Further to the rape of a woman in front of her toddlers in the parking garage of the Stamford Marriott Hotel, it looks like public outrage has forced the chain to retract its blame-the-victim defence.
The withdrawal followed days of backlash against Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International Inc., which had claimed in its defense of a lawsuit by the woman that she had "failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities."
Her attacker is serving a 20-year prison term for the 2006 attack at the Stamford hotel.
The woman also accused Marriott in June of indirectly disclosing her and her children's identities by seeking subpoenas for her pilates instructor, friends and tennis partners, a house cleaner, and a baby sitter.
"This was done to expose the identities of the Doe family in their community so as to intimidate them from pursuing this case, pure and simple," attorneys Paul Slager and Ernest Teitell wrote in court papers.
Gary Fricker assaulted the 40-year-old woman in her minivan at the Marriott Hotel & Spa in October 2006 in Stamford in front of her children, both younger than 7. Fricker, 56, pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, risk of injury to a minor and robbery.
Women's advocates said Marriott's handling of the case is every rape victim's nightmare come true — and a major reason why rape remains one of the most underreported crimes, despite changes like shield laws that make a victim's sexual history irrelevant.
"The fear of being blamed for being raped is one of the most common reasons that victims of sexual assault don't come forward," said Nancy Kushins, executive director of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.
Defenses that blame the victim to some extent are not uncommon, as insurance companies try to minimize their losses. But Jim Nugent, chairman of the litigation section of the Connecticut Bar Association, said doing so in this case would be odd, given the especially horrific nature of a rape witnessed by the victim's children.
"It's just not going to sit well with a jury," Nugent said. "How in the world could this poor woman contribute to that?"
Oh you know, she was alone, and probably bending over while buckling her kids into their car seats, and didn't have eyes in the back of her head. She should have packed a gun, worn a chastity belt, and known karate.
(And let's not forget: her attacker had the opportunity.)
Look, nobody is saying that bad things don't happen in parking garages and stairwells. They always give me the willies. (Remember that rape scene in The Sopranos, when Dr. Melfi was attacked?)
But how low is it for a huge hotel chain to claim that this victimized woman "failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities."
Why? Because she parked her car in a supposedly upscale hotel's garage?
Marriott now says it is "profoundly sorry that such a terrible thing happened to the victim of this violent crime" in its parking garage.
The hotel chain says the situation has "created a mistaken impression that Marriott lacks respect" for victims of violent crimes.
I'm not so sure about the ''mistaken'' part.
Not sure I buy all of them but I will say this: As a woman who has frequently traveled alone on business, I know that hotels, even the good ones, can be scary and creepy places. I know I am not the only woman guest who has been accosted in elevators and corridors by guys, many of whom are over-refreshed.
Many hotels now offer women-only floors, which are great.(And if you find that discriminatory, demand men-only floors, okay?) But that's not enough.
Elevators, corridors and parking garages should have monitored videocams, for example.
The camera in the Stamford Marriott's garage was broken -- and the management reportedly knew it was.