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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

Rape victim, 81, puts face on heroism

“There,” she said, pointing. “That window.”

His thumbprint told the cops he climbed into her house through that high, narrow space, brushing past blue brocade curtains. Headed toward the heart of the house, he would have passed bookshelves crammed with family pictures, and a plaque on the bedroom wall that said, “Bless Our House.”

From there, he marched out to the hallway, where maybe he never even noticed the 1945 wedding photo of the widow who now lived alone in this snug West Toledo house.

Eight months after 36-year-old Chuckie T. Unsworth raped her, the judge who earlier this month sentenced him to a maximum, 10-year prison stay said of his 81-year-old victim, “This woman is every woman's hero.”

All she knows is this: “When he was on top of me, I made up my mind that, if I lived, I'd do anything I had to to catch that guy. When he was on top of me, I kept seeing my family. And I kept seeing a sign, `l-i-f-e.'”

Unsworth is where he belongs now, and she remains alive - much to the joy of her three sons, five daughters, and assorted grand and great-grandchildren.

Her youngest daughter says her mother is so strong, she didn't even cry at the funeral of her beloved husband two years ago. But when the daughter arrived at the hospital that October afternoon, “walking in and seeing your mother crying is the most heart-wrenching thing.”

After he clasped his hand over her mouth and ushered her into her own living room, he put his knife on a table just above her head. She was sure he would kill her.

“Would you want someone to do this to your mother or grandmother?” she asked him as he began an attack so brutal the judge described it as “shocking” and “deviant.” But in reply, he only cursed her and slapped her hard and often enough to leave her face bruised and swollen two hours later, which was the first chance she got to call police.

“I'm just so glad it wasn't a young person [he attacked],” she said. “I'm 81, but a young person would have to live with this their whole life. And I think about these little old ladies in my neighborhood - they'd never have lived through it.”

But she did. And now, she is determined to spread an important message: Do not be silent.

“I have five daughters, 16 granddaughters, and two great-granddaughters. I want them to understand that. I was told by this one doctor that he had a girlfriend who was raped, and she didn't report it, and here they found out he'd raped eight others.”

She calls herself a “Victorian woman;” discussing her underwear with strangers left her squeamish. But she also told anyone who would listen what that horrible man did to her, in vivid detail, because “I had no choice. I knew the detectives had to know everything, so they could have everything documented.”

At the hospital, a daughter supplied her with the right vocabulary: “My mother didn't even have the words to describe what he did to her.”

But in court, she was prepared. “I wanted to be a face, not just a victim.”

The other day, in the mailbox of the widow's tidy ranch house, a greeting card arrived. It wished her well.

A juror sent it.

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