It was a year ago yesterday that a 16-year-old girl was raped and brutally beaten in an alley in the 5600 block of Chicago Avenue.

The victim’s recovery has been painful but positive, say friends and family of the Austin teen. But they fear more women in the community may fall victim to her attacker, who was never caught but whom they suspect is currently in state prison for an unrelated conviction and is set to be released later this month.

The family won’t say publicly whom they suspect attacked the girl, said Dawn Valenti of United For A Cause, a community and victim advocacy group working with the family.

But, according to the family, some people in the community not only informed them who the suspect is, but where he lives. Valenti said a woman who lives in the same Austin neighborhood as the rape victim contacted the family to say she was attacked by the same person.

“The woman said, ‘I knew it was him. I’ll never forget his face,'” said Valenti.

The family informed police about their suspicions, but police told them that their evidence doesn’t point to that person.

The family released the name of the man, an Austin resident, to Austin Weekly News on the condition that the paper not make it public. A few days after the girl’s rape, police released a sketch of the suspect based on her description. Valenti and the family believe the sketch of the suspect closely resembles their person of interest. They searched for the person on the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Web site.

According to the Web site, the man is described as 34 years old, 210 pounds, and 5-feet-6. His release date is scheduled for later this month. Valenti said the family won’t publicize who he is, because he may be innocent of the rape, but they don’t think the police have looked closely enough at him.

“The police say their leads don’t point to him, but I feel like they’ve done nothing,” Valenti said. “I’m scared for [the rape victim] and I’m scared for women in this community.”

The victim was raped and beaten in an alley behind Baba’s Restaurant, 5613 W. Chicago, on the night of Sept. 16, 2008. The suspect punched, choked and bit the girl on the jaw. He also had a knife during the attack. The girl’s attacker fled from the scene after and the victim was able to walk to the street before collapsing.

Two weeks after the attack, police released a suspect sketch. The offender was described as a 130-pound black male, 5-feet-9, and 19-20 years old. Valenti said the family is still pushing the police to pursue all leads, including their person-of-interest.