Cries of the Vanquished

Opposition from ICASA

The Cries of the vanquished : Rapists stole the innocence from their children.

February 15, 2008
By Judy Masterson

Parents of children who have been sexually abused have the sound of the vanquished in their voices. They could not stop the rapists who stole their child’s innocence and they feel preyed upon by a system of justice that upholds the rights of the accused at the expense of victims.

In two recent cases, Lake County men who raped children received minimal sentences after a combined 40 months of court proceedings.

A Lindenhurst girl was sexually assaulted by a summer baby sitter – a trusted family friend – over the course of five years, from age 7 to 12. Her mother does not understand why the 18 months of work release with six months off for good behavior meted out to Christopher Kleveno, 28, was less than the three-year minimum mandated for the crime.

The man who plotted and accomplished the debauchery of her daughter will spend a total of one year in periodic custody.

"Your emotions are run so raw waiting and waiting for the guy to get something of what he deserves," said the woman, who asked to not be identified. "It takes so long and it’s so agonizing to get the case to actually go to court, and you're waiting, waiting and waiting. They set up a court date for him to talk to the judge and his lawyer talks to him, then the whole thing gets continued and it keeps getting continued."

As agonizing as it is for a mother, its even more devastating for a young victim to come to terms with why the person who hurt them goes unpunished.

Kleveno, now a resident of Racine, was finally convicted of six counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse – nearly two years after the victim and her parents filed a police report and eight years after he last raped the girl. Other charges, including the more serious criminal sexual assault, were dropped.

"By the time it gets down to the wire, you're so relieved it's going to be over, you're not thinking clearly about how much time he should get," said the mother of the victim. "You just want to see him punished."

But the young victim, who once told her mother she wanted to see her rapist in prison for life, barely had a chance to savor the conviction. Minutes after the sentence was handed down, a bailiff unlocked Kleveno's handcuffs and he was granted two more months of freedom – because there was no room for him in the jail.

The girl told the few professionals she has confided about how Kleveno patiently “groomed” her and methodically used her for sex – bouncing her on his lap, introducing her to the prophylactic he kept in his wallet, clamping his hand over her mouth so a brother would not hear her screams. She broke her silence about the abuse when she was 14. She was hospitalized or received psychiatric in-patient treatment 16 times in three years, according to her mother, who said her daughter has finally “reached a certain level of acceptance.”

"She has matured and she’s doing less acting out, but her sense of well being, her identity, her confidence in people, has been destroyed – it’s been murdered,” the woman said. “She will never be the girl she was.”

"They want you to give up"
Preston Olsen of Antioch sounds weary, too. His voice is tinged with the resignation of defeat, although the man who raped his daughter was finally convicted in December.

Two-and-a-half years after Breanna, now 16, was raped, Marique Cobbins pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse. Cobbins, now 21, received 18 months probation and 10 years on the sex offender registry.

Olsen hired a civial attorney to represent the family's interests.

"They want you to go away, but we weren’t going to go away," Olsen said.

Breanna cried before court, during court, and after court sessions that weren't strung out by numerous procedural motions and continuances.

Cobbins of Round Lake was freed on a $100 bond soon after his arrest. His case was delayed by a succession of five public defenders and four judges. He refused to part with his DNA, denied that he had ever touched Breanna or even knew her, though she described his bedroom in detail – the room she had visited accompanied by friends, the room where he had slapped her around and threatened to “do” her friend if she didn’t have sex with him.

He eventually argued the sex was consensual, then attempted to plea bargain down to assault and battery.

Breanna never changed her testimony. Cobbins raped her, she said.

One day as the case mired in court, Breanna and family ran into her attacker at a local grocery store.

"She broke into tears and started to sweat profusely," Olsen recalled. "She wouldn't leave our side. She is terrified of this man.”

At one point Breanna nearly gave up.

"Dad I just can't do this anymore," she told Olsen.

Olsen's attorney acknowledged the tactic of delay used by the defense.

"They want you to give up," he told Olsen.

"But this guy raped my daughter and he's walking the street," Olsen said. "Its criminal how someone can do this to any woman or a child and use the system as much as he used the system and for his attorney to continue to use the system so he can walk away. It’s an absolute travesty. No wonder women don't report sex crimes. Look what they have to go through."

Olsen argues the law protects criminals, not victims.

"All I heard sitting in that courtroom is his rights, his rights, we've got to protect his rights," Olsen said. "Not once in 2 and a half years did I hear we have to protect Breanna's rights.

"The only saving grace in this whole thing is he's on the sex offender list," Olsen said. "I would love to see him serve jail time. This is why people take care of these criminals on their own."

Olsen does not regret his family's fight to have Cobbins punished.

"I couldn't protect Breanna in the beginning," he said. "So we had to be there for her through what came after. She cried on our shoulders every night, but she wanted to pull through that.

"We would've gone five years if we had to."