In support of San Francisco survivors of sexual assault, a response to ‘Emily Doe’

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu — May all beings everywhere be happy and free, may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” explains ‘Emily Doe’ the rape victim in the Brock Turner, former Stanford University freshman star swimmer, case. Read the story here.

Millions of women in the United States have experienced rape. Sexual violence has long term effects. 94% experience post-traumatic stress disorder and 13% attempt suicide. 38% of sexual assault victims experience work or school problems. 37% experience friend/family problems, including getting into more arguments, not being able to trust their friends/family, or not feeling as close to them as before the crime. — RAINN

‘Emily Doe’ is not alone. In February of 2010 I found myself at the San Francisco General Hospital preparing for a sexual assault medical evidentiary exam. It was a Wednesday morning. Rather than being in my graduate school class I found myself standing naked while sexual assault nurses held rulers to and photographed various abrasions on my body, swabbed my anus and vagina for DNA tests, and gave me ‘rape kit’ SAEK pills. The nurses were kind but the exam was detailed, long, and embarrassing. I called my professor to inform her that I’d be missing class and spending the day in the hospital. After the six hour medical intake exam I had a profound feeling of not wanting my body anymore.

In December of 2009, I moved to the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco to work on my graduate degree at the Academy of Art University in Advertising. Two years prior I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of California, Davis with a double major. I was a young, ambitious and excited 26-year-old pursuing my dream to be a creative director at an advertising firm one day. The day I met my attacker I was taking photographs for a class assignment. He introduced himself to me as Ryan (alias name), told me he had lived in the city for many years, owned his own business, and wanted to share insight over a drink sometime soon. He would text me and a month later we hung out.

The morning after I saw him I called the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network RAINN hotline. I felt devastated, sick, abused, and my body was trembling with fear. I checked myself into the San Francisco General ER and was there for seven hours. Next I drove myself home and went straight to bed. The next morning, my car was towed by SFMTA. I fell onto my knees sobbing in the middle of the sidewalk on Lombard Street where my car use to be. I called 911 and the dispatcher could hardly understand me bc I was crying so deeply. She told me to take a taxi to the tow yard, pay the $640 fine and drive my car to the hospital. I walked into the emergency room for a second time and told the receptionist that I wanted to die. I had an allergic reaction to the ‘rape kit’ medication, pain radiated through my body and my hands shook. I lost feeling in my body, my vision blurred and I was hyperventilating. The nurse came out from the ER and walked me to a bed. I was hooked to an IV and given a benzodiazepine sedative.

I was not found by two rescuer students behind a dumpster as my rapist took advantage of me like ‘Emily Doe’ — I was behind closed doors and trapped in the privacy of Ryan’s lavish home in the city. I remember being cornered, violently shouting ‘NO’, shoving my knee into his chest, screaming, pushing his shoulders away and kicking him away from me. Ryan didn’t care; he thought my body was his to steal. Trapped by his comparatively heavy build, I detached from body as he violated and penetrated me. He raped me twice. My voice was gone and I was shivering in fear while he hugged me tightly to his chest.

In Pastor John Pavlovitz’s open letter, To Brock Turner’s Father, From Another Father, he describes “If his life (Brock Turner) has been “deeply altered” it is because he has horribly altered another human being; because he made a reprehensible choice to take advantage of someone for his own pleasure. This young woman will be dealing with this for far longer than the embarrassingly short six months your son is being penalized. She will endure the unthinkable trauma of his “20 minutes of action” for the duration of her lifetime, and the fact that you seem unaware of this fact is exactly why we have a problem.”
(06/12/2016) Stanford students and rights activists demonstrated outraged about California Judge Aaron Persky’s light conviction on the Brock Turner case. I cried this morning when I heard about the powerful proclamation at the Stanford University Graduation ceremony yesterday, “PROTECT SURVIVORS NOT RAPISTS.

For the next 10 months I was seen by a counselor and a psychiatrist at the UCSF Trauma Recovery Center, Rape Treatment Center. For the first few months I would go to the clinic two times a week. I was diagnosed with PTSD and Depression. The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) paid for my counseling at the TRC because I was classified as a victim of a sexual assault crime.

I did not have a great support system after the rape. When I finally had enough courage to tell my father about it he shamed me for what happened. He said it was my fault because I trusted him. While on a phone call with my boyfriend’s mother she told me I was not allowed into or near her house and informed me that I cannot be with her son anymore. We’d been together for 4 years and I asked him to stand-up to his mom but he could not. After this, I felt that my life amounted to nothing, that my existence was pointless and I wanted to die. I drove myself to the Golden Gate Bridge at midnight and planned to jump. I walked on the empty pedestrian path to the first tower. As the fog swept through the railing, I thought I saw two wolves approaching me in the distance. The color of their silver fur and their blue-eyes unnerved me. I felt as if they were coming after me. I did not know what to do so I ran. It turns out I was hallucinating in addition to feeling pathetic and empty. The next day I was admitted into a suicide prevention nursing facility in the SoMa neighborhood in San Francisco.

Unfortunately when I went back home, Ryan lived in my neighborhood so my recovery environment wasn’t ideal as I was exposed to painful traumatic stimuli. Like a nightmare I would see him unexpectedly everywhere — driving his 911 Porsche or socializing. Ryan was charming, sophisticated (or at least pretended to be) and significantly older than me. I remember running into the nearest ladies room to hide in a stall after I would see him. I hyperventilated and sobbed because he was free. I felt my voice had no power after the SFPD closed the case; there were no legal consequences for his actions. Raping me was his way of validating a false sense of masculinity and entitlement within himself. He was a lier and so disgusting to me.

After the detective interviewed Ryan at the 850 Bryant Police Station he told me the D.A. closed the case. He proceeded to ask me: “If Ryan would have bought you roses and a plane ticket to Paris would you still call it rape?” He nullified my voice with a single question and a deep feeling of hopelessness overcame me. Perhaps he was just testing my reaction…but his patronizing question infuriated me. For months after I battled with depression and medicated my racing thoughts and hypervigilance with alcohol abuse. I ended up flunking one of my grad school classes and my competency to produce industry-level portfolio work for my future career suffered…

Golden Gate Bridge Structure (http://goldengatebridge.org/)

The PTSD, the isolation, the binge-drinking to medicate, the loss of close friendships, and the shame I felt contributed to me forgetting who I was and assuming a new identity. In 2011 I started engaging in risky life-threatening behavior. Essentially, I became numb to how society viewed me. I felt that if I could be screwed over this much why does anything matter? Existence felt purposeful-less. After two ER visits, the ‘rape kit’, the suicide attempts, the pretext phone call, and the 10 months of counseling at UCSF Rape Crisis Treatment Center… there was not enough evidence to put Ryan in jail because he said it was consensual? I was furious. Yet at the same time I devalued my feelings because I saw how easy it was for the rapist to get away with it.

I graduated with a Masters in Fine Art in Advertising in May 2012. I accrued a $211,000 student loan debt from the Academy of Art University a.k.a The Black Arts coined by Forbes Magazine. My SFPD Investigative Officer admitted he had feelings for me a month after I graduated. I applied to a hundreds of entry-level jobs and internships in my field but I guess my portfolio wasn’t strong enough in one way or another. As a joke to get through the rejection, I imagined creating a huge wall-to-ceiling art instillation with resumes, cover letters, emails, and portfolio work with a gigantic red X. Everything felt exceptionally absurd and heartbreaking; I had a deep confusion about life and the justice of it.

Not having the judicial department’s support to prosecute the rapist deeply disappointed me and made me feel empty for years. Now it inspires me to be more courageous and to be a social activist. In the Summer of 2015, I completed a 300-hr Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Certification and am interested in teaching yoga to survivors so that they may transform the debilitating effects of PTSD into healthy energy and a productive life.

I signed the Change.org petition to help Cosby survivors turn trauma into triumph for recent and future victims of rape and abolish California’s statute of limitations. I support RAINN’s It’s On Us to be involved with the new campaign to fight sexual violence on campus. And, today I am starting the application process for the RAINN Speakers Bureau, which is made up of more than 1,500 survivors of sexual violence who volunteer to share their stories.

Thank you for reading. And, thank you to Medium publishing platform for empowering new writers to have a voice.,

Whitney


  • City Attorney, Dennis J. Herrera, and the City of San Francisco are suing the Academy of Art University for the widespread, longstanding, and blatant disregard for the San Francisco Planning Code. Click here for the KQED news article. The lawsuit describes how the Academy ignores the needs of San Francisco as a whole and in addition the needs of current students and alumnus. On May 25, 2016, I wrote an email to Attorney Herrera’s secretary thanking him for his work and letting him know I would like to be involved.
  • The more rapes that are brought to light the less taboo they are. Only 8% of rapes go to trial according to statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. To both reduce rape and bring more rapists to justice, an ongoing cultural conversation is needed.

Originally published at medium.com.