Between the summer of 1997 and August 1999, six women in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood in Center City, Philadelphia, were raped by a man known only as the Center City Rapist. One woman, Shannon Schieber, was murdered in May 1998. All of these attacks occurred within about five blocks of one another. The first two attacks were little more than one block apart, yet it took years before these assaults were linked by the Philadelphia Police Department.
An investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1999 uncovered a period of more than a decade from the mid ’80s to the late ’90s when 30% of reported crimes were classified as non criminal emergencies. At least two of the assaults committed by the center city rapist fell into this classification. DNA went untested, and a 911 call made the morning Shannon Schieber was murdered was considered to be “unfounded.”
Today the Philadelphia Police Department is an example of how to effectively support sexual abuse survivors, how to respectfully care for them and bring their attackers to justice. Sadly, it wasn’t always this way and that culture of hiding violent crimes, in many cases sexually violent crimes against women, may have contributed to the rape of a dozen women across two states. This is part one of a two part episode about the victims and survivors of the Center City Rapist.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
Research sources for this episode include:
- The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
- The National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Serial Murder and the Psychology of Violent Crimes: Serial Killers and Serial Rapists Preliminary Comparison of Violence Typologies by Stacey Shipley & Bruce Arrigo
- The American Criminal Law Review: Georgetown University Law Center – Tolling Time: How John Doe Law Indictments are Skirting Statutes of Limitations and Crippling the Criminal Justice System by Emily Clark
- The Philadelphia Inquirer Archives 1997 – 2004
- The Philadelphia Daily News Archives 1997 – 2004
- The Guardian: Investigating Rape in Philadelphia: How One City’s Crisis Stands to Help Others by Joanna Walters
- The Daily Pennsylvanian: The Story of Shannon Schieber by 34th Street, January 22, 2004
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