#MeToo and This is What Happened When I tried to Work with the San Francisco Police
working with the police after being raped was a nightmare and it came back to haunt me 23 years later…I found out I was not alone.
*trigger warning — this story discusses rape and sexual violence
Is there anyone who is surprised by the violent, demeaning, and abusive sexual actions against women by powerful men? Every woman in America knows this story. It doesn’t take power and influence to abuse or rape a woman, it only requires living in a society where rape is legal. Welcome to America.
I was raped by a stranger at knife point in 1993. He walked into the office where I worked threatened me with a knife and a gun and forced me into an empty room. He wore a disguise, but he didn’t have to. The police already knew who he was. Despite trying to fight and reason with him he raped me. He ran out of the building, a witness said he ran down the street and around the corner with a gun drawn. In his imagination someone (the authorities in particular) would chase him down the road, apprehend him, arrest him, convict him, put him in jail. IN HIS IMAGINATION. In reality he was bold because he knew — no one cares if you rape a woman whether you are a scumbag stranger like this guy, a messed up husband or partner, a frat boy, a comedian, a Holly Wood mogul, a president.
November 2016 — twenty-three years after being raped, my phone rings. It was just a few days before Thanksgiving. It was a detective from the San Francisco police department informing me that there was a positive DNA match on my untested rape kit from 1993.
I had been optimistic about society, women’s freedom, and the legal system. I cooperated with the police and believed them when they told me I’d ruined my testimony because I didn’t pick the rapist out of hundreds of pictures of mug shots. I believed them. We were on the same team. Right? Wrong. The truth (I would find out 23 years later) was that the police knew all along who raped me. They had a trail of cases with the same MO. They said I ruined the case because his picture was in that pile and they knew it. They closed the case after 1 month — I can’t understand why since they had him as a suspect. I don’t know why because less than a year later he was convicted of raping a woman the same way in a nearby city.
All the time we hear that women are so traumatized they just don’t want to go to the police. We hear they are shamed and don’t come forward. Guess again. Another myth, a smoke screen for the law enforcement officers who literally throw away, bury, hide, and alter evidence. I know. I spent all of last year interviewing rape survivors from all over the country. I know because it happened to me.
November 2016 — twenty-three years after being raped, my phone rings. It was just a few days before Thanksgiving. It was a detective from the San Francisco police department informing me that there was a positive DNA match on my untested rape kit from 1993. The man was a serial rapist convicted once of the same crime, served 5 months in federal prison, raped again and again…and now — wait for it — is out free. From what I understand he is married, has four children and volunteers for his son’s football team. Who? What? This serial rapist who breaks into buildings wearing a disguise and carrying weapons. Yes my friends. Guess what? The new DNA data tells us that rapists have many faces and modus operandi. At home they beat their partners, they date rape, they serial rape. We know that these categories that we have historically put men who rape into are completely false. It’s like a drug addict trying out different ways to get high. Oh wait, no it’s not. Drug addicts go to jail. Rapists don’t.
ME: Yes officer I will cooperate.
SFPD OFFICER: You may want time to think about it. Many victims don’t want to rehash all of this.
ME: I always wanted to prosecute. I always cooperated.
SFPD OFFICER:There’s one problem. We lost all of your police records.
ME: Except the rape kit?
SFPD OFFICER:Except the rape kit.
ME: Except the 23 year old rape kit?
SFPD OFFICER:Except the 23 year old rape kit.
ME: Wow. That’s weird.
SFPD OFFICER: Yeah but it happens.
No. no. no. It’s not weird. I would come to find out that it’s anything but weird. Hiding, removing, altering evidence in a rape victims file is STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, at least in San Francisco. I’ve also spoken to women in Chicago, Colorado, Oregon, and Massachusetts. But really my expertise is in the complete corruption of the San Francisco police.
Let me stop here for a moment. I need to explain the very convoluted legal labyrinth of California legal statutes when it comes to prosecuting rape. At least until 2018. things have changed now that the statute of limitations has been lifted (Thanks Brock Turner and Bill Cosby — although each are leading a comfortable life of freedom like the man who raped me…rape cases won’t go to trial anyway so why not lift the statute of limitations? Even if they do, it doesn’t matter…) But I digress….
But really my expertise is in the complete corruption of the San Francisco police.
I hope this simple checklist (based on my experience) will help understand the process for prosecuting a rape in San Francisco.
(1) You report rape to the police directly after assault — [X]
(2) Believe (or not) the male officer will tell you that they would have caught the suspect if you hadn’t requested a female officer. Believe it and move on— [X] (note: don’t ask them why they didn’t send a male officer to pursue the rapist)
(3) File a report with the female officer. Say yes when she explains that she “has to write” that you only engaged in the rape because you“feared for your life.” notice she writes that four times in the two page report. “the victim complied with his wishes because she feared for her life.” — [X]
(4) Be transported in a police car to the hospital for a rape kit — [X]
(5) Undergo a rape kit with no advocate and take home a piece of paper that describes some feelings you may have after the rape (BTW these feelings are normal)— [X]
(6) Receive a phone call at home from the stranger / rapist calling to see if you are home after the rape— [X]
(7) Cooperate with the police and sketch artist. Tell the sketch artist that the picture he has drawn looks like an African American and the man who raped you was white — [X]
(8) Receive a call from the police saying a man was picked up but they had to release him because he was black — [X]
(9) walk by yourself into the large police station building down town, up the stairs and into a small room where a female detective shows you photo albums full of pictures of convicted rapists. Think to yourself on the bus home how much rapists look like rapists — [X]
(10) After one month go to the police station, have the detective tell you they know who raped you and that he’s done the same EXACT thing to 6 other women. Believe her when she says “we’re going to get this sick puppy.” Believe her when she says the case rests on your picking the man out of six pictures she lays in front of you. Never mind he wore a disguise. When you tell her you don’t want to falsely accuse anyone, accept her impatience and blame when she tells you she’s closing the case and that you’ve tainted the evidence — [X]
(11) Give up. Go on with life branded as a victim of rape. Be grouped with other survivors who never got justice and the pat explanation that survivors are too afraid to come forward — Get triggered when you read the news or go into a building alone. Get married. Have kids. Work on your career. your writing. Try to make the world a better place. — [X]
(12) Wait 23 years — [X]
(13) Get a call from the SFPD telling you that they finally got around to testing your rape kit from 1993. Good news! They found the rapist. — [X]
(14) Finally let yourself feel hopeful that there will be justice. Imagine yourself protecting and saving other women. Fantasize about justice. Agree to do what ever it takes to prosecute, even if it causes you great distress — [X]
(15) Spend a few days day dreaming about the court scene where you look him in the face and impart a moving testimony and justice. Prove to the world how good you are and how much courage you have — [X]
(16) Get to work. Talk with the police. Cooperate. The police will ask you to recount the rape many times even 23 year later. The detective will question you again as to whether it was consensual. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
A — Were you in a relationship with this man?
B — Did you have consensual sex with anyone within 36 hours of the alleged rape (23 years ago)?
C — Will you agree to have your husband’s cheek swab to ascertain you were in a relationship.
(17) Receive a call saying that the SFPD can’t find your file. These things happen. When you ask how or why be ready for the police to tell you that your file was lost with the other rape files from the 80s and 90s. — [X] Accept this answer but begin to question whether the SFPD really cares if you were raped. — [X] Do a little research and find out that your rape kit was tested to get political pressure off the SFPD for not testing thousands of rape kits
(18) receive a call saying you can prosecute because CA law allows 1 year extension on statute of limitations with conclusive DNA evidence. YAY! — [X]
(19) but only if that evidence was tested before the statute of limitations…What? BOO! — [X]
(20) But you may be able to prosecute under the California 1 strike law because he used a weapon and held you against your wil. YAY! — [X]
(21) No you can’t the police officer tells you because he would have had to “cut your with the knife” “really harmed you” “kidnapped you or something like that.” BOO! wait, really? — [X]
(22) You call the DA. Really did he have to cut me with a knife? DA says absolutely not. There is no statute of limitations on rape when there is a weapon and rape. — YAY! [X]
(23) But the law went into effect 6 months after you were raped. so it would be ex de facto — no. I’m sorry BOO! — [X]
(24) You talk to lawyers, journalists, DA people, advocates — nobody really cares — [X]
(25) You finally ask for a picture of the man so you can have at least some control in this whole situation. The detective leaves you a nasty voice mail. “look it up yourself.” — [X]
(26) You spend a year talking to other survivors and you find:
A — a case where a Spanish speaking woman is arrested by the police when she reports rape by her partner. Her police file is “lost”.
B — a case where the police refuse to test the rape kit and told the survivor to stop calling.
C — several cases where the police were sexually inappropriate with the survivor.
D — Four cases where the SFPD raped women.
E — Two cases where the SFPD destroyed or hid the victim’s files.
F — Three cases where the victims were told that they were not harmed enough to prosecute (“needed to be beaten badly” or “had to be cut with a knife not just threatened with it”).
G — Four cases where the victim was told by the SFPD to call the rapist in a pretext call after which the officer spoke with the rapist themselves and determined the victim consented.
H — One woman raped by a police officer who then texted jokes about her to another cop before altering her police report.
This is REAL people.
You also find:
A — one woman who was given a polygraph after reporting a rape.
B — one woman who was asked by a cop if the rapist had brought her flowers and a ticket to paris would she still call it rape?
C — one woman survivor who was told to complete a suspect statement and read the miranda rights.
D — teenage girls sex trafficked by the police.
F —rapists going free even with videotaped evidence of drugging and assaulting an unconscious woman.
E — an abundance of cases where the police MAKE the law, not ENFORCE it. The result being that most women who report rape are silenced before there is ever a chance at justice.
So yes… #MeToo — nearly all of us women “too”. It’s a powerful collective voice with unprecedented attention on the issue. However, Let’s not not be shocked by the prevalence of rape and harassment any longer. Let’s not ask ourselves, “how could this happen?” “not Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Harvey Weinstein, Brock Turner, Jerry Sandusky, Kevin Spacey, Lewis C.K., Donald Trump, Roy Moore….” May this trend of reporting and speaking out continue, but let the message also be #ProsecuteHim so that the underbelly of attitudes against reporting and prosecuting rape are also subject to the same startling spotlight. Rape is so pandemic because it is legal and it is legal because of our legal and criminal justice system. I read that the LADA’s office is setting up a special “unit” to investigate the crimes by these high profile men like Harvey Weinstein. Give. Me. A. Break. A special unit. Why? Why not simply just use the criminal justice system we have. Is it so broken — as it was with me and the other women I spoke with — that the law itself is not enough to prosecute these criminals? If these men are being accused of these crimes press charges. But that would be too transparent.
May this trend of reporting and speaking out continue, but let the message also be #ProsecuteHim so that the underbelly of attitudes against reporting and prosecuting rape are also subject to the same startling spotlight.
A special unit is being proposed to investigate the high-profile rape and sexual assault cases because the existing laws are a joke. No matter how many stories surface it has not brought justice. Let’s not forget Bill Cosby who allegedly drugged and raped 60 (!) women was acquitted because of a “deadlock” jury and resulting mistrial. If getting away with rape is not enough, now Cosby is embarking on a series of “town hall” style workshops to teach young offenders how to avoid being accused of rape.