I was sexually assaulted in a Silicon Valley hacker house. Go to the police. Don’t trust your community to figure it out.

Lily 🌸
11 min readSep 29, 2022


I am a female startup founder in the Bay Area who underwent sexual assault in a startup house in 2021. After hearing about the recent sexual assault at Launch House, I wanted to share my story.

First, this was my experience with the police. I can’t guarantee my results will generalize to you. Going to the police for your rape/SA case is still taboo to talk about in some startup circles. I’d love to see more woman write about their experiences, so we can better understand the system.

Being sexually assaulted by a community member is a confusing and painful experience. Many women don’t go to the police out of fear of retaliation from their community, not being able to successfully fundraise for their startup, pessimism about the police, gaslighting, minimizing, feelings of empathy for the rapist, brainwashing by the rapist’s friends, or ideas like “transformative/restorative justice.”

In some Bay Area communities, there is a fashion for a third party to mediate between the perpetrator and victim. I tried third-party mediation at first, mistakenly thinking that the police and justice system were barbaric, untrustworthy, and retraumatizing. I could not have been more wrong.

My biggest takeaway is to file a police report.

I am now convinced that if every woman filed a police report immediately after the assault, the Bay Area would look like a different place. No guy wants a police officer showing up at their door. I think that frequent and heavy police reporting would reduce the rate of sexual violence in the Bay.

I did not go to the police for a long time due to misconceptions. I grew up in a somewhat libertarian family who were suspicious of the police. I thought that the police would not listen to my claim and brush me aside, or that they would do the opposite, and immediately imprison my perpetrator. I was close to the perpetrator at the time, which added a layer of misplaced guilt. I was not sure I had enough evidence. My perpetrator had created around him a technocratic illusion of power, which at the time I forgot has no legal basis.

There is also a strong libertarian ethos in the Bay Area that tries to rederive systems, from the scientific to the moral. This particular group of startup founders, including myself, was neither informed about the police nor the law. Instead, they tried “community mediation,” which is common among many of the more tight-knit social communities in the Bay. This harmed far more than helped, and should be illegal. I’ll write about that later.

The police was the only party that had real incentive to help me. The startup house itself was completely unprepared to deal with my allegation, which caused great social upheaval. The dark underbelly of Silicon Valley is still latently, creepily male. Founders have strong financial and business ties to each other, and carefully guard their reputations. Both men and women hesitated to take actions that would alienate either me or the perpetrator, who had some financial and social power in their world.

Taking my allegations seriously would mean the destruction of their community; in contrast, the police had no ties to this community and therefore no conflict of interest. Their job is only to investigate and prosecute felonies.

It may sound strange, but I also did not file a police report because I did not know how. Did I just walk into the building? Did I have to call a number? Could I get in trouble in some way? Could my report be used against me in some way later? Which police station should I go to? What information would I have to disclose?

The uncertainty around a police report prevented me from filing it, until a good friend and survivor of sexual violence walked through her experience of filing a report. I ended up filing my report over a year after the assault. I recommend filing immediately, but filing eventually is better than never filing at all.

I’ll write about my experience here to normalize it and make it less scary.

Why file a police report?

Filing a police report creates a permanent record. Even if there is not enough evidence to prosecute your perpetrator, you are creating a record that future survivors can build upon. There are some cases of women filing police reports with no evidence beyond their word, but then multiple women filed after, and the police detained the perpetrator. Multiple independent reports about the same person become damning.

Filing a police report does not mean that you are obligated to prosecute. You actually have a lot of control over whether or not the police investigate the case. (Note: This is what the investigator told me, but talking some other heroic women who experienced SA, the police’s decision to prosecute may depend on factors like amount of evidence, immediacy, and severity. In my case, the police gave me the option, and said I could stop the investigation at any point.)

Filing a police report is actually less scary than you may think. People go to the police all the time: when their cat gets stuck in a tree, or a raccoon in their garage.

Filing a police report means that there exists a neutral, third-party record of your allegation. This shows intent on your behalf. This elevates your case above the damaging “he-said-she-said” gossip around many rape cases.

Many victims still feel a misplaced sense of shame about the assault, myself included, which can prevent them from going to the police. The startup community I was in tried to treat the sexual assault as an interpersonal conflict and mediate it away. This was a mistake. Sexual assault is a crime.

My process of filing a police report

I will try to describe my experience without identifying details. This account is about the Bay Area — I’m not sure it generalizes outside it.

There is a different police station for every district. It may not matter which police station you use in your city, because all complaints get sent to the Special Victims Unit which is the same department across my city. However, I recommend finding a police station that’s close to where to crime occurred.

You can either walk into the police station, or call the number for that station, and they’ll send an officer to your home. You can find the station’s number on the internet. Do whichever one you feel comfortable with. I reported mine at the station.

I walked into the police station and said that I wanted to report a sex crime. The officer at the window was not trauma-trained and looked surprised, but she quickly called an investigator, who would arrive in forty minutes. In the meantime, she had me fill out a report on a formal police report about the date, location, and event of the assault. She also scanned my driver’s license, but said that the report itself could be anonymous.

Writing down the assault is the worst part, because you have to recount the incident in anatomical detail. I likened the experience to getting a vaccine at the doctor’s office. Vaccines are painful, but necessary for your health. Obviously, sexual assault is much more serious than a vaccination, but this analogy helped me at the time.

After I wrote down the assault, the investigator arrived at the station and took me to a separate room. He was a white man, and acknowledged this when I sat down in a chair in his office. He gave the disclaimer that his questions may be awkward because he was a male police officer and I was female, but he needed to know certain details for policy.

He read the report I had just written, and asked me to recount the assault. This part was also the worst, but it was necessary. He asked me for context, plus details about the assault, including (content warning: detailed questions about sexual assault, no descriptions):

  • Dialogue before/after the assault
  • Where we physically were
  • How quickly the assault escalated
  • What positions we were in the room
  • Whether there was groping at any point
  • Order in which clothes were removed
  • Number of times you were penetrated and positions. Each new penetration is treated as a separate assault.
  • Whether and where the perpetrator finished

The officer was serious, calm, and professional about taking this explicit information. He said he’d write up another report and send it to the Special Victims Unit, which would continue the investigation.

The officer asked if I would like my report to be anonymous or not. I asked for anonymity.

I also brought with me a physical packet of information about the perpetrator, including any emails or texts that would support my case. I gave it to the investigator and emailed him a PDF copy.

Recounting the assault was painful in the moment, but I actually felt better upon leaving the station, knowing there was now a record.

To summarize

  1. The officer asked me the name, address, email, phone, birthday, race and approximate height and weight of your perpetrator.
  2. The officer took my driver’s license information, but said my report would be anonymous otherwise.
  3. The officer asked me to write the event(s) of the assault, including location, date, and event. The officer called an investigator.
  4. The investigator took me to a separate room, and verbally went over the details of the assault. This is the worst part, but it was worth it. He asked me specific, anatomical questions. The investigator was very professional.
  5. I emailed the investigator a packet of supporting documentation (optional).
  6. The investigator said the Special Victims Unit would follow up in a few days. Because my case happened awhile ago, there would probably be a delay. But if your case just happened, they could send an officer to your perpetrator’s house immediately.
  7. Four days later, the Special Victims Unit followed up and asked if I wanted to proceed with the investigation.
  8. If you say yes, and the SVU investigator finds sufficient evidence, they will take the case to the district.

Do not mediate with third parties

Many institutions and colleges set up their own HR departments to deal with sexual assault. Results varies on the case, but reporting to your institution is not always the best choice. The incentive of the institution is to protect itself, not you.

In some Bay Area communities, there is a fashion for a third party to mediate between the perpetrator and victim. I tried third-party mediation at first, mistakenly thinking that the police and justice system were barbaric, untrustworthy, and retraumatizing. I could not have been more wrong.

You can find the rationale behind third party mediation under words like “restorative justice” and “transformative justice,” as if the assaulter is simply a good and misguided person who made a mistake. Restorative justice means a third party mediator from that community talks to both parties, tries to find a higher understanding between them, and then recommends therapy or coaching for the perpetrator.

At first, restorative justice can sound enlightened. However, it is horribly mistaken.

Community mediators are usually members of the community, and so they already have a conflict of interest. There is no license to be a community mediator, so you are putting a random untrained person into a position of power. In the real justice system, judges and lawyers have decades of training, and they give information to a neutral jury.

When my allegations of sexual assault became public in that community, the rapist’s friends tried to protect him. They tried to brainwash me into covering up the incident, because publicity of his crimes would impact their startups, relationships to investors, reputations, and business partnerships. Brainwashing does not always look obvious. In my case, the rapist’s community and friends tried to portray my rapist as a sympathetic character, and me, the victim, as an impulsive and mentally ill person. They drew upon my misplaced feelings of empathy for the rapist as a way to “mediate the situation away.”

The community also put the rapist’s reputation as a startup founder as a higher priority than my safety/humanity. They claimed that I was ruining his life and reputation by making these allegations public. At the time, I felt guilty. One thing that helped me was realizing: I am not ruining his life. He made the decision to ruin his own life the moment he decided to rape me.

The incentive of my libertarian startup community was to preserve its harmony. They were not incentivized to believe me, or support narratives in my favor. They are also not in the position to truly judge the situation. We have the legal system for that. The justice system and neutral jury have been optimized for hundreds of years.

All this may sound incredibly obvious to someone who is familiar with the police. But as someone who once had Bay Area tech libertarian ethos, none of this was obvious at the time.

Do not use community mediation. You will create a gossip train and possibly lose friends. Go to the police.

If ideas from restorative justice appeal to you (e.g. engaging with your perpetrator), then take these actions after you go to the police.

Do not let sympathy for your rapist stop you

Many Bay Area rapists come from within tight-knit communities. The startup world relies on these dense networks for business deals and knowledge transfer. As a result, many women were once friends/lovers with their rapist before the assault occurred. Sympathy for the perpetrator has stopped many women from going to the police sooner. This sympathy can be played upon by the rapist’s friends and community in order to protect him.

I want to emphasize that the rapist is no longer your friend or lover (if this happened within a relationship) because they demonstrated that they were willing to damage and assault you.

At this point, do what is best for you, and not what is in their best interest, because they have hurt you, and you need immediate help, and eventually justice, for your situation.

The rapist may have done this to other women in the past, and/or will do this to other women in the future, especially if they get away with it this time. On average, someone who commits sexual assault will do so seven times.

Reporting Bay Area rapists to the police is an act of public service.

Hitting it home again: file a police report!

File a police report. I can’t say this enough.

If you’re a woman in the Bay and you’re assaulted, call the police immediately. If you file a police report immediately, then they will take you to the hospital where you can take a rape kit, which gets DNA evidence of your perpetrator.

If you call the police immediately, the station will send an officer directly to the house and the perpetrator will be arrested at the scene of the crime.

The victim will get sent to the hospital to make sure she’s ok. They will do rape kit testing, STD testing, plan B administration, and taking clothing/DNA evidence. All of this should happen immediately, because it takes one shower for the DNA evidence to disappear.

To reduce any daunt of going to the police, go with a friend. A friend suggested talking to Bay Area Women Against Rape, who will talk you through the process and give you extra witnessing to ensure the police are on their best behavior. After I went to the police, I had a trusted friend to confide in, and we DoorDashed crepes and debriefed on my experience. The emotional support made a huge difference.

Filing a police report costs you nothing. The police are kind, serious, and professional, and will take down your allegation. It creates a permanent record. You can choose whether you pursue it further. I found that my friends and community were ill-prepared to deal with my assault case. Go to the police.

Again, this was my personal experience with the police, and may not generalize. I’d love to bump up and retweet more Silicon Valley women documenting their sexual assault and police reporting experiences.

DM me on Twitter: @lilyhelpsheros

Thank you to the heroic women of Silicon Valley who read, edited, and contributed to this draft. ❤️