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One womans story of being raped could lead to justice

What started as one woman's courageous and solitary stand last fall has turned into something of a movement this summer to ensure that justice prevails in the case of a notorious sex offender.

When Tiffany Edens stepped forward nearly a year ago and broke the taboo against speaking publicly as the victim of a sex crime, she probably had no idea just how much support would flow from her decision.

But in the months since Edens first objected to the premature release of serial rapist Richard Troy Gillmore and told her story to Community Newspapers, she has unleashed the anger not only of the public, but also of Gillmore's other victims.

All along, Edens had the backing of the Multnomah County District Attorney's office, which must be commended for its fight to keep Gillmore where he belongs - in prison. It was that office that joined with Edens to sue the Oregon Parole Board over its flawed decision to grant Gillmore parole, even though he had served only about a third of his 60-year sentence.

If not for that lawsuit and a judge's decision to require a new parole hearing, the public may never have heard from seven of Gillmore's other victims. But what a powerful force they have become as, one by one, they have stepped forward to join hands with Edens in opposing the release of someone who -according to multiple psychological evaluations - remains a danger to the community.

These women, who now have been interviewed by numerous media outlets, have described in painful detail the life-altering effects of Gillmore's crimes.

This rapist's twisted legacy includes women who've fallen into drug and alcohol abuse, who've struggled to regain the balance in their lives and their trust in other people. One of Gillmore's victims committed suicide; another believes her rape led to a reproductive disease that destroyed her fertility.

The effects of Gillmore's crimes, which occurred more than two decades ago, cannot be undone. His victims' lives are forever altered - for the worse. Even when physical violations have been healed, the psychological impact remains all too real.

The irreversible effects of Gillmore's crimes did not receive due consideration when the Parole Board arrived at its baffling conclusion last year that Gillmore could be managed outside of prison.

But the Parole Board - which held a new hearing in June and has yet to issue a ruling - isn't operating in the same public context this time around.

The board should pay attention now to what it is hearing from all of Gillmore's victims. If it does so, it will arrive at a greater understanding of their lifelong pain.

The Gillmore parole process is no longer a quiet affair with little public notice. It is being conducted under the full scrutiny of citizens who've been alerted to a potential injustice - and a possible danger - and who are responding accordingly.

Edens, who was just 13 when Gillmore raped her, didn't know last year what events would unfold from her decision to break her silence.

But she and Gillmore's other victims have exercised a collective influence on public opinion that very well could make the difference between a just conclusion and a grievous one.