Opinion: Victims of sexual assault stand tall in a Kansas courtroom

From where they sat in the courtroom, the predator’s victims — two past girlfriends, one perfect stranger and a woman who once lived in the same apartment complex — couldn’t see the handcuffs clamping Brady Newman-Caddell’s wrists.

He kept his hands in his lap during the sentencing hearing this week in Olathe, Kan.

Except when testifying, they mostly saw their attacker from behind. His slight build was that of a teenager. The fact that he was dressed in a suit and tie only added to his appearance as a normal young man, harmless even. Not exactly how society assumes an admitted rapist would appear.

That’s our mistake. A rapist’s ability to feign a normal image is one of the searing lessons in this on-going case from the Midwest.

Newman-Caddell is one of two men who pleaded guilty to the 2016 rape of a Kansas sheriff’s deputy. They are also charged with raping another woman, in a suburb of Kansas City earlier that same year. They allegedly broke into her apartment and taking turns assaulting her as her toddler daughter was on the same bed.

That’s astounding enough, a tag team duo of two men raping women.

But the case showcases so much more. Most rapists never see a courtroom, partly because of the stigmas and underreporting of sexual assault.

A lack of convictions — and of testimony like that given by Newman-Caddell’s victims — is a reason much of society misses the connections of how violence can escalate.

At the October 17 hearing, two former girlfriends of Newman-Caddell detailed the episodes of controlling behavior and violence that they experienced, prior to the other women’s rapes.

Newman-Caddell’s ability to charm, often exhibiting a calm outward demeanor, was the cover for what prosecutors have described as sociopathic tendencies. It’s partly how he got away with criminal assaults for so long, although he’s only 23. His rapist partner, William D. Luth, is 26 and has been sentenced to 41 years for the rape of the sheriff’s deputy alone.

Newman-Caddell links much of what society tends to separate into categories. There’s date rape, domestic violence and rape or sexual assault by a stranger.

One girlfriend met him at church, right before her 16th birthday. She found him extremely attentive, desiring her constant presence.

But then “things that he’d like to do” began to include pinching her hard, grabbing her hand and bending it backwards painfully, and putting his hand to her mouth to silence her.

Eventually came the day when a four-hour attack had him shoving her to the ground, hitting her in the face, kicking her and strangling her — “not enough to make me pass out, but hard enough to make me gasp,” the victim said.

Then he cried and apologized.

People who discount, disbelieve or seek to hide the story of one woman might be opening the door to attacks on another. That includes law enforcement when they aren’t properly trained to investigate trauma and sexual assault.

Newman-Caddell’s first rape victim was offended by a detective’s questioning that focused on whether she was on any dating apps, seemingly dismissing her account. She pressed police to gather forensic evidence, which provided the crucial break in the case, but only after the deputy was raped.

District Judge Brenda Cameron will sentence Newman-Caddell in January.

At the end of the daylong hearing, she addressed his victims, lauding them for telling their stories in an open courtroom with their attacker present.

“I appreciate our courage, your strength, the composure. It’s remarkable,” she said.

Writes for Tribune Content Agency.

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