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Detroit woman still waiting for justice after sexual assault six years ago when she was only 15

Posted at 10:31 PM, Feb 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-17 11:36:15-05

When it comes to sexual assault, how long should a victim be forced to wait for justice, especially when that victim was just a child when the horrific act occurred.

We've been following the case of a young Detroit woman who says the first time she was forced to face the man she says is her attacker was in court, not over the assault allegations, but over the paternity of the child born from that alleged assault.

Delanjane Amerson says, "I remember him asking me how old I was. I told him I was 15."

Amerson, was a Detroit teen in foster care at the Vista Maria home for girls, when she says she was assaulted during a family home visit in May of 2010. The setting, a family birthday party, the atmosphere unsafe.

Delanjane says, "everybody was drunk and she was in the room and he was on the floor."

She didn't know the 29-year-old man, who she says followed her into a bathroom.

Delanjane says, "He told me to pull my pants down.

Carolyn Clifford asks, "Were you afraid?"

Delanjane responds, "Yes, it's like I was in shock."

On the night of the assault in May of 2010 Delanjane was not taken to the hospital -- so no rape kit could be used for evidence.

Delanjane returned to Vista Maria and says she told a worker about the assault, but nothing would come of it until June when she realized she was pregnant. That's when police were called to Vista Maria.

We spoke to the Deputy Chief of the DPD Detective Bureau David Levalley.

Deputy Chief David Levalley says, "In 2010, the department was contacted, we had a police report that was filed at the time by a 15-year-old girl who indicated she had been assaulted, she also indicated she was pregnant."

According to Detective Levalley the case could not move forward without more evidence.

Deputy Chief David Levalley says, "Before they were able to proceed with a warrant they needed to collect some DNA evidence."

For Delanjane it was a traumatic time.

Delanjane says, "I was going through it, I tried to commit suicide twice."

She was in therapy at Vista Maria.

Delanjane says, "How am I pregnant. I just started lashing out on me and the baby, I started hitting myself in the stomach basically lashing out."

Vista Maria transferred her to Holy Cross Children's Services in Saginaw. Detective Levalley says the detective on the case lost contact.

Deputy Chief David Levalley says, "She eventually moved away and didn't have any more contact with the detective."

Delanjane would remain in Saginaw for the next two years where her son, now six-years-old, was born.

Delanjane says, "They taught me independent living skills, how to take care of my child. When I first had him, I was lashing out."

Since 2013, she's been on her own caring for her child and trying to get any information she could from family members who knew the man she says assaulted her.

Delanjane says, "I just got tired of the workers asking me about him, I just gave them his name and his birthday and I said I don't know nothing else, they found him."

When the court contacted him for a DNA test in July of 2016 he reached out to her through Facebook saying "Who are you?".

And she responded "Who are you. You sent me a request?" Then he says, Yeah, cause you trying to say I'm your baby's daddy."

What's worse she was forced to come face-to-face with the man for the first time since the assault six years earlier in court for a paternity test.

Delanjane says, "He was just looking at me, looking me up and down like I did something wrong."

Delanjane says the test came back positive. She was supposed to face him again in November of 2016 for a custody and child support hearing.

Attorney Shannon Urbon from the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy was at her side. The man she says assaulted her - a no show.

Shannon Urbon says, "When Delanjane got pregnant, she was in foster care and she was 15. The fact that the court didn't get involved, making sure there was an investigation, that's a problem."

Urbon says Delanjane was failed by many, judges, attorneys, even Vista Maria.

Shannon Urbon say, "Vista Maria characterized her pregnancy as having a home pass because Delanjane was sexually active and that is not what rape, that is not sexual activity, it's sexual assault."

Detroit Police are now back on the case.

Deputy Chief Levalley says, "We've since submitted, as part of that investigation, a package to the Wayne County Prosecutor's office. Barring any unforseen circumstances ,we anticipate moving forward with the case."

Her assailant was a no show again in court February 9th. The court entered a judgment establishing paternity and child support and gave her sole custody.

However, without a criminal conviction for sexual assault he could still petition the court for parenting time.

Carolyn Clifford asks, "What do you think will happen from here?"

Deputy Chief Levalley says, "Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I anticipate that we'll proceed with the case and I'm sure he will face criminal charges in the near future."

For Delanjane a survivor, there's life after  the assault.

Delanjane says, "Now, I'm okay with it, cause I love my son to death. Without him, I don't know that I would be the person I am today."

Delanjane's attorney says Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy will be meeting with Delanjane on Friday February 17th to go over details about the case.

Meantime, Vista Maria released this statement to us:

Regarding Ms. Clifford’s inquiry about a young adult, who has indicated that she was a client of Vista Maria when she was a minor, we are unable to provide comment relative to the inquiry due to our legal obligation to protect confidential medical information, which includes affirmation of those in or not in our care.  Unfortunately, Vista Maria is not able to offer confirmation, or other ancillary information, relative to a media inquiry as a response may be interpreted as validation of a client’s care and mental health treatment.  

We can assure WXYZ Action News Channel 7 and it viewers that Vista Maria is dedicated to providing the highest level of care, safety, and treatment of our youth to achieve healthy permanency.   In addition, Vista Maria fully supports the efforts of law enforcement and our community prosecutors in their attempts to end abuse and neglect.  Any County Prosecutor office that legally requests information, Vista Maria is ready to respond with full cooperation and urgency. 

Vista Maria is a specialized mental health treatment center that provides a safe, trauma focused environment to aid the healing of abused and neglected girls, and provides community based programs for boy and girls through its foster care, independent living and after school programs.  Vista Maria provides care, support, treatment and education for just over 400 youth each day. 

In response to acute or crisis situations, Vista Maria immediately institutes the following response protocol:

  • Contact emergency medical and police responders,
  • Contact Child Protective Services,
  • Contact case manager for youth in care, and or DHHS/County leaders depending on the severity of the circumstance,
  • Work with the law enforcement and State, or County prospectors as requested, and
  • Other professionals necessary for the support and care of our clients and families.