Local advocates hope the story of a 34-year-old woman’s sexual assault survival can help other victims find the courage to come forward.
“It’s often difficult for survivors of sexual assault to come forward,” said Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross, at a Thursday morning press conference where she announced new charges against Harkey, including Attempted First Degree Murder.
Police say officers had responded to the 5900 block of McDonald Road in Roscoe on March 13th for a possible abduction. There, they met with a female victim suffering from head injuries.
According to the criminal complaint, Matthew Harkey had abducted the 34-year-old woman from her home in Rockford, handcuffed her to a workbench and held her captive in a basement, where he beat and raped her.
Investigators say she was able to escape on her own.
Authorities Thursday praised the actions of Harkey’s victim.
“She did everything that she could do to survive,” Roscoe Police Chief Jamie Evans said.
Hite Ross hopes the case will serve as an inspiration for other women who have been the victims of rape.
“If they believe, at this time, they’re in the mindset to come forward, then we are here,” she said. “Law enforcement is here. My office is here to review the case and try to get justice for those victims who may not have initially reported the crime.”
Erica Engler, the Clinical Director for Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling, says it’s never easy for victims to work up the courage to report their attackers.
“Sexual assault and abuse is a very traumatic thing that happens to a person, and so we want the survivor to be at a place where they feel like they’re ready to do the healing work on that,” she said.
Engler also said that the victim’s emotional pain often sets in long after the actual crime is over.
“Doing therapy for sexual abuse and assault is hard and painful, even though, in the end, it leads to a better place, a hopeful place, a more healing place,” Engler said.
Engler says, in her line of work, she has seen some offenders receive little to no punishment for their crimes.
“In general, I think sentences need to be stricter. They need to be longer, and perpetrators need to be held more accountable,” she said.
Rape crisis counseling at Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling is completely free, and does not require medical insurance. They are located at 4990 E State Street or by phone at (815) 636-9811