UPTOWN — Last week, Stephanie Lipka was playing a game on her phone on a pier at Montrose Harbor when she witnessed what she believes was a rape in progress.
She immediately called police, telling a 911 dispatcher that the attack was still happening, but by the time officers arrived — about 30 minutes later on bikes — the victim and attacker had disappeared, she said.
No victim has come forward since, police said, but Lipka, 43, said she wants to share the story publicly in an effort to reach out to the rape victim.
"It's absolutely ludicrous" that everything took so long, Lipka said. "I want her to know someone is trying to help her."
Around 9:30 p.m. Sept 13, Lipka said she was playing Ingress, a location-based game, when she noticed two people at the end of the pier. Although it was dark, she said she saw a young woman "with her legs in the air." The woman was screaming "'Someone please help me!'" and "'No'" repeatedly, Lipka said. She said she was positive what she saw was "a rape in progress." Not knowing if the attacker had a weapon, she stayed out of sight and called 911.
"There was no way off the pier other than through me, and I had no way of knowing if he had a weapon, [so] I backed down the pier," she said in a Facebook post recounting the story. "Meanwhile, [the two people] must have gotten off the pier and through the woods because they didn't pass me."
After a frustrating call with a police dispatcher, she went to the end of the pier hoping to flag down a responding officer, but she couldn't find anyone more than 15 minutes after she had called.
Officers on bikes eventually showed up after 10 p.m. — about 30 minutes after she called, she said.
The officers told Lipka they were dispatched from Addison Street and the ride took over 20 minutes, she said.
After telling officers what she saw, Lipka said a "misogynist" male officer told her, "That's a long way on the pier for someone to come out there without screaming."
She said officers didn't make a written report, take her name in case she was needed as a witness, or search for the man or woman she saw.
There was a call for service matching the address and time of Lipka's story around 9:30 p.m., but it was closed about 40 minutes later, and no report was made, said Officer Bari Lemmon, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman. No victim has come forward since, she said.
Lipka, who declined to give more details about what she witnessed in case the victim surfaces, said she is in disbelief about how her call was handled.
It's "so upsetting, and I feel like I need to do something to let people/alderman/media know what a bad job dispatch did and how unseriously an active crime call was taken," she posted on Facebook. "Thirty minutes to dispatch is unacceptable. I feel so sick right now."
Similar incidents have happened, but it's not a frequent occurrence, said Sarah Layden, director of Advocacy Services for Rape Victim Advocates.
The group plans to follow up with police about its response, Layden said.
"It was a little concerning to hear the way police responded in this particular case," said Layden, who added that "police response can sometimes become unpredictable, depending on what else was going on in the district."
The Police Department has been working with Rape Victim Advocates to make "improvements to their response" to sexual assault calls, she said.
When someone witnesses an assault, the first thing they should do is "establish their own personal safety. While the reaction should depend on the situation, the witness shouldn't interject unless they still feel safe," she said.
The witness should then call police and paramedics, Layden said.
If the victim is no longer at the scene, "providing police with details of what you witnessed [can] corroborate the story if the victim comes forward," she said.
But, Layden added, assaults are "hard to investigate and prosecute for a number of the reasons."
Rape Victim Advocates can be reached at (312) 443-9603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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