FINDING STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Where do sexual assault victims turn when the criminal justice system can’t — or won’t — help them?

Inspired by the women who presented a united front accusing once-beloved entertainer Bill Cosby of sexual assault, a group of St. Augustine women who say they were each assaulted by the same man are campaigning for change in how sexual assault survivors are perceived and how such crimes are investigated and prosecuted in their city.

Katelynn Quarrels readily admits that she’s made some poor choices in her 24 years; consenting to sexual intercourse with her former roommate, Matthew Alan William Hare, is not one of them.

On a hot autumn day, Quarrels, a slim, slight woman, speaks rapidly about the night of Feb. 19, 2012. Hare, 23, and his then-girlfriend, Catherine Marshall, were living with her at the time.

“It was probably one of the best nights I ever had with my friends,” Quarrels says in the kitchen of her St. Augustine home.

Quarrels says the evening of drinking concluded when she went to bed around 2:30 a.m. Sometime later, she awoke abruptly, with her clothes partially removed — she had the sense that someone had been in her bed. At first, she thought it was her boyfriend, Corey Harris.

“I texted Corey, I was, like, ‘I just had the craziest dream’ … then I see Matt walk in my bedroom,” she says. “ … He tried to get back in my bed and that’s when I kind of realized something was going on. I shined the light from my phone in his face and said, ‘I don’t know what you think is happening, but you need to get out right now.’”

She says she then realized that Hare had had sexual intercourse with her while she was asleep.

“If I would’ve been drunk, what happened would’ve sobered me up,” she says.

She told Harris what had happened when he arrived and he attacked Hare, who was in bed with Marshall. Then Quarrels and Harris left.

Initially, Quarrels did not plan to report the alleged assault.

“I didn’t want to acknowledge that had happened. It was really hard for me to fathom. That was really one of my good friends and it felt like I was losing that,” she says.

She contacted police later that day.

She says she was “flabbergasted” when “one of [the officers] said … it was not illegal for me to cheat on my boyfriend.”

“I know it is their job to ask hard questions; I know it is their job to investigate. But I also know it is their job to treat you with respect and sensitivity and when you report a sexual assault … I don’t think that you can assume someone is making a regrettable decision,” Quarrels says.

Hare’s statement to police, dated Feb. 20, 2012, reads in part: “Me and Cat[herine Marshall] had a small argument and I left the room to go into Katelynn’s room. I walked in, got in bed with her and rubbed her arm to wake her.” He writes that Quarrels “playfully said, ‘How’d you get in here?’ after [sic] she opened her eyes and looked at me fully, we engaged in consensual sex, no resistance or fighting … ”

Quarrels, always a deep sleeper, insists that she was not conscious and, thus, not capable of giving consent. She also questions why Hare, her friend’s boyfriend, with whom she had never been intimate, would climb uninvited into her bed.

Hare later writes that he was “under the impression that she’s fully filing this under false pretenses to appease her boyfriend.”

Quarrels and Harris, who are still together, deny this claim.

Marshall recently sat down with Folio Weekly Magazine.

Marshall, 23, says that she and Hare fought that night because she refused his sexual advances. “He’s insatiable. He has to have it every day. Or you don’t love him and he cries and he throws a tantrum.”

Sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, Marshall says, is one of Hare’s trademarks. “He would come at me when I was sleeping. Often,” she says.

Another former girlfriend of Hare’s, who is not identified because she is a minor, wrote via Facebook messenger, “I would wake up to him touching me or having sex with me. At the time I didn’t mind because I looked at him as my boyfriend. Now I look back at everything because I’m truly disgusted.”

Another underage girl says that last year Hare got her and her underage sister passed-out-drunk on whiskey. She’d never been drunk before.

“I don’t remember anything that happened, really. I just remember waking up and he was in my room and I didn’t have any clothes,” she says, adding that Hare was dating one of her friends — who also claims he separately, and repeatedly, assaulted her — and that she reacted accordingly.

“He was, like, ‘You weren’t freaking out before, why are you freaking out now?’… he was trying to make it seem like it was my fault,” she says.

She was 15. He would have been 22. She has not reported the incident to police. If proved, Hare could be convicted of lewd or lascivious battery just for having had intercourse with her.

Melissa Brown, 25, recalled attending a party with Hare, her then-boyfriend, in July 2011. “He wanted to hook up and I told him not unless he had a condom and he got angry and started yelling and screaming and pulling on me. I told him, ‘No, get out,’” she says.
“ … He grabbed the sheet … and wrapped it around my face. He punched me in the face.”

Brown says she fought him off and ran. She did not report the incident to police.

In all, seven women told FWM that they were assaulted by Matthew Hare.

On Oct. 15 at 3:25 p.m., FWM posted a message on a private Facebook group founded by Hare’s alleged victims, Silence Hides Violence, seeking to speak with women who were assaulted by Quarrels’ alleged attacker (he was not identified by name). At 5:29 p.m. that day, I received this voicemail at the phone number provided in the post:

“Hello, this voicemail is being recorded for solely legal purposes and can be subpoenaed in court if necessary … Good afternoon, my name is [omitted]. I am the wife of Matthew Hare, the person whom you, alongside with Katelynn Quarrels, is attempting to create this news narrative article about an assault case. This is something we have dealt with individually, personally and legally prior with the police. They have declaratively decided to be in … [mumbling] … Matthew Hare, defendant’s honor through legal documentation and nothing further. No legal action has been taken against Matthew and publishing aforementioned article on their behalf is only slanderous against the police and the defendant in question. I strongly advise against being coerced to publish any article related to this specific event. If you have any questions, contact my attorney [omitted].”

FWM called the attorney and learned that another attorney in the firm represents Hare in a pending criminal case. (He’s currently facing charges of battery and contributing to the delinquency of a child.)

That second attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

FWM left multiple messages at the number from which the young woman called, seeking comment from her and/or Hare. Neither returned the messages. FWM also knocked on the door of a yellow, two-story duplex near downtown St. Augustine, where sources say the Hares reside. There was no answer. FWM left a note requesting comment. No one responded.

Quarrels’ case unraveled almost immediately. In spite of attempting to re-file charges against Hare last summer and numerous efforts to gather support, her case has gone nowhere.

“[The cops] said he didn’t deny anything. He just said that if you press charges on him, he’ll press charges on Corey.”

Nearly every single woman who says she was assaulted by Hare also said that afterward, he would threaten to call the police on them for underage drinking, battery, trespassing, drugs, etc.; anything he could leverage to keep them quiet.

“He’s notorious for, even the couple months we were together, [saying], ‘Don’t you dare call the cops, I’ve got this on you,’” says Brown.

But they’re not keeping quiet now.

Last summer, Quarrels created a Change.org petition for St. Augustine City Manager John Regan and Chief of Police Loran Lueders
“to put in place rigorous sexual assault sensitivity training and investigation guidelines.” The petition quickly racked up more than 1,000 signatures.

In response to FWM’s request for comment, Lueders says via email, “My officers already receive sensitivity and sexual assault training and we have protocols in place for investigating sexual assault.”

Quarrels also formed the group Silence Hides Violence “to support anyone that has ever been a victim of a sexual assault, domestic violence or what ranges in between.” As of this writing, that group has 256 members.

Sexual assault is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute, largely because victims are reticent to come forward and be labeled “the rape girl.” Inspired by the bravery exhibited by the accusers of celebrity non grata Bill Cosby, these women are using their voices to fight the stigma that has kept so many others silent.

Quarrels says, “I decided to share my story. It was around the time the Bill Cosby sexual assault [accusations] had happened. It was actually really inspiring. A group of women who stood in solidarity and they were willing to say things regardless of what anyone believed.”

 

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UPDATE: After months of trying to contact Hare, on Monday, Jan. 4 FWM received the following response from Hare’s attorney, Daniel K. Hilbert, via email: “Mr. Hare vehemently denies any and all accusations leveled by Ms. Quarrels, Ms. Brown and Ms. Marshall and believes they are false and without merit.” On Hare’s behalf, Hilbert subsequently denied all additional accusations thusly, “Mr. Hare similarly denies the allegations that have been included in your response email to specifically include the pending charges.”

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