Homeless Rape Survivor Determined To Seek Justice

Rebecca Miller

A homeless woman who was raped while sleeping under a bridge last year was so determined to seek justice that she would sometimes walk up to eight miles just to appear for court hearings. Other times she begged for bus money or was gifted bus vouchers by the prosecution. Undeterred by weather or distance, she was determined to face her attacker in court.

"I didn't want to see him do it to anyone else," she said of her determination to attend the hearings. "If he would do that to me, imagine what he might do to his next victim," the woman told the Columbus Dispatch.

The woman said she found her way to at least a half-dozen court dates in the past 11 months, walking over three hours to the downtown courthouse at least twice.

Her determination to be in court helped win a conviction against the man.

"He was counting on her not showing up," said Columbus police detective James Ashenhurst to the Dispatch. "If it wasn't for her cooperation, he would have walked."

The Associated Press reported that Paul Hubert, 54, pleaded guilty to rape before the case went to trial and was sentenced on February 10 to three years in prison.

In addition to the prison sentence, Hubert must register as a sex offender every 90 days for the rest of his life. The maximum penalty for the offense is 11 years.

"He didn't get as much time as I thought he should, but he's getting his due justice," the woman said to the Dispatch. "He has to report for the rest of his life. I just have to have these feelings for the rest of my life. I only have to report to myself."

On March 12, the victim was sleeping under an East Broad Street bridge that spans Big Walnut Creek just east of Hamilton Road when she awoke to a stranger attacking her, hitting her in the head repeatedly. The stranger raped her and after he ran away, she walked to a nearby convenience store. Noticeably injured, the clerk called the police on her behalf.

A rape kit examination conducted at the Mount Carmel East hospital found DNA. The DNA was entered into a statewide database and provided a link to Hubert, who had a 2007 conviction for receiving stolen property.

Hubert told police that he met the woman on Hamilton Road and that she was a prostitute. His story was contradicted by her injuries and where his DNA was found.

The case was scheduled to go to trial this week, but with the woman prepared to testify, Hubert agreed to the plea deal.

As reported by the Dispatch, Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Michael Hughes told the judge who sentenced Hubert about the woman's efforts to help prosecute Hubert.

"Not in every case do we have people who show this kind of resolve," Hughes said. "She always got here, no matter what her circumstances."

The woman told the newspaper that she has been homeless for two years and she wants to look for permanent housing now that the case is behind her.

The rape trial has spurred the community to consider the needs of homeless women. Since last summer, the Community Shelter board has increased shelter beds for women by 70 percent, and a waiting list no longer exists for women seeking shelter.

"It's a very scary situation for homeless women, particularly those who are unaccompanied on the streets," board member Loken said to the Dispatch. "The fact that she's still on the streets is one of the things that's most concerning about this. There's no reason for that."

Those needing shelter can call one of two homeless hotlines: 1-888-474-3587 for single men and women and 614-253-7970 for families with children.

Read about tiny houses for the homeless by clicking here.

[Photos via the Columbus Dispatch]