommate, Hanson, served as a bartender at the same establishment.

Old Town Fort Collins.
Old Town Fort Collins.

On December 12, 2012, according to the statement shared with the court by the victim's mom (who we're not naming to protect her daughter's identity), a young woman and her friend "had been invited to a man's home for a get together with another man as well. The girls were served several shots of alcohol."

The victim feels she was also given a date-rape drug. Subsequent tests didn't turn up evidence of the drug, but the victim's mom notes that such substances "dissipate from the body very quickly and thus are difficult to detect."

Bojan Vuckovic's mug shot.
Bojan Vuckovic's mug shot.

The next thing the victim knew, she was on the front porch of another residence in the neighborhood, "covered in blood and bleeding profusely from her vaginal area," her mom notes. Fortunately, the owner of the house was awake, and he and his roommate "took her into their home and thus saved her life," the mom continues. "As she bled on their floor they called 911 and did all they could to aid and comfort her. She literally almost bled to death."

The young woman was "so mentally incapacitated that she did not even know her name" at first, her mom notes. But she responded to treatment, and afterward, Vuckovic was found and charged with first-degree rape resulting in severe bodily injury, as well as serving alcohol to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

At trial, however, the young woman's inability to remember the sexual assault, or any of the circumstances surrounding it, resulted in Vuckovic being exonerated of that charge -- a verdict that left the mom aghast. "It was considered to be CONSENUAL sex," she wrote the judge, adding, "We see this as a complete and utter oxymoron. Who would consent to such trauma, and how can it be moral for a person to commit such forceful sexual penetration on an unconscious person??? Therefore we feel that this is an erroneous and UNJUST verdict."

Her takeaway from the trial? "Our daughter was not only victimized by this violent rapist, but then again by our 'Criminal' Justice System, as it seems that there is much more leeway given to the defense's side, and the DA prosecutors' hands are tied in many ways," she wrote the judge. In her view, her daughter "was victimized by this society's rape culture bias. Essentially; if a woman dresses up nice, meets a man for a date and drinks alcohol with him, then that infers that she has consented to sex; evidently, violent sex or not. Lastly, and perhaps the worst, victimization is self inflicted, as she (like most rape victims) has accepted society's condemnation for her mistake, and there it is her burden to carry for the rest of her life."

Continue for more about the Bojan Vuckovic-Dennis Hanson cases and the protests against rape culture, including additional photos.

 

One of the signs from the End RAPE Culture Fort Collins protest at the Vuckovic sentencing hearing last October.
One of the signs from the End RAPE Culture Fort Collins protest at the Vuckovic sentencing hearing last October.

Brandi Williams has the same concerns. She's one of the main movers behind an organization called End RAPE Culture Fort Collins, and she organized a protest at Vuckovic's October 2013 sentencing. The victim's mom subsequently heard about her efforts, and the following month, the two combined forces for a public forum that included advocates from organizations such as the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the SAVA Center and the Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center, as well as representatives of the 8th Judicial District DA's office and state representative John Kefalas.

For Williams, this session was an opportunity to "find out what's going wrong with our system -- and why these people are getting such light sentences."

Will Hanson receive a slap on the wrist as well? Williams says his trial is set to get underway on February 25, and although his victim reportedly sustained multiple injuries and was in intense pain afterward, similar facts didn't end in a rape conviction for Vuckovic.

Another sign from the protest.
Another sign from the protest.

As such, Williams is organizing supporters to attend the trial, and both she and the victim's mother in the Vuckovic case are speaking out about not only the allegations against Hanson, but their implications on the culture as a whole.

"I always knew there was a problem out there," the mom says in an interview, "but I had never put it at the top of my list of things to worry about i this world. And I had some biases, too. Without even realizing it, I'd think, you don't do that -- you don't go out with some guy and drink alcohol, because he could take advantage of you. I didn't think of it as forgiving violent rape, or blaming it on the woman."

The Vuckovic incident, and the verdict that followed, "had a huge impact" on her daughter's life, the mom continues. "Not only did she go through a horrible trauma, but the fact that it was made to seem like her fault has been very difficult to deal with. It's no different from being stabbed in the gut and having your guts pouring out, and then having people say, 'It's your fault.' And her frustration and anger won't go away.

"I felt like that, too," she admits. "I went to the couch for a week. But my way of dealing with things is to get out there and try to prevent these kinds of things from happening again. We can't prevent everything like this, but if we can influence one or two or three of these cases, and get people to realize these biases that blame women for rape, it can be a start."

Here's a larger look at Dennis Hanson's booking photo, followed by the mom's complete victim's statement to the judge in the Vuckovic case.

Dennis Hanson.
Dennis Hanson.

Bojan Vuckovic Case: Statement of Victim's Mother

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa October 2013: "Bojan Vuckovic's light sentence after sex-assault charge inspires End RAPE Culture protest."


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