Victim speaks out about Rape Crisis Center, forgiveness - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Victim speaks out about Rape Crisis Center, forgiveness

By Joe Birch - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Outraged by the crisis at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, a mother who was beaten and raped inside her home in the Chickasaw Gardens area is now breaking her silence.

Over the past year, insiders say the facility has deteriorated from a model rape crisis center into an understaffed and overwhelmed model of mismanagement.

At times, rape victims have been turned away, because of a nursing shortage created by city-ordered residency rules.

It's quite different from the center of two years ago, when a mother of two, who asked not to be identified for this story, was robbed, beaten and raped inside her home near Chickasaw Gardens.

"If there hadn't been a rape crisis center in action that day, if that nurse had not been there to take DNA evidence, this man would not be in jail for 49 years," she said.

The man was referring to is Elroy Cobbins.  He finally plead guilty last week, thanks directly to the DNA evidence against him - DNA collected by a Rape Crisis nurse on duty the day of the attack.

"She performed what they call a rape kit," the victim said. "She took the DNA, took pictures of my face. I was bloody."

Now, she's angry.

"They're turning people away because there's not a nurse there, and these people may not know to go to the emergency room," she said. "They might be so discouraged and upset they might just go home."

Memphis residency rules are a big part of the nursing shortage at the center. City rules that require city employees to live within city limits, even though the Rape Crisis Center treats victims in the tri-state area.

"That's just very small town thinking," the Chickasaw Gardens victim said. "It's very backwater. It's antiquated."

The Memphis City Council has fought a bitter fight over residency requirements for city employees, especially police officers. This crime victim says it's time Mayor Herenton and the Council embraced all qualified applicants, regardless of their address!

"We need more policemen," she said. "I don't care where they live. I don't care if they live in Arkansas. We need more policemen. We need more people to protect our city."

This woman's protectors were at work the day she needed them - fully-staffed Rape Crisis Center that sprung into action and collected the DNA needed to prosecute her attacker.

Both Cobbins and his accomplice in the robbery, Marcello Hurst, finally pleaded guilty without their victim having to testify.

"I did not want to go through that again," the victim said. "One assault is enough. That would have felt like a second assault. To go through it again.

Now she hopes other victims aren't victimized twice, by a Rape Crisis Center unable to render help when needed.


Elroy Cobbins now faces 49 years in prison for his guilty plea in the robbery, beating and sexual assault of a Memphis wife and mother of two. Marchello Hurst  finds out his sentence on Monday for his part in the robbery on Goodwyn two years ago this week:

"What they did was hateful, and if anyone had done anything that hateful, they have to pay the price," she said. "They have to go to jail. It's against the law to do what they did. Hateful and wrong."

Community outrage against Cobbins and Hurst's  crime was so hot, a new grassroots group called "Citizens Against Crime" formed to demand tougher laws and better policing. This community passion helped the victim of the horrific crime, who struggled to recover:

"There's so much healing that needs to happen," she said. "You don't trust people anymore."

But her trust in people has returned slowly through prayer and friendships. She took a big step recently during this service at Second Presbyterian Church, where pastor Sandy Wilson recently said, "If you do not forgive the sins of others, your sins will not be forgiven."

"The hardest thing I've ever had to do is forgive these two men," she said. "Such a horrendous and hateful thing that they did, so I decided I had to do that. At church last Sunday, just last Sunday, I forgave them. The way I do it, I forgave the sweet children they used to be."

While she says waves of anger and resentment arise day to day, she's moving in a spirit of forgiveness for her attackers, and a spirit of empathy, love and service for other victims of sexual assault who find their lives violently re-oriented in a matter of minutes.

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