An Annandale, Virginia, man has been found guilty in D.C. Superior Court of an incredibly sadistic series of sexual and physical assaults on a woman, including one that left her disfigured. Carlos W. Escalante, 31, will face up to sixty years in prison. According to court documents, a woman once involved with Escalante endured torture meted out by him for nearly an entire year.
The account of the victim’s ordeal is nothing short of tragic, and also leaves one to wonder if the system currently in place for dealing with domestic abuse didn’t break down.
The victim sought help from authorities in May 2009, acquiring a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) that Escalante quickly violated, court papers show. And even after she decided to move into a domestic violence shelter, the victim wasn’t safe. Instead, she was sexually assaulted right there on the premises.
Court documents provide a picture of the first time Escalante abused his then girlfriend, and it’s graphic. Documents say the victim and Escalante had just moved in together in September 2008 when things began to go horribly wrong. During that month, the victim went off to Boston to check out a job prospect. When she returned, Escalante allegedly beat her up and accused her of going to Boston to prostitute herself.
After the beating, Escalante wanted sex. Dragging the victim into the bedroom by her hair, he demanded she take off her clothes. When the victim refused, Escalante allegedly tore off the apparel and forced her. “This is what women are useful for,” Escalante stated, according to court papers.
Escalante’s physical and sexual assaults would continue to intensify.
During a sexual assault at Rock Creek Park on the morning of Dec. 12, 2008, for instance, Escalante not only threatened the victim’s life, but began shearing her hair off.
“Once arriving at the park, the defendant showed the complainant two knives and told the complainant that he was going to use one to kill her and one to kill himself. The defendant then proceeded to cut the complainant’s hair and stated that she better be quiet or it was not just her hair he was going to cut.”
After multiple other instances of abuse, on May 7, 2009, a TPO was served on Escalante on behalf of the victim. Such an order is issued by a judge and requires an abuser stay away for a fourteen day period, giving the victim time to get a more permanent protection order. Escalante violated the TPO on May 19. Police were called but it’s not clear whether Escalante was arrested. Christel Nichols of House of Ruth, an organization that often works with domestic violence victims in the District, says that in her experience, TPO’s tend to be ineffective as far as protecting abuse victims goes. Cops, she says, have wide latitude when it comes to whether or not they’re going to do anything about the violation, and sometimes do nothing at all.
Even after the victim moved into a domestic violence shelter, she wasn’t safe. Documents say Escalante came to the place —located in the Northwest quadrant of the city— and walked right through the front door, which was open. According to documents, finding the victim in her room, he bit her lip and sexually assaulted her while holding a pillow over her face.
The next day, the victim reported the abuse to a friend and police showed up at the shelter and arrested Escalante.
Nichols, whose organization has multiple domestic violence shelters around the city, but did not house Escalante’s victim, says that among other security protocols at House of Ruth facilities, doors are kept locked and visitors have to get past shelter staff in order to enter. “There’s no way someone could just walk in,” she says. But though House of Ruth shelters tend to be vigilant about safety, the approach of other shelters to that issue vary. Nichols says the city imposes no standards regarding what a domestic violence shelter must do to keep its clients secure.