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After learning details of the appalling treatment of a victim of rape in their hometown, Abbie J. Leavens and Kira Laffe write open letters to the survivor, the community and to the Police Chief of “America’s Hometown,” Charles City, Iowa (Blog Post 1 of 2)

February 5, 2013, 11:09 am — admin (Uncategorized)


Trigger warning: Content regarding sexual assault.

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To the woman who was brave enough to report her sexual attack,

I believe you.

I am sure the morning of July 14 won’t leave your memory for as long as you live, and I’m sorry that when you showed your body to Officer Todd Smith he, instead of using his position of authority and power to help you, vocalized his doubt and felt he had any right to question the longevity of the bruises on your body. You placed your trust in the very institution we are taught is there to serve and protect us. You did the right thing. Officer Todd Smith did not.

I grew up in Charles City, Iowa. I, too, have been told by local law enforcement (the responsibility of my attack) was mine “because I had been drinking.” As if any person deserves to be the victim of sexual or physical assault. The words “asking for it” have been uttered far too many times, especially as of late. I did not ask to be assaulted, and neither did you. The consumption of alcoholic beverages does not give any person the right to any part of your body.

Taken directly from the article in The Globe Gazette, January 30, 2013:

“The allegation was that he stepped over the line,” said Smith’s attorney Joel Yunek of Mason City. “It’s a very difficult line for a lot of investigators. We all watch television and see officers in the course of an interrogation make those kinds of allegations. Some people find them offensive and  I understand that but of course, that’s his job.”

No, Mr. Yunek. To make “those kinds of allegations” is most definitely not his job.

It’s offensive and demeaning and all-too familiar from this community. The headline proudly reads “Charges Dropped Against Charles City Police Officer” and shows a large image of Officer Todd Smith, displaying his awards in front of a decorated tree. As far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing in this article to be proud of.

To the woman who made that call on July 14, I admire you. You are strong. I hope you have support and love near you. I don’t even know you, and you have mine.

Warmest regards,

Abbie J. Leavens

Abbie J. Leavens grew up in Iowa. She writes and teaches English at the University of California, Irvine and Long Beach City College. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her two boys. Her poetry has been published in Wilde Magazine, The Boiler Journal, and The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, a literary and arts journal at Johns Hopkins University.  You can find and read her work at www.abbiejleavens.wordpress.com.


  1. Abbie, your words are powerful. Thank you for sharing of your own experience of violence; your resiliency is admirable. I have no doubt that you have planted a seed of thought in some, kindled a fire in others and empowered many people who have been affected by violence to begin sharing their stories. To talk and to share, is to heal.

    Thank you for all that you do.

    Comment by Kira Laffe — February 5, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

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