In the last year, over 30 women have approached the Casper City Council to express their frustration with how the Casper Police Department dealt with their sexual assault cases. The women allege that their cases were either mishandled or neglected by law enforcement.
It’s a quiet afternoon in Casper, shortly before Aimee Kidd will need to leave her house to go pick her children up from school. On her lap, is her 5-month old daughter, Noèmie.
“And I look at her some days and just like, ‘hello little baby I love you so much,’ and I’m so happy she’s here, I just can’t believe it,” said Kidd.
When Kidd found out she was 6-weeks pregnant, she said she also found out she had been raped. After a long stretch of exhaustion and illness, Kidd made an appointment to see a doctor and they had her take a pregnancy test.
“When they told me the date of conception, that’s when I looked back at my calendar and remembered I had gone out that night with a couple of girlfriends,” said Kidd.
That night was in late January of 2015. Kidd said she’d gone out with friends, and they ran into some male acquaintances. At some point, Kidd said she went to the bathroom and when she got back one of the men had bought her a beer. The next thing she said she remembers is waking up in her own bed without any pants on and no memory of how she’d gotten home. She knew the man that had bought her the drink, so she called him.
“What did you do to me that night? What happened?” Kidd asked the man. “His answer was I can’t believe you don’t remember and the way you were moaning I know you liked it.”
Kidd said she believes she was drugged because that would explain her memory loss and how sick she felt the morning after. Shortly after the doctor’s appointment, Kidd reported the incident to the Casper Police Department and two officers came to her house to get her statement. That was on March 12th, 2015.
“It was just a couple of normal, everyday street cops,” said Kidd. “And they were amazing.”
Kidd said she briefly heard from a detective in early May, but never heard from anyone after that. In September, she went to a Casper City Council meeting, and was planning to speak about a spike in her water bill, but decided to ask why her investigation was taking so long.
“So I just talked to them, I was nervous and emotional and I was really informal because it was my first time at a city council meeting,” said Kidd. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
At that time, Councilwoman Amanda Huckabay had not yet been elected. She said Kidd was one of three women to approach the former council and mayor with similar frustrations that fall. When she took office, Huckabay said she contacted those 3 women to ask about their cases and said she found a domino effect had been put into play.
“Those three women reached out to other women that had reached out to them, and to this point we have 30-35 emails from various women in the community that are either themselves victims of sexual assault or domestic violence, or their children have been,” said Kidd.
Huckabay said the emails sent to city council members allege that sexual assault cases were being reported but then neglected or mishandled by the police.
“There seems to be a pattern of police officers responding to these types of situations and asking women, ‘are you sure you just don’t like it rough?’” said Huckabay.
Chief of Police Jim Wetzel declined an interview with Wyoming Public Radio and said he could not comment due to Wyoming law.
The executive director of the Self Help Center in Casper, Jennifer Dyer, said that same law may be partly responsible for some of the women’s frustrations. The police can only disclose so much information to avoid identifying and accidently implicating the accused.
“There are some state statutes that are limiting, too, that we’re kind of looking at as a community, if maybe changing some of that language, because the language of that particular statute protects the offender more than it protects the victim,” said Dyer.
The legal process of sexual assault can be very long, so Dyer said she wasn’t surprised when women started coming to the city council with their frustrations.
The Self Help center provides counseling and support groups among other services. The center is separate from the police department, and Dyer said it’s more of the role of victim services to work with clients through the criminal justice process.
Leslie Fritzler is the victim services specialist at the Casper Police department, whose job it is to help victims understand what’s going on during a long-term investigation, like sexual assault. She said she understands how difficult the process can be.
“I mean I certainly acknowledge that victims become frustrated, they want to make sure they feel like their cases are being dealt with and that they’re receiving answers that they want,” said Fritzler.
But many of the women said they weren’t hearing from victim services. When asked about this, Fritzler was hesitant to answer.
“Well I guess I would probably reserve making any comments on that because we can’t acknowledge if we have particular cases that are being investigated or not,” said Fritzler.
One of the reasons Aimee Kidd is pushing so hard is she fears the man who she says raped her will exercise his parental rights and sue her for custody.
“So I’ll continue to fight, and I’ll continue to raise a little hell,” said Kidd. “And make sure the city officials, and chief of police, and the city manager, and the mayor, and the city council are all aware that this is a huge problem and I’m not the only one.”
Kidd said since she became so vocal, 47 women have privately contacted her, saying they, too, have had problems getting answers about their sexual assault cases. That’s in addition to the 30 women that directly contacted the city council.
The Casper Police Department has not directly responded to any of the charges, but they will host a community panel discussion regarding the challenges of investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault. It’s April 6th at 7 p.m. at Durham Hall on the Casper College campus.