Since 1973 police in Berkeley, Calif. have sought a rapist they call Stinky. Women have described his unusual body odor variously—as being like gasoline, or paint thinner, or alcohol and cigarettes. They say he is about 30, black, 6’1″, 200 pounds. He preys on those living alone—or with young children—on the ground floor. He enters noiselessly. One gloved hand covers his victim’s face, the other menaces her with a knife. Because he blindfolds the women, descriptions of the man have been sketchy. Last month the rapist struck his 62nd victim—but this woman was different.
Carolyn Craven, 33, is an investigative reporter. One night six months ago the subject of her telecast on San Francisco’s KQED was rape, specifically, police efforts to arrest Stinky. For Craven this was an ongoing story. Earlier she had interviewed a victim, which was something of a coup since women who have been assaulted seldom agree to talk publicly. In the Stinky case several victims had fled the state rather than subject themselves to police interrogation, and cops believe the rapist has probably assaulted twice as many women as have reported attacks.
Craven remembers thinking that she was typical of his victims—she was divorced and lived with her 6-year-old son Gabriel on the first floor of a house in south-central Berkeley. She was never able to dismiss the thought.
Then came Friday, the 13th of January. About 12:30 a.m., after dinner with her twin sister (their father is a Chicago judge) and a friend, she fell asleep. “The next thing I knew I was startled by an image flying at me,” says the 5’5″, 115-pound Craven. In subduing and blindfolding her, the rapist slashed her hand and roused Gabriel. “I’ll kill him if he comes in here,” the attacker threatened. Bargaining for her son’s life, she coaxed him to return to bed.
Almost immediately Craven realized her attacker was Stinky and vowed, if she survived, to provide details that would help in his capture. During the next two and a half hours she noted his hair, physique, clothes (she used her toes to identify the work boots he wore) and voice. Her willingness to provide candid testimony and to undergo hypnosis to uncover other details has made Craven the cops’ best witness yet.
She has also been under psychiatric care since the attack. “To survive, I knew I had to perform and perform well,” she says. That coolness probably saved her life, but she explains, “There’s a lot of guilt associated with rape. I ask myself, ‘Should I have resisted more?’ It comes in waves, that feeling of horror about myself.
“When the police arrived they were considerate and compassionate, and they’ve been that way ever since. They told me what I needed to hear: that they would protect me and it would never happen again. I used to be an independent woman. But I’ve been robbed of my freedom to come and go.”
According to police (there are 12 on the case), Craven’s courage may provide a breakthrough. Neighborhood women have banded together for protection and are raising a $25,000 reward for Stinky’s arrest. “I’m not going to spend my life as a professional rape victim,” Craven says, “but fighting back is the only way I can handle this violation of my life.”
Currently staying with friends, she is searching for a new home—with a roommate—and a new job. Last October KQED changed the format of its nightly news, eliminating Craven’s job, among others. After the rape she went to work for the California Arts Council but in the turmoil lasted only a week. Meanwhile she is appearing on talk shows to discuss her experience and may write a book about it. But she finds herself recoiling from personal contact, unable to tolerate the casual embrace of longtime male friends. Though she still goes out with a San Francisco attorney “who has been loving and not once shown that there is a difference in our relationship,” Craven says, “it is hard for him because often I am inconsolable. Stinky knows what I look like, but I don’t know who he is or how mad he is with me for speaking out. I am afraid.”