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A few weeks ago, many of you read and responded to my article detailing being sexually assaulted by a cab driver in September of 2010. Since that article was published, I've been flooded with kind words of support from friends and strangers alike.
Furthermore, comments and messages from other New York women detailing eerily similar attacks confirmed Emily and my suspicions that we are not alone -- this man is a serial sexual predator.
This knowledge, combined with your words of encouragement, gave me the strength finally report the assault and try to catch this fucker.
By pulling old credit card statements (thank you to the readers who suggested this), I found the record of the transaction (as you may remember I paid for the cab ride -- an embarrassment that may ultimately prove quite useful) and obtained the cab number, the name of the cab company, and the exact time and location of the pickup and dropoff.
First, I tried to call the cab company; they refused to give me the driver’s name. Then, after calling various police numbers and the NYC Sexual Assault hotline, I was told my best bet would be to file a report in person at the precinct closest to where he picked me up. Emily (who is even lovelier in person) offered to come with me.
So last Friday morning, hours before the news of the Sandy Hook shootings threw a dark cloud over America, Emily and I met and marched to the police station, nervous yet somewhat naively excited by the prospect of catching this guy. Hopeful that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, dreaming that our writing is capable of more than inciting inspiration or laughter in our readers -- that our words might actually help catch a sexual predator.
Let's just say December 14th, 2012 won't be remembered as the most uplifting day of my life.
I got a drinking ticket in my late teens (okay fine, two -- I successfully completed the First Offender's Program in two different states), but that's my closest to a run-in with the law. I've never been inside a police precinct before. It was sparsely decorated with photos of important law officials on the walls and the air held a hospital-like coldness.
While waiting to be seen, our backs against chilly plastic chairs, Emily and I got in a few nervous laughs. We shared our difficulty in deciding what outfit to wear. (She was worried that all her skirts were too short, I was worried I looked like Prince in my purple blazer and silk scarf.) A group of male cops emerged from the elevator bitching about how the cupcakes were stale. Emily showed me photos of her beautiful son. A cute cop with dreadlocks smiled at us and we dubbed him Officer Smiley.
Then I was called up to the counter.
Right there in the lobby, in vocal range of the rest of the room, a stern policewoman with her hair in a tight bun began to question me. It didn't seem she was taking an actual report, rather gathering basic information. I tried to get in as many details as I could -- recount the story, show her my credit card records, but I was continuously interrupted with interjections such as:
"Why did you wait so long to report this? I really wish you reported this when it happened.”
"What do you expect to accomplish by coming here?"
"I assume you were drinking the night before."
Emily started to cry watching me lean over the counter, overhearing the conversation.
I don't know what I expected, perhaps some female empathy? She didn't want to take down the cab number, because, "I have six friends that are cab drivers and they drive different cabs all the time; that number doesn't mean anything," and, "You're reporting it too late, any evidence will be gone." She made me feel horrible for waiting so long to report it. She made me feel like a criminal, rather than a victim.
If you're wondering why survivors of sexual assault don't want to report it, this is why.
Not only do you just want to move on with your life and leave the emotional trauma behind, not only do you worry that maybe the attack was your fault, but also you're scared of exactly this happening when you actually report it.
What if the police don't take you seriously? What if they can't catch him? What if they do catch him and you're forced to face your attacker? What if he gets away?
Perhaps the cop has never personally experienced sexual assault, or perhaps she's been raped multiple times. Perhaps during her time on the police force she's heard so many horror stories that a skinny white girl dressed in a purple velvet blazer and Michael Kors glasses demanding justice for being felt up by a cab driver over two years ago did seem rather annoying and unimportant.
I know she wasn't even listening to me, because when I was told to go sit back down I overheard her phone conversation with SVU, who she called to see if they were interested in the case. She told them multiple times that "it was a probably a gypsy cab" when I explicitly told her it was a yellow cab and even tried multiple times to give her the cab number. She also repeatedly added, "She’s here with her editor!"
The closest she came to displaying sympathy was after I answered her question, "Where did he touch you?" She made eye contact and replied, "I understand there's a lot of creeps out there."
After waiting a bit, I was seen by another female cop who filed the report, had a much softer demeanor and actually listened to me. She took a copy of my ID, and slowly asked me question after question, gathering all possible information, including the details the former cop ignored: the cab number, cab company, his description, and the exact time and locations of my pickup and dropoff.
When she was finished taking the report, I was given the name and a phone number of a SVU detective who I will be meeting with later this week. From our one brief interaction on the phone, he seemed quite nice, actually. My delusions have been shattered enough not to expect the empathy of Olivia Benson or the determination of Elliot Stabler, but not all hope is yet lost. After meeting with him, I will update you as I can.
I didn't finally report this just for me -- it was for you, it was for all of us. We’re in it together.
I realize if you're recovering from a sexual assault, after reading this the last thing you're going to want to do is go to the police. But we have to. Most of the shit the cops gave me was for waiting so long to report it, so go -- the earlier the better. Give them no excuse not to take you seriously.
Because we must do everything in our power to catch and stop sexual predators, we can't let this shit slide. And to the police: When we finally find the courage to come to you with our story looking for help, if you treat us coldly and unkindly, we won't let that shit slide either.