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I feel that I must respond to the article penned by the acquaintance of Richard Ausley, Jens Soering (“No Way Out,” 9/3). While he portrays himself as knowledgeable about Richard Ausley and his crimes, his victims, his life in prison, and the circumstances surrounding his death, Soering, in actuality, knows little of what he is talking about.
As one of Ausley’s many victims, I take great offense at Soering’s portrayal of Ausley as a victim. Plain and simply, Richard Ausley was a monster. He was not some pitiable old pedophile who was of no harm to anyone. His reign of terror began at a very early age and continued up to the very end of his life. He never took any responsibility for any of his crimes and even continued to blame me (in an interview in 2003 with WAVY-TV) for his assault on me, even after the passage of 30 years. He never showed any remorse for the harm he had caused his victims; his only concern in life was for himself and his own evil desires.
Throughout his life, he preyed on anyone he believed to be weaker than he. While in prison, Ausley was not the poor, abused inmate but, instead, the abuser. He was well-known as the prison pimp, acting as the go-between for those seeking sexual favors and those who found themselves in the less-than-enviable position of being forced to provide those favors.
He was also known as a master manipulator. At the time of my abduction and assault, Richard Ausley was sexually abusing children from two different families. Gary Founds (the victim I persuaded to come forward after 30 years of silence) was one of three in his family who had been raped or sexually abused by Ausley. Ausley had also convinced a couple in Roanoke, Va., to take him in after his release. This family knew nothing of his crimes and had come to know Ausley as the brokers of his artistic efforts, but they quickly withdrew their offer when the truth was revealed to them. He had been lying to them and using them for years. Shortly before his release, he was found by prison officials to be corresponding with a man in California, portraying himself as a woman and soliciting money from this unsuspecting victim.
It is obvious to me that Ausley had an opportunity to work his magic on Soering, as well, if he believes that Ausley was ever a victim. In all of his years in prison, at no time did Ausley seek segregation (which was his right) to protect himself from his supposed abusers. Life in prison can be dangerous, but Ausley was never a victim there—he thrived there.
Soering argues that the sexual offenders that the state seeks to civilly commit are essentially put on trial a second time for crimes for which they have already served time and that the offenders must now prove that they are safe to return to society. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is true that a offender’s prior crimes are brought up at the commitment trial, but the entire burden of proof rests with the state. In Virginia, the state must prove that the offender has a mental defect or condition and that because of that condition, the offender would be more likely than not to repeat his crimes if released into society. Further, in Virginia, only offenders who score 4 or more on the Rapid Risk Assessment of Sex Offender Recidivism (RRASOR, an actuarial assessment test authored by Dr. Karl Hansen, the lead researcher of the meta-analysis quoted by Soering and a professional acquaintance of mine) can be considered for commitment. The score of 4 represents a high propensity for recidivism; roughly 70 percent of offenders with that score, regardless of age, reoffend within five years. The 17.4 percent recidivism rate that Soering refers to is the average recidivism rate of every sex offender combined; it does not represent a clear picture of offenders in Richard Ausley’s category.
Although it is true that therapy can drastically change a first-time or familial offender’s propensity for recidivism (first-time and familial offenders represent the vast majority of sex offenders, about 80 percent), studies have also shown that therapy has very little effect on the recidivism rates of sexual predators. Ausley easily scored a 4 on the RRASOR, and his mental condition was well-known as worthy of commitment, even before he spent 30 years behind bars.
Soering is also mistaken in his pronouncement that society is shirking its responsibility to such offenders. Society does not have a responsibility to contrive a way to reintegrate the Richard Ausleys of this world into itself. These offenders have no place among us and have themselves proved this fact by repeatedly abusing the trust that we placed in them at the time of their prior releases. No first-time offenders are civilly committed; only the very worst sexual predators are even considered. Nearly 500 sex offenders are released from Virginia’s prisons every year, and only about a dozen of them are considered worthy of civil commitment.
Virginia’s Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act was not passed because of any actions of mine in 2003; it was passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, three years before I knew of Ausley’s impending release. My only actions with regard to this law were to ensure that it was properly funded and rewritten to ensure its constitutionality.
I reminded the General Assembly and the citizens of Virginia of Ausley’s crimes only to underscore the need for this important program and the consequences of allowing a predator like Richard Ausley to be allowed to freely prowl our streets. As Soering states, Ausley was also convicted 12 years prior to abducting me for the abduction and rape of a 10-year-old boy. In that instance, he did not leave the boy to die, chained and buried in the ground, but instead, when he was through with him, hogtied the child and threw him naked into a ditch. Soering fails to mention that on the day Ausley abducted me, he was due to appear in a Portsmouth, Va., courtroom for the brutal rape of a teenager. It should be obvious to anyone that he could never have been trusted to freely walk our streets—and neither should any sex offender who has abused the trust that society places in him after he is released from prison.
Concerning the circumstances of Richard Ausley’s death: No one is certain where the blame will eventually fall or, for that matter, what actually happened in that cell on Jan. 13, 2004. I do know that Ausley requested to be released from segregated confinement and into the general prison population. Ausley also pleaded guilty to the crime that placed him in Sussex I. Frankie Venable had already been raped once while in prison and had pleaded with prison officials not to place him in a cell with a sex offender. Venable had also been disciplined twice for disciplinary problems with sex offenders during his incarceration. And the Virginia Department of Corrections had no policy in effect concerning the housing of sexual predators with sexual assault victims.
So who is to blame? That question does not have a clear answer at this time, but what is certain is this: Neither I nor any other victim of Richard Ausley—nor Virginia’s civil-commitment program—bears any responsibility for Ausley’s death. No matter how closely Soering identifies with Richard Ausley, the blame in this matter, as well as the matter of Soering’s own incarceration, cannot be laid on the victims. Ultimately, the perpetrators of crime have no one but themselves to blame when they find themselves living behind bars with dangerous people like themselves. I did nothing to deserve what Richard Ausley did to me. We may not be able to say the same of Richard Ausley.