CROSBY, Minn. — It’s not easy.
A Crosby woman who endured a horrible, terrifying experience has turned her tragedy into something she hopes will help women everywhere.
Kaitlyn Chase was raped. She couldn’t believe what happened to her inside her own home in the small town of Crosby. The 27-year-old single woman was busy making a living, raising her young son, while trying to find that special someone in her life.
Chase never imagined one of her dates — back in June 2017 — would result in her being sexually assaulted. Looking back at that horrific night, Chase said she should have been more careful, and inviting the rapist come to her home for their first date was not the smartest thing to do. But at the same time, she knows she is not to blame. She is not at fault. She didn’t deserve to be sexually assaulted.
Chase — like several of her friends, as well as singles across the nation — meets people through online dating sites and apps. And there are a lot of them, including free and paid apps such as Plenty Of Fish, Hinge, Tinder, Mingle2, Bumble, OkCupid, eharmony and MeetMe.
Chase used MeetMe. She said meeting someone on a first date at home or a private place is something “people do all the time” and everything — usually —turns out fine. Chase has invited first dates to her home three times, and it was always after chatting with them for a few weeks or so.
“The first guy I chatted with for a couple of months before I met him,” Chase said. “You think you know them, but people can be whoever they want to be online. They can pretend for a long time online before meeting them in person and then the real person starts to come out.”
The third man Chase invited to her home for a first date was a 39-year-old Brainerd man, who she talked to for about three to four weeks — not nearly enough time, she said.
“I thought he seemed like a nice, Christian guy,” Chase said. “I’m a single mom and don’t really have any help, so going on a date is not easy as I have no babysitters. My 4-year-old son was almost 2 at the time. He was asleep in bed and we were just going to watch a movie and hang out.
“I know it was stupid and I hear it all the time that it was stupid to have him here (without knowing him) with my son. I am aware of that mistake. And the reason why I am here is to prevent other people from making this same mistake. ... This happens way more often than people think.”
Chase said people might not think there would be a rapist in a small town like Crosby or Brainerd. When she thinks of a rapist, she thinks of the larger metro cities.
“There was no pressure or any signs that he was that guy,” Chase said of her impression before he came over. “I consider myself slightly picky and there are a lot of people out for sex or hooking up, and I made it clear I wasn’t.”
Chase met the Brainerd man through MeetMe, and he told her he was 26. When he came to her doorstep on June 15, 2017, he looked like his MeetMe profile photo, but he appeared older. When she asked him, he admitted to being 37.
“We started the movie right away and it wasn’t too long after he got here that he started to make a move,” Chase said. “From there it escalated quickly and when I denied him the second time, that’s when it became kind of rough. It escalated to the point where I felt threatened and unsafe and he is significantly bigger than me. I am a big girl, but I am not a strong girl. I’m a chunky girl. He is 6 foot, 2 inches and massive. So when he threatened me physically, it was scary and I backed down.
“You read about this, you don’t want to fight. My son is in the other room and I’m not going to fight because I’m not going to die tonight. I will make it out alive to see my son in the morning. ... That was the hardest part, that I didn’t fight back. I let it happen. I did say no and I made it clear that is not what I wanted but … he is significantly bigger than me and he could have killed me if he wanted to. I didn’t know him well enough and that is the problem, letting people you don’t know into your home. … He choked me, so as far as I know he is capable of killing me and he might if I fight back. So I didn’t. That is why I think victims feel shame and they shouldn’t. They are keeping themselves safe.”
According to the criminal complaint filed against the man, he started kissing her. She told him no, and he grabbed her by the throat but then backed off for a while before grabbing her by the arm. He then led her into the bedroom by her arm. He then sexually assaulted her, using both hands to strangle her around her throat to the point where she could not breathe, the complaint stated.
Chase contacted the Crosby Police Department a day later to report the sexual assault. She told the officer he sent her a text after he left and she responded back with something to the effect of, "I told you I didn't want to have sex ... I wanted to sleep ... Please leave me alone." He didn't text back after that.
Chase went to Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby and completed a sexual assault evidence kit, which was later submitted to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for testing for possible DNA identification. The DNA from the kit matched the man’s DNA swab taken by officers.
Chase said from the time of the sexual assault to the time she contacted police she had not showered or even changed her clothes. She said as silly as it sounds, she watches a lot of “Law and Order” so knew she shouldn’t. And at the same time, she said she just sat on her couch, processing what had happened to her.
“Was this my fault?” she said she asked herself. “I invited this man into my home. For a year, I blamed myself. I put myself into this situation, this is my fault. It took a long time with therapy and using Sexual Assault Services to really realize it isn’t ever the victim’s fault. You never put yourself in a situation to be raped. You never do and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you do, because you don’t. It doesn’t matter how you dress, or if you’ve been drinking. It doesn’t matter if you let them into your home, but please don’t. It doesn’t matter what you look like or say or what you do, if you say no -- no means no. I know a few friends who have been victimized at some point in their life and they feel like it is their fault. ... Some people won’t talk to anyone about it and those are the victims who struggle the most because they are silent about it and they don’t have to be.
“This is a huge reason why I am here today. There are a lot of victims who are scared to speak out. If I can help just one person, that is my goal, from getting raped.”
Chase said it was a two-year process for her to see her rapist go to prison. After reporting the crime, officers made several attempts to contact the man by telephone — Chase did not know where he lived or his last name — but were unable to find him. Nearly a year later, on May 5, 2018, police learned the possible location of his residence in Brainerd. When police made contact with him he initially seemed unsure about knowing Chase, but after viewing a photo he recalled the night in question. He stated he had consensual sexual intercourse that night, according to the complaint. He said the woman became weird after sex and mentioned something about him choking her. Chase said the officers never brought up the choking incident to the man.
There was a jury trial and Chase testified. Chase said sexual assault advocates helped her along the way and gave her the courage to face her attacker. When she testified in court, she focused on her advocates to stay strong. After he was convicted, she wrote a victim impact statement.
The man — Isaiah S. Schuety — was found guilty June 6 by a Crow Wing County jury and then sentenced July 26 to 12 years in a Minnesota Correctional Facility and 10 years of conditional release after prison for three felonies -- first-degree criminal sexual conduct using penetration and great bodily harm, third-degree criminal sexual conduct using force and third-degree stalking. He was also convicted of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault.
Chase said the sexual assault changed her and she had to find a way to get through her days. She was paranoid before her attacker was in prison, that he could be lurking outside her residence, or his family or friends could be watching her.
“I still have a habit of looking out my window before I go out,” Chase said. “I’m always more cautious and always looking around. ... I double, triple check my locks, I didn’t feel safe in my home.”
Chase moved forward with charges, but she didn’t think she had enough evidence.
“It was a he-said, she-said case,” Chase said, “And he admitted, too, that it was consensual, but the jury sided with me.”
Chase only sat in court when she testified. She believes what helped her case was Schuety mentioning choking to the officer, without the officer telling him about that detail.
“I think that helped the jury know I was not lying,” she said. “It was super scary waiting for the jury to come back with a decision.”
With her attacker behind bars, Chase now wants to help sexual assault victims.
“I think about what he did almost daily, I run through the, ‘Maybe I should have,’ or the, ‘If only I would have,’ but I know that what he did, he chose to do, he is responsible for his actions,” Chase said. “I have learned that it is not my fault -- that is never the fault of the victim for being sexually assaulted. I asked for friendship, I asked for a date. I did not ask to be violently sexually assaulted in my home.
Dating tips from Chase
Don’t give out a full name right away. Searching someone’s full name online generally leads to some personal information. Social media profiles sometimes have addresses and phone numbers.
Do not give out a real phone number right away. Get a Google Voice number for free or download a texting app and get an alternate number to use. These numbers can be deactivated or changed until it feels safe to give out a real number.
Don’t reveal place of employment until certain about trusting the person; double check the settings on social media pages to see what information is being shared with the public, and what information only those on friends lists can see.
When going on a date with someone new, make sure to always meet in a public place. Do not meet at home, alone in a park, etc.
Always make sure to drive or find a trusted friend/family member to give a ride to and from a date. Do not allow someone unknown to pick up or drop off.
It is OK to have a drink but make sure to keep an eye on that drink at all times. Never leave a drink unattended and limit consumption to remain able to make smart, safe decisions.
When using online dating, do not use profile pictures from social media accounts. A person can reverse Google Images search and find social media profiles easily.
When going out on a date with someone new make sure to tell someone the plans and details of the date: Where, when expected to be back and any other details. Sometimes, a double date may be helpful.