Ohio woman must pay $80 after attack on pro-lifers, assault charge dropped
An Ohio judge has ordered a pro-abortion Columbus woman who attacked a pro-life leader and intern to pay restitution for destroying the group’s signs.
On August 21, the judge ordered Victoria Duran to pay $80 for two signs belonging to pro-life group Created Equal. The prosecutor dropped charges of assault and causing criminal damage.
During a public demonstration in downtown Columbus July 9, members of the pro-life group videotaped Duran verbally and physically assaulting the organization's director of training and an intern.
The profanity-packed videotape shows Duran angrily disputing the validity of Created Equal’s sign, which showed the remains of an aborted 12-week-old preborn child. Duran repeatedly accuses the pro-lifers of racism and misogyny.
“If there’s a disappointment it’s that we didn’t get the formal apology. That would have left the door open to talk to her.”
Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal, told LifeSiteNews that people can become upset when they encounter their images of abortion victims, "but we rarely get this."
The pro-life leader said their hope through the legal ordeal was to reach out to Duran, and the only restitution they sought was an apology.
“If there’s a disappointment it’s that we didn’t get the formal apology,” Harrington said. “That would have left the door open to talk to her.”
Their hope for dialogue was dashed, however, because the prosecutor obtained a temporary restraining order to protect them from Duran after the assault. When the prosecutor called to ask if they wanted the restraining order, the group was on the road for its Summer 2014 Justice Ride, and they did not get the message in time to respond. They regret that the order inhibited communication.
“It’s the way it worked out,” Harrington said.
Prosecutors had indicated that charges may be reduced, so the decision to drop the charges was not completely unexpected, Harrington said.
Duran’s mother called Harrington after the incident and asked for Created Equal to drop the charges. Harrington requested an apology from Duran and told her mother they were willing to meet with Duran. Duran’s mother said an apology wasn’t likely. The two parties could not communicate further once the restraining order was in place.
Harrington had planned to call Duran’s mother back to reach out to Duran, he said, and Created Equal had told prosecutors it would be willing to drop the charges if Duran apologized.
“We really do care for her,” Harrington said. “It would have been the opportunity to share the Gospel with her.”
Duran’s mother was in court with her on August 21 when the restitution charges were paid.
“It’s a tacit admission of her guilt that she paid the damages,” said Harrington.
Created Equal's director of training, Seth Drayer, attended the court hearing as well, having been subpoenaed as a witness.
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“Victoria was very careful to avoid eye contact,” Drayer told LifeSiteNews.
On the day of the attack, Drayer was overseeing the three interns doing outreach in downtown Columbus. He video-taped the incident, and was named as a victim in Duran's assault charge because she attacked him when she saw he was filming her.
Drayer had approached and began filming when Duran first started yelling at intern Ian Spencer.
“Our policy is to document first to make sure our rights are upheld,” Drayer said.
The video details Drayer and Spencer, who was 17 at the time, remaining calm throughout the exchange, informing Duran that they were videotaping her and calling police. The incident was worse than any other Drayer can recall in his time doing pro-life work.
“Many times I’ve been yelled at, that’s nothing new,” he said. “I was very grateful we had our team with their protocols well prepared.”
The confrontation was a good indicator of both Created Equal’s training procedures and Spencer’s strong Christian faith, Drayer said.
Interns spend seven weeks during the summer with Created Equal learning the specifics of full-time pro-life work, including the basics of apologetics and security protocols. Drayer said the training is not based on emotion, so that responses and decisions can be made at times when emotions run high.
“This was a really good test to see if those protocols were in place,” said Drayer.
“What happened with Ian, that was something I never could have given him in a classroom,” said Drayer. “It speaks very highly of our training, and it was a testament to his character.”
In addition to not wavering during the attack, Drayer said Spencer has remained unshaken in his resolve to do pro-life work, if anything the incident strengthened his commitment.
“It really solidified it for him,” he said.
One of many reasons to remain calm in these types of incidents, he explained, is that you never know the history of the person who is challenging you. “We’ll listen to you if you want to talk,” Drayer said. “If you want to yell, we’re not going to yell back and add to that.”
The images of abortion victims can elicit emotions for a number of reasons, often with the reality of abortion hitting close to home for a person. Drayer said Created Equal tries to be sensitive to that as well.
“We boldly love the unborn,” he said. “”We also love the men and women who have been through this.”
While her rhetoric during the attack demonstrated support for abortion, the pro-life advocates do not know whether Duran has personal experience with abortion, and Drayer said it doesn’t matter.
“We told her mother we wanted to share the Gospel,” Drayer said.
“We’ve forgiven her,” Harrington added.
The vicious altercation with Duran has served to give him a more realistic view of the group’s work going forward, said Drayer, and the challenge for young people in the pro-life movement.
“We’ve seen a rise on campus of situations where it’s okay to inhibit free speech,” he said.
He believes the incident with Duran and Created Equal clearly displays the threat today against freedom of speech and religious liberty. “If we don’t ardently defend it we will lose the opportunity,” said Drayer.
Despite pro-abortion voices seeking to end debate by claiming Roe v. Wade is settled law, Duran said students realize this is still a big issue in America.
The incident, he said, has “only actually made us stronger. If you start to bully the pro-life movement, they’re going to come back stronger.”