The community of Homer is still reeling from an alleged sexual assault that occurred at a teen drinking party last month. Several organizations in Homer have attempted to spur a community dialogue around the incident.
Many of the facts around the September 8th drinking party that allegedly resulted in the sexual assault of a 17-year-old male are murky. What is known is that two suspects – 20-year-old Anthony Resatarits and his 18-year-old brother, Joseph Resatarits – have been charged with Second Degree Sexual Assault for allegedly assaulting the boy with an object. The brothers were in Homer court Tuesday, where bail was set at $5,000 for each of them.
As the case continues to work its way through the legal system, the entire Homer community is asking questions. Chief among them is why has law enforcement taken over a month to bring charges in the case?
Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Jeremy Stone is the lead investigator in the case. He says part of the reason is the sensitivity of sexual assault cases, which he says typically take longer to prosecute than others. Also, the fact that the party was attended by as many as 80 people has also complicated the investigation.
"There's a lack of cooperation form many witness," said Stone. "The common theme has been that they don't want to rat out a classmate."
Stone says there were cellphone pictures taken of the incident but many of them were deleted afterwards. He says his investigation is ongoing and it is “likely” that others will be charged.
Homer High Principal Dr. Allen Gee has also come under fire for the perceived lack of response to the incident. Gee says that on the Monday following the party, several student athletes came to his office and self-reported that they had attended the party.
He says that when it comes to off-campus incidents like this, his power is limited to punishing student-athletes, who have all signed on to Alaska School Activities Association rules that prevent them from being around alcohol. Fourteen Homer High student athletes were temporarily suspended for violating that policy, says Gee.
One of the suspects in the case – Joseph Resatarits – was a Homer High School student and a member of the football team. He has since been removed from both.
Gee says the effect of this case on life at Homer High School has been profound.
"There's a cloud over Homer High School right now," he said. "This is a time of grief ... a time of regrouping and really starting to question some of their activities."
In an editorial published Thursday in the Homer News, Homer High Student Body President and Vice-President Katie Kirsis and Cruz Morey urged the community not to condemn 400 students for the actions of a few. The school has become a 'scapegoat for the anger of the community, ' they said, even though the majority of students did not participate in the incident and do not condone the behavior associated with it.
Gee says he will push the school district to adopt a program called “The Fourth R,” which teaches students about healthy relationships, sexuality and substance abuse.
Jessica Lawmaster is executive director of the South Peninsula Haven House, a local organization that provides support to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. She says for the broader community of Homer, one of the most important things is to realize that this is not an isolated incident.
"We see these cases regularly at Haven House," she said. "We serve hundreds of kids who have been sexually assaulted. What we've been trying to do in order to break the silence has been, first, acknowledging that our community has a problem."
Haven House has been just one of many Homer organizations that has offered public forums and meetings to help the community address the issues surrounding this incident.
Sergeant Jeremy Stone, Dr. Allen Gee and Jessica Lawmaster made their comments on the “Coffee Table” program, which aired Wednesday on KBBI and KDLL.