Suicidal woman raped in CATC

The Oregonian, Dec. 3, 2015

One of the 16 patient rooms in the CATC.

One of the 16 patient rooms in the CATC.

Biniam Yemane Tesfamariam, 30

Biniam Yemane Tesfamariam, 30

A woman who checked herself into a mental health treatment center in Portland because she was having suicidal thoughts reported to police she was sexually assaulted in a room by another patient, according to court reports.

Biniam Yemane Tesfamariam, 30, was arraigned in Multnomah County Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon on two allegations each of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse.

The alleged sexual assaults occurred on Monday night and early Tuesday, according to court documents.

Tesfamariam knocked on the door to the woman’s room at the¬†Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center in Northeast Portland and asked to use her phone as a ruse to get into her room and check if she was sharing it with anyone else, she told police.

He returned to the room later in the night while the woman was sleeping. She awoke and found him on top of her, kissing her and shoving his hands down her pants, the affidavit said. He told her “shh” and raped her, deputy district attorney David Hannon wrote in the affidavit.

A staff member at the center could be heard coming down the hall and entered the woman’s room, the affidavit said. By then, Tesfamariam had gotten up and hid in the room, the woman told police. The woman was too frightened to report the attack then to the center employee. When the staff member left the room, the accused continued to sexually assault the woman, Hannon wrote.

At some point, Tasfamariam left the room and the woman went to sleep because she was unsure what to do. Tesfamariam is accused of returning to the room, forcing the woman’s legs apart and sexually assaulting her again, the affidavit said.

The woman reported the attacks to center staff, who contacted police.

Portland police Det. Jeff Myers interviewed the woman at OHSU Hospital Tuesday, and then located Tesfamariam at the center, Hannon wrote.

During an interview at a police precinct, he initially denied any contact with a fellow patient. But he later admitted he went into a woman’s room while she was napping and when he saw her move over on her bed, he considered that an invitation to join her and had sex with her, the affidavit said.

Tesfamariam said he was at the center because of his mental illness, the affidavit said.

The woman told a detective that she had noticed the same man staring at her during dinner and as he walked passed her room earlier in the evening. She was concerned the door to her room didn’t close properly, and had asked a staff member to fix it, which was done, the affidavit said. She also told police that she had taken several medications that night.

The 16-bed center opened in June 2011 off Northeast Grand Avenue to considerable fanfare by city, county and state officials. It was touted as a much-needed alternative to jail and hospital emergency rooms for people suffering a mental health crisis. Staff have said the rooms do not lock for security purposes.

Daphne Phillips, a spokeswoman for the parent company Telecare Corp. that operates the Portland treatment center, said the Crisis Assessment Treatment Center will not comment on the case since it’s a law enforcement investigation. Nor would Phillips comment on whether an internal investigation is occurring.

“What we can say is that the safety of the clients who get treatment at the CATC is our top priority,” Phillips said Thursday.

Tesfamariam, who is from Ethiopia, was arrested Tuesday. He told court officials through an interpreter that he’s homeless but has been in the Portland metro area for 11 years. He said he’d been at the treatment center for five days. He said he suffers from schizoaffective disorder, according to court documents.

He’s being held on $1 million bail at Multnomah County Detention Center, and is due back in court Dec. 10.