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From rape victim to advocate

Danielle Tudor, one of the 'Jogging Rapist's' nine victims, will share her personal journey at a Soroptimist Club event

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Theres still that part of you that you dont let people in completely, says Danielle Tudor, because you dont want them to think of you as a lesser person. As she neared the 30th anniversary of her rape, Danielle Tudor believed she had moved on. She had married, raised two sons and started a small business. In what she saw as a sign of progress, she had even forgotten her attacker’s name, despite following his trial and conviction in 1987.

Tudor had managed to create a vague narrative with which she was comfortable: “I was home and I was attacked.”

That all changed in 2008, though, when Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Russ Ratto asked her to step forward and testify at Richard Troy Gillmore’s upcoming parole hearing.

“’I said, ‘No way. I’m not a named victim,’” Tudor says. “My sons didn’t know. I ran a small business; we were leaders in the community. People didn’t know me as that person. I was kind of afraid, too, about what I would find if I went back there.”

But as Tudor will tell the Soroptimist Club of Lake Oswego/West Linn next week, Ratto’s call forced her to take inventory of the way her life had changed since her attack. Her presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the Holy Names Heritage Center on the Marylhurst University campus.

Tudor had been a high school senior who sought refuge from an intruder in her parents’ bedroom. Now, she lived with surveillance cameras throughout her own home. She had an alarm system in place. She and her husband took on the added expense of paying PGE to keep an otherwise inactive streetlight on outside their home. She had come to depend on air conditioning because she was unable to feel safe with a cracked window or, far worse, an open door.

Then Tudor watched Tiffany Edens testify at Gillmore’s parole hearing, detailing her rape at the age of 13. None of Gillmore’s other nine known victims had come forward, so Edens’ attack was the one Gillmore was ultimately tried for.

“I was watching her,” Tudor recalls, “and there was just something within me that went, ‘This isn’t right. There are eight more of us just like her, and we’re leaving her out there on her own to fight this. And she can’t speak up for all of us.’

“There was a sense of compassion and remorse (watching Eden),” Tudor says, “because I knew I’d made the wrong decision. So I called the DA back.”

Ratto asked her to give her story to The Oregonian. It landed on the front page on July 3, 2008, and within the month, five other victims of the “Jogging Rapist” came forward. Gillmore was denied parole.

Gillmore had lived within a couple minutes of the 12-block span of Center Street in southeast Portland where his victims, most of them minors, lived. He cased their homes during his runs through the area.

Unfortunately for many of the victims, the statute of limitations when they were raped was only three years. The story of the “Jogging Rapist,” from the first known rape Gillmore committed in the late 1970s until his arrest in 1986, is one of missed opportunities and police inaction.

“That’s why he was only prosecuted for Tiffany Eden’s (rape), because of that timeline,” Tudor explains. “Yet it was the composite sketch I gave police the night of my attack that eventually led to his capture. And yet, he couldn’t be prosecuted for my attack.”

In 2010, Tudor testified at Gillmore’s next parole hearing. But Gillmore challenged her testimony, claiming that because he was not prosecuted for his attack on Tudor, she should not have been given victim status or been allowed to testify.

The board agreed, and Tudor found herself in a rather ironic situation: fighting to maintain the title of “victim” she had struggled to accept for herself in 2008. It took a lawsuit by the National Crime Victims Law Institute to compel the board to allow Tudor to testify at Gillmore’s 2012 parole hearing.

“That adversity made me stronger,” Tudor says. “It made me say, ‘You know what? You are not going to do that to another victim. And we’re going to make sure of that.’”

It also spurred Tudor to work with state legislators to do away with the statute of limitations on rape cases — which they did in 2009.

“Even from 2008 to now, after becoming a named victim, I’m not the same person that I was in 2008,” Tudor says.

Gillmore is still in prison, and he backed out of his scheduled parole hearing earlier this year. That was pleasant news for Tudor, but it also gave her occasion to reflect on the institutionalized difficulties she had faced as a rape victim. In May, she penned an editorial for The Oregonian.

“I was very transparent. I think I had gotten to the place where I knew I wanted to reach out and help other victims,” Tudor says. “And so I knew in order to be able to do that, I would have to let down my guard. There’s still that part of you that you don’t let people in completely, because you don’t want them to think of you as a lesser person.”

Remembering herself as a scared, shocked 17-year-old who barely comprehended her attack, Tudor wanted to demonstrate to other victims what life could look like further down the road. But she did not want to present an overly rosy picture.

“I knew if I really wanted to help somebody else, I would have to be honest with the fear that I still have to deal with. Especially at night when I’m home alone,” she says.

The editorial launched her into what has become a busy schedule as an activist and advocate. She has travelled across the country to share her story; in late October, she spoke at a conference hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice. She is also working on a book about her experiences and the need for systemic reform in the way victims are treated.

When she speaks to the Soroptimist Club of Lake Oswego/West Linn on Nov. 12, her parents will be in the audience. It will be the first time they will have heard her tell her story in such detail.

“It definitely is an event that victims should feel free coming to,” Tudor says.

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or ssorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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