This summer, the Anchorage Assembly met to hear public testimony for Ordinance 64, which would add the words “sexual orientation” to the city’s non-discrimination policy in matters of housing, employment, education and use of public facilities. This matter brought hundreds from the Anchorage Baptist Temple and other conservative churches in the area to testify against the ordinance. The Anchorage Assembly passed the ordinance to include the new wording, but new Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed it.
There were many who attended these meetings who were in favor of the ordinance, as was the majority of Anchorage. But, it was difficult to sit and listen to the misinformation, the fear, the insults, and the Bible readings from what felt like an endless parade of people clad in red shirts, worn to symbolically tout their conservative credentials.
And of course there were those who wore blue shirts, in support of the ordinance. And there were those who didn’t wear any particular color, knowing that people were more likely to listen to what they had to say if they didn’t literally wear their opinions on their sleeves.
Those who spoke up in favor of the ordinance were brave. They were usually the minority group in the room. They told stories that were very human. Long-time partners, mothers and fathers, sisters, uncles, all told stories of the pain and fear they had experienced, and their desire to just be treated like people, with the same basic rights as everyone else. Sharing these stories could not have been easy, knowing that the next person up at the podium was likely to tell them that they were pedophiles, and sexual deviants, and predators that were going to burn in Hell.
It felt like watching vulnerable people, people who had been on the receiving end of injustice, and were brave enough to stand in front of people, getting kicked in the gut. And this went on for hours, for days, for weeks. Those who survived those meetings look at each other now, knowingly. They are a band of brothers, and sisters.
Fast forward to today.
Anchorage police officer Anthony Rollins stands accused. He has been indicted and is charged with four counts of first-degree sexual assault, six counts of second-degree sexual assault, four counts of criminal use of a computer and six counts of official misconduct, all while on duty.
A woman who identified herself as one of the victims said in a telephone interview that Rollins picked her up in Mountain View on a cold December night and offered her a ride home. But instead of taking her to her home, he took her to the police substation and assaulted her.
She was 20 years old at the time.
So far, six women have come forward and accused the officer of rape, or other acts of sexual assault, while he was on patrol.
Nancy Haag, executive director of Standing Together Against Rape, said the group does not comment on specific individuals or cases.
“Any sexual assault is traumatic and I’m sure an authority figure only compounds that trauma, fear and hopelessness,” she said. “In general, the issues that need to be recognized here are those who perpetrate these crimes need to be held accountable and the survivors need deserve to be heard, believed and offered support.”
Yesterday, Rollins had his second bail hearing and the courtroom was packed. It was standing room only with those who had come to show their support. They had not, however, as Nancy Haag hoped, come to support the victims. They had come from a local Baptist church to support their fellow church-goer and indicted serial rapist, Anthony Rollins.
At least this time the victims that showed up for the hearing were able to sit in a chair. At the first hearing, according to a source at STAR, two victims were forced to fight their way through the mass of people and stand, “crushed against the back wall” by the crowds that had come to give moral support to the man they say sexually assaulted them. “They couldn’t even see,” she said. “The mood of the people who came was like it was some kind of social event. It was appalling.”
The court room was packed to overflowing, with Rollins’ church supporters filling the defendant’s side of the room, the seats in the jury box, the side of the coutroom usually reserved for the plaintiff, and spilling out into the hall when the room reached capacity.
This time, knowing what awaited them, arrangements were made in advance for the victims and their families to have access to the courtroom and a place to sit down. What that experience must have been like, facing your accused rapist in a room full of his supporters is to most of us, unimaginable.
Today, Anthony Rollins is out on $100,000 bail, after having been told by the judge that he understood how important it was that he attend church on Sundays. Hopefully as this case progresses, the seats on the plaintiff’s side of the courthouse will be filled to support six very brave women who deserve to know that people care about them, and about seeing justice served.