Rape Survivors Want Stronger Voice in How Oregon Classifies Sex Offenders

Oregon Republican lawmakers and survivors of the notorious “jogger rapist” Richard Gillmore – who admitted to raping nine women and girls in the 1970s and 1980s – want to pass legislation that would give survivors a voice when the state classifies sex offenders and determines the risk they pose to communities.  

In recent months, the Gillmore case has ignited calls among survivors for Oregon to overhaul how the state classifies the risk level of sex offenders after they are released from prison.  

The state Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision assigned Gillmore, 63, as a low-level sex offender, largely because the state’s risk assessment tool skews toward a low ranking when the offender is older. He was released from prison in December after 36 years. He was convicted of raping one survivor, even though he confessed to raping nine women and girls in the Portland area. The others were outside the statute of limitations. 

The low ranking keeps Gillmore’s name and address out of the state’s online sex offender registry, and the state has no requirement to notify people in his neighborhood about him. He remains under supervision in Multnomah County and has to follow some requirements – for instance, he’s not supposed to have contact with minors. But the case has sparked concerns that the state is failing to adequately protect communities and needs to take a more detailed look at offenders when they exit prison. 

Two of Gillmore’s survivors and Republican senators spoke Tuesday in a press conference about the legislation. Tiffany Edens was 13 on on Dec. 6, 1986 when Gillmore broke into her house and raped her. Gillmore was only convicted of her rape, but other survivors have spoken out about their experiences.  

“It’s almost like a cookie cutter, and they’re trying to fit everybody into this one shape,” Edens said. “The people that we’re dealing with, these are rapists. They’re sex offenders. They’re child abusers. It doesn’t work and it’s not adequate and it’s not protecting our community.” 

Another survivor, Danielle Tudor, was raped on Nov. 11, 1979 when she was 17. Tudor spoke alongside Edens.  

Together, they’re asking lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 1022, which would change the sex-offender classification system. 

The proposed changes: 

  • The state parole board would have to consider all of the offender’s history, not just the current risk assessment tool.  
  • The parole board would define survivors to include people that the offender admitted to raping but did not result in a conviction due to the statute of limitations. 
  • Survivors could challenge the parole board’s designation for an offender for up to three years. This would be retroactive if the bill passed, meaning that Gillmore’s survivors could use it as a mechanism to challenge his level in the sex offender registry. 

For survivors of sex crimes, the changes are monumental, Tudor and Edens said. This is because the changes would give survivors a voice in the state’s system that assigns a risk to sex offenders, which determines how much information the public receives about them.  

The Gillmore case illustrates how survivors can be shut out of the process if the law’s definition falls short. Tudor was one of Gillmore’s survivors, but Gillmore’s conviction was tied to his rape of Edens, not Tudor.  

As a result, Tudor had to threaten to sue the parole board in 2012 to be recognized as a survivor at Gillmore’s parole hearing. That led to a change in state law that allowed Tudor and other survivors in her situation to participate in parole hearings. But she still cannot give input when the parole board assigns the risk level to sex offenders. 

“All I am asking for in this bill is that there is some cohesiveness to who is a survivor when it concerns the parole board all the way through,” Tudor said. 

They also said it’s crucial for state officials to consider other information besides the current evaluation when assigning a risk level to sex offenders. The bill would require the parole board to consider all evidence, such as trial transcripts, survivor statements and other data when making that determination. 

Lawmakers seek accountability  

The bill has two chief sponsors: Sens. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg; and Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer. Its regular sponsors are: Sens. Bill Hansell, R-Athena; Oregon Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp of Bend; and Rep. Lily Morgan, R-Grants Pass. 

Hayden said it’s important for the changes to give survivors a voice and healing – and hold the parole board accountable. 

“The survivors are not getting their due justice and they don’t have a voice in the process,” Hayden said. “And that is the problem. It can be basically done behind closed doors. … We need to kind of let the sun shine in on this and hold the parole board, quite frankly, accountable for the actions that they’re doing or not doing.” 

The bill, and two others dealing with sex crimes, don’t have a hearing scheduled yet – or Democratic lawmakers who have signed on as sponsors. Knopp said his staff has been in touch with the office of Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,  about the legislation. 

“There have been no commitments made yet, but the process around here is you ask for hearings and you advocate for them and we are hopeful that we will get through to these folks,” Knopp said.  

Prozanski couldn’t be reached late Tuesday, though Tudor and Edens said they were planning to meet with him and other legislators.  

Other bills  

Senate Republicans have introduced two other bills dealing with the issue. Neither have been scheduled for committee hearings yet, and they must receive hearings and a committee vote by April 4 to move forward this year.  

They are:  

  • Senate Bill 986, which would raise the statute of limitations for prosecutors to file charges against defendants in first-degree rape, sodomy and sexual abuse cases from 12 years to 20 years. In the case of children who are survivors, the statute of limitations would be 20 years or when the child turned 30, whichever comes later. 
  • Senate Bill 1023, which would coordinate the state’s definition of a survivor between the state police and the parole board. The Oregon State Police administers the sex offender registry. 

By Ben Botkin of Oregon Capital Chronicle 

Do you have a story for The Advocate? Email editor@corvallisadvocate.com