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DIANNE KLEIN

Assault Victim Speaks Up to Fight Back

April 11, 1993|DIANNE KLEIN

It was a run-of-the-mill March morning in Santa Ana, a little before 10 a.m., and Jeanie McCabe, 47, petite, blond and cheery-looking, was sitting in her car in a parking lot, just behind a bus stop. Two men were waiting for the bus.

Jeanie was looking out her driver's side window as two of her students crossed the street. Jeanie's a special education teacher and family therapist, and part of what she does is make sure that her kids know how to take the bus to their jobs, follow safety procedures and generally get along.

This is called "shadowing" in the lingo of special ed.

So because Jeanie was paying attention to her students, she didn't see the guy approach her car, which was unlocked. The guy jumped into the passenger side before Jeanie could turn around and then he said something apparently meaningful, to him.

"You want it, you got it," were his words.

Then he started viciously slugging Jeanie in the face, on the ears, in the eye and on her arms when she tried to block his blows. She still had her seat belt on.

You should know that Jeanie had never seen this man before. He is 22 years old. The day before he beat Jeanie, he had been arrested and released for attacking another woman. He had been arrested yet another time for the same crime.

Then there's the one for robbery and the felony burglary and police say approximately eight arrests for violating a restraining order. I don't know what he did before he was 18. Those records are sealed.

At any rate, it's fair to say that this guy is someone who you wouldn't want your daughter to date. Depending on your perspective, he's also a guy who needs help or a guy who should be in jail or both.

You don't get many options here or maybe you don't get any at all.

What happened to Jeanie was she got hurt, but not paralyzed or killed. Her attacker ran off when Jeanie's students approached her car. She'd been screaming and yelling for help.

This caught the attention of the two men at the bus stop, who stepped from behind the plexiglass shelter and watched as Jeanie was attacked. Another group of about eight people had gathered behind Jeanie's car, watching too. Nobody tried to help or call 911.

Jeanie later ran into the Jack in the Box on the corner and yelled out for someone to please call the police. Her students, who are mentally retarded, watched where her attacker ran and then directed police to him and gave a positive ID. The cop asked Jeanie if the guy was trying to steal her purse. He was not; he had to lean over it to hit Jeanie in the face. The cop asked if, say, the guy wanted to steal the car. No, there was no sign of that.

"Then he said, 'If you can tell me that he was trying to take your personal property, I can detain him. Otherwise, he's going to be out in two or three hours,' " Jeanie relates. "So I said, 'Oh, great. My property is worth more than me ?' "

Undoubtedly, the cop has heard variations on this before. "I'm just telling you how it is, lady," he says.

At first, the doctor who saw Jeanie after the attack thought her nose was broken, but it turned out that it was not. She got a black eye, a black ear, bumps and bruises.

She also got a lesson that lots of other people have already had crammed down their throats. As the cop put it: "Lady, you can't change the world."

Not that Jeanie is trying to do that, exactly. Even though she'd like to, of course. But she figures that's not going to happen.

For example, when Jeanie suggested that the man who attacked her be held for a psychiatric evaluation, the cop said that wouldn't do anything besides keep him off the street for 72 hours, max. Jeanie was operating under the theory that anybody who would violently attack a complete stranger, for no apparent reason, must be nuts.

Jeanie wants to emphasize that this policeman was very good at his job. He came to her aid, he and his partners found the guy, they made their reports. And the suspect was arrested and released.

"But he had this hopelessness that you can't change the system," Jeanie says of the cop.

Jeanie's not there yet, and hopes she never will be.

"I don't believe in an eye for an eye. I don't wish him harm. In fact, I'm praying for him and I have a group of friends who are praying for him."

Jeanie is fighting back, though, in a therapeutic sense, by talking publicly about this "insignificant" crime that happens every day, and by talking with a deputy district attorney about punishing this guy.

He's supposed to be arraigned later this month on two misdemeanor charges of assault and battery.

What Jeanie is not going to do is get a gun. She did get the locks on her car fixed. Her 14-year-old daughter has been having nightmares about the whole thing. The two of them are planning to take a self-defense class now.

A school psychologist has talked to Jeanie's special ed students. They've been having nightmares, too, and they are very afraid.

And Jeanie is walking new lines, between fear and concern, and between helplessness and hope. But she is not going to move.

Because this is her home.

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