With the debate over how to deal with Seattle’s homeless problem as loud as ever, the alleged victim of a recent attack at Golden Gardens is speaking out.
A woman named Kelly told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Wednesday that she was the victim of Sunday’s attack by a homeless sex offender inside a public restroom at the park. According to The Seattle Times, the suspect is Gary Steiner, 40, who refused to attend his first court appearance on Monday. A King County District Court judge found probable cause to hold him on investigation of second-degree assault and attempted second-degree rape. Steiner is listed as a transient Level 3 sex offender by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office sex-offender registry, after being convicted of sexually assaulting several women in 1999 in Maricopa, Arizona, and of indecent exposure in 2008.
Kelly explained that she is training for a marathon and was running through the Ballard beach Sunday afternoon about four miles in and stopped in the restroom. While washing her hands, she said she turned and was surprised to see a man standing there.
“Quickly realized it was someone who did not belong in the bathroom,” she said. “It all went down so fast.”
Kelly said the man took her down to the ground and she started fighting back.
“You can’t play on the air exactly what I said to him but I was repeatedly screaming ‘Not today, expletive, expletive.’ Kind of my ongoing battle cry throughout,” she said. “He kept trying to turn me over onto my stomach, which as a woman, you are conditioned to know that’s what’s happened before you’re raped. So I was truly fighting for my life.”
Kelly said she crawled under the middle stall and the man followed. Luckily, she said, she’d recently taken a self-defense class.
“Time stopped, I went through everything we learned in self-defense,” she said. “I was screaming, hitting him with the side of my hand, scratching his face, telling him that he was not gonna get me today, screaming I was gonna kill him, and I just never stopped fighting.
“He got on top of me and started hitting my face and I was able to pull myself out through the front of the stall, because at that point I had jammed the stall door shut,” she continued. “And just as I was about to lose consciousness, I got one more adrenaline spike and was able to get to the door and get out.”
She said she ultimately got the help of a passerby who had a carabiner, and they latched the outside of the restroom shut. She said police had to break down the door of the second stall to get him out.
Kelly said she has bruises all over her body and a pair of black eyes, one of which required stitches. She said she is taking time off work to deal with the emotions of the attack, noting that the adrenaline is only now starting to wear off. Steiner left the scene injured, too.
“I was pretty pleased to see that when he came out, actually,” Kelly said.
Kelly offered advice for future potential victims that she learned from the defense class.
“If you can be basically more trouble than you’re worth, just to make it as difficult as possible,” she said. “And if someone’s after your phone or your wallet, just give them your phone or your wallet, but if they’re after you, you just never stop fighting; you never give up and you just have to just fight for your life.”
What the attack means
The alleged attack at Golden Gardens is among a recent string of violence Dori says is associated with Seattle’s homeless issues. That includes two men being arrested last month for allegedly raping two underage girls at the “Triangle” homeless encampment, which was swept by the City Tuesday, and reports of a UW student raped in her apartment last week.
Kelly said, as a runner, she consistently runs through homeless encampments or people camped in parks. She has had enough.
“I don’t know what the solution is but it can’t be just turning over the city to people who are violent, who are dangerous. And I’m not saying that they all are but even one can result in this,” she said.
“It played out before my eyes and now I feel like I’m missing a part of the compassion that I had before. I feel like now I’m looking at all homeless people that way and I don’t want to be that way. But now I feel like I am and … as a woman you always have a sense of fear, always. Whether you’re walking to your car through a parking garage and it’s like if you can’t go for a run in the middle of the day on a Sunday afternoon and use a public restroom, what kind of world are we living in?”