WEST PULLMAN — Antione Dobine was chatting with a neighbor about the need to board up and repair vacant buildings on his Far South Side block Saturday evening when he heard banging on the window of an abandoned home.
As Dobine got closer, he heard a woman’s voice say, “Help,” he said. That’s when he called the police, who found a 36-year-old woman inside the home in the 11900 block of Eggleston Avenue in West Pullman.
“I first thought it was a little young girl in there, but later on we found it was a young lady,” Dobine said. “She was handcuffed and chained, and said she had been in there for a week. She said [her captor] sexually assaulted her twice.”
Police confirmed the woman was found in the home about 5:30 p.m. Saturday. She was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital in good condition, police said.
A police officer told Dobine and other bystanders the woman was “handcuffed and chained to a wall” in Dobine’s Facebook livestream of the incident, which now has more than 800,000 views.
Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan, speaking during a Monday morning news conference, said the investigation is ongoing and no one was in custody. Officers are investigating several crimes that occurred, including criminal sexual assault and kidnapping, Deenihan said.
“We’re working with our victim, obviously a lot of trauma there, and we’re doing our best to move forward with the investigation,” Deenihan said.
Dobine helped the woman, who is from the neighborhood, get a hotel room for the next week, he said.
Dobine is raising funds through the online platform Spotfund for his organization, Hands Around the Hundreds. The money would help the woman stay in the hotel until she finds permanent housing, as well as create a shelter for other women escaping abuse and sex trafficking, he said.
The house where police found the woman has been vacant for decades, said Dobine, who has lived in West Pullman since 1973. The home was “our candy store back when we were younger,” as the woman who lived there sold sweets to neighborhood kids, he said.
Saturday’s incident reflects the need for community control over abandoned property in disinvested neighborhoods like his own, Dobine said. Vacant homes and empty lots abound in West Pullman, posing a safety hazard for neighbors, he said.
As a community organizer and block club member, Dobine has encountered drug sales, prostitution and squatters in vacant homes nearby — though he’s never seen anything like this weekend’s apparent kidnapping, he said.
Neighborhood residents experiencing homelessness, returning from incarceration or escaping abuse all need places to live, so there’s no reason for homes to stay empty, Dobine said.
“The banks that own these properties and the landlords that own these properties need to come to an agreement with the rest of the community,” he said. “If you’re not going to sell it to us, then allow us to rent it, fix it up and put it to use.”
Dobine has mentored kids and coached youth sports for about 30 years, he said. He formalized his community work by creating Hands Over the Hundreds about three years ago, which also offers job training, job placement, social services and mental health services, he said.
Dobine’s actions to free the woman from the Eggleston Avenue house Saturday show he’s willing to keep his eyes and ears out for his neighbors, he said.
“I’m just trying to save my community and do as much for my community as possible,” Dobine said. “We do as much as we can to help out.”
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