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SRJC rape case highlights all-too-common scenario

  • (l to r) SSU students Josh Krug, Evan Morgan, AJ Berndt, Scott Liebert and Omar Catalan help hang shirts created by people effected by violence and assault in front of Salazar Hall on the SSU campus on Thursday, March 5, 2012.

Marco Antonio DeAnda-Vargas and a 23-year-old woman met at a dance class at Santa Rosa Junior College, police said. On the evening of March 15, they walked together after class to the closed Quinn Swim Center building. He somehow had a key, and they went inside to get out of the cold.

What's alleged to have happened next is an all too common scenario, according to police and advocates for victims of sexual assault.

DeAnda-Vargas, 31, is accused of raping his classmate. He denies the charges, according to the Sonoma County Public Defender's Office, and told police the encounter was consensual.

The allegations, which will get their first public airing at an April 25 court hearing, underscore one of the fundamental realities about rape in Sonoma County.

It's rarely a stranger who jumps out of the bushes.

Rape more often involves a trusted person who crosses a serious line. And it's often one person's word against another's.

"The thought never enters your mind that something like this is going to happen," said Chris Castillo, executive director of Verity, a nonprofit that operates the county's rape crisis center. "But it does."

Sexual assaults, a broader term that includes rape as well as other unwanted sexual contact, have dropped sharply in Sonoma County over the past eight years along with an overall decline in crime.

Still, more than twice a week someone reports a rape somewhere in Sonoma County. There were 123 forcible rapes reported in the county's nine cities and unincorporated areas in 2010, down from 206 in 2004.

The numbers likely understate the scope of the problem. As many as 54 percent of sexual assaults aren't reported to law enforcement, according to a U.S. Justice Department study.


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