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Hutchinson Police might have put community at risk, experts say

Alice Mannette The Hutchinson News Published 6:00am CT May 28, 2023

HUTCHINSON, Kan. − For six years, Hutchinson had 10 unsolved rape, attempted rape or sexual assault cases that the Hutchinson Police Department thought might have been committed by the same perpetrator. The attacks occurred between 2012 and 2018.

Community members were not aware of the possibility of a serial rapist in their city, at least not until 2018, when there was a new chief of police in town, Jeffrey Hooper. Hooper was fired in March.

In 2022, with the help of a watchful citizen, Hutchinson Police officers caught one of their own − an ex-police officer who was sentenced last Monday to 23½ years in jail for sexual assault charges.

On Aug. 18, former HPD officer Todd W. Allen was charged with 24 counts, including 17 felonies. Those include two counts of kidnapping, five counts of rape, two counts of sexual battery, indecent liberties with a child involving a 14- or 15-year-old, and five counts of breach of privacy or "peeping."

"He used the same M.O. (modus operandi) each time," said Sue Wray, executive director at BrightHouse, a domestic violence advocacy organization in Hutchinson. "So if they had released that information (earlier in the investigation), then people might have stayed away from the parks. It's so frustrating, so aggravating − it's beyond frustrating."

Not releasing the information, Wray said, might have also helped the perpetrator. It also might have prevented women from coming forward, thinking they were the only one.

Assaults by Todd W. Allen

Most of the assaults took place either during the night or early morning in Hutchinson parks. The victims, who were all female, had either a friend, brother or boyfriend in the car with them. Allen rapped on the car of each victim, shone a bright flashlight into their vehicle and told the occupants he was either a police officer or a park security officer. Each female victim believed him and left the car at his request. He told the person in the vehicle with them to stay inside. He continued to shine a light in the victim's eyes, obscuring that he was dressed in dark clothes with a face covering.

During most occasions, Allen told the women and the 15-year-old girl to go to the outside back of the car, where he reached under each woman's shirt and 'fondled' her. He also reached his hands down the front of several victims' pants and digitally penetrated the women. During this time, he was interrogating the victim about drugs.

At varying points when each female realized he might not be who he said he was, they screamed, and he ran, sometimes going to a vehicle or a bicycle.

Allen was caught after he was found on a citizen's security tape, looking over a fence. He had looked into windows on several prior occasions.

“One of the things that police officers are trained in is how to control people,” said Tristan Bridges, Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who specializes in the sociology of masculinity and sexuality. "Hopefully, they use that skill, to deescalate situations and to make sure that people don't have to endure violence.”

But sometimes, like in the case of Allen, police officers stray.

“So, I guess, in some ways, it's like that is a group of people who have a really dangerous skill set,” Bridges said.

This top-notch “skill set” helped Allen hone in on innocent prey.

As for other instances of crimes like these, although they are not often reported, there might be more than we think.

“We don't actually know that crimes like this could be common,” Bridges said. “What we know, maybe, is that they're not often reported.”

Allen convicted of rape

Allen's attorney, Chrystal Lee Krier of Wichita, filed a departure order and asked the judge for probation, stating that Allen had not been in trouble with the law before.

Because Allen penetrated several victims with his fingers and did not use his penis, Krier asked that his sentence be lessened.

"I'd also point out that in this particular case that the harm or loss is less than typical, and that this was only digital penetration," Krier told the court Monday. "There wasn't any sort of medical need for medical attention for any of these acts."

Both the judge and assistant district attorney in the case disagreed, explaining what Allen did was rape.

"Sexual assault is not just penile-vaginal rape," said Rachael Goodman-Williams, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Wichita State University who specializes in sexual assault. "Sexual assault is one of the most severe traumas with one of the highest rates of PTSD to come out of it."

Goodman-Williams said victims of rape − which includes penetration using objects, such as fingers − can suffer from "depression, fear and anxiety. Some develop reliance on substances to cope. It's not uncommon for victims to experience suicidal ideation."

"People have a tendency to minimize experiences," she said. "We often have an image in our heads of the stranger in a dark alley that involves extreme force and weapons and death or near death or strangers or just all of these things that become this bar that few victims ever really meet."

Goodman-Williams said that bar becomes an excuse to minimize the experiences.

"There's not only one type of sexual assault that deserves justice, there's not only one type of sexual assault that has the potential to be incredibly impactful on victims' lives and there's not only one type of sexual assault that justifies victims seeking help and support," she said. "Anything that people experience that was perpetrated on them against their will is not okay."

Being raped by a law enforcement officer can cause the victim more anxiety.

Goodman-Williams called this 'institutional betrayal,' which is the idea that people can experience additional levels of trauma when the trauma happens from a system that was meant to protect them. One witness during the sentencing said she did not feel safe in a room full of (police) officers.

Because the perpetrator was not caught for 10 years, many victims might have felt they were not believed or did not go for support.

Victim shaming needs to stop

Wray and Burkhart said minimizing the incident by others is shameful. It increases the shame the victims already feel.

"It's something that societies still haven't corrected," Burkhart said. "That's something that we're trying to correct, and it's really difficult to do that when defense attorneys are still allowed to victim shame and say things in a court of law on record and reinforce that belief that it's okay to shame people and to minimize sexual violence. It's rape, and it was without consent."

Often it is because of this shame that victims do not come forward, knowing they might have to testify. In Allen's case, many believe that others could have been victimized by him.

"There were 10 women that came forward (as witnesses)," Wray said. "There had to be others."

BrightHouse tries to bring a message of hope to survivors, helping them get stronger. Survivors should know that the perpetrator will not have control of them, and in this case, he will be in jail for at least 20 years.

Rape in Hutchinson and nationally

Letters from friends, church members and family of Allen were given to the judge, many calling Allen a good citizen.

This isn't unusual. Often, said Nikki Burkhart, director of advocacy at BrightHouse, the perpetrator is somebody one wouldn't expect.

The arrest of a former police officer could serve as a trigger for retraumatizing the victims.

Every 68 seconds, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, with those younger than 35 years at highest risk. One out of every six women in the U.S. is a victim of at least one rape or attempted rape, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, also known as RAINN.

The statistics in Kansas are similar to those nationwide, with 48 reports of sexual abuse per 100,000 people. The Sunflower State ranks 20th nationwide in reported rapes.

In 2021, rape survivors reported 13 cases to the Hutchinson Police Department and three to the Reno County Sheriff's Office, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. That same year in Kansas, a little less than 1,200 people were raped.

The majority of sexual assault survivors know their assailant, experts say, making it more difficult for them to report abuse. One in four women and about one in 26 men have experienced completed or attempted rape, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's important for people who have been victimized to not be shamed. Goodman-Williams recommends that victims shouldn't put pressure on themselves that this should be over for them now that the perpetrator has been sent to prison. BrightHouse recommends victims reach out when they are able and call 620.665.3630 or the 24-Hour Crisis Line at 620.663.2522.

"What he (Allen) did was abhorrent, and he will suffer the consequences now," Wray said. "It's not their shame to carry, and that's why we all keep it a secret. And then that's why abusers and perpetrators and predators are allowed to keep doing it. You don't put the shame on the right people. They (the perpetrators) should be ashamed. They should be completely ashamed."

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