day 13: disbelief: my experience with the NYPD

Friday, 3/18/2016

When I stumbled into the police station that morning I was fading fast.

I wonder if I’ll ever get over the fact that there was a police station on the same street as the bar that I left that night; within blocks of the apartment that I was taken to.

Survival instincts are fascinating. After he threw me into the street, threw my shoes and bag at me, and shut the door to his building, I remember laying on that concrete, breathing a sigh of relief for freedom, and closing my eyes for just a few seconds. I was so tired. I likely would have gone to sleep right there on that rainy street had I not been glaringly aware of the fact that my friend was still gone.  

Once I got up off the ground, I stumbled, yelling my friend’s name, until I made my way back to the bar of origin. I don't remember how I figured out where that was or even what it was called. At this point, it had been almost 12 hours since my friend and I left my apartment to go to dinner. The bouncer told me that she’d tripped on her way outside to look for me, face planted, and the friend of apartment guy picked her up in a cradle and put her in a cab. A few minutes later I was escorted out by apartment guy “like a dead fish.” 

Five months after my attack, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the “It’s On Us” campaign. I'm so grateful for it. While it seems obvious to me that men should step in if they see something fishy going on, this is a re-education for a lot of people. I don’t say that condescendingly, but with full awareness of what rape culture in this country is. My friend who picked me up later that morning told me that it was very obvious to anyone with a pulse that I was off. Not drunk. Off. But nobody stepped in to ask if I was okay. In fact, at least one person, the bouncer, saw that I resembled a “dead fish,” needing to be propped up against a wall to stand, and just let me go. 

Confession: I feel this [I know, unnecessary] need to justify myself every time I tell this part of the story. To justify why I remember certain things, like my encounter with the police, so vividly. Except that there is no justification. I don’t know why. To try and come up with an answer would be useless. Being drugged is a jarring experience. Pieces of that night are completely black, other pieces are blurry, some are flashes, and then there are a couple of very clear moments. When people ask about it, it can often become, “Well if you were drugged, how do you remember that but you don’t remember this?” I don’t know. I just don’t. I wonder the same thing, but why is that even a question that people ask? 

I’ve read through my friend’s and my texts from that night a hundred times. I’ve tried to piece it together. To make sense of a timeline. To figure out how this happened. I have racked my brain and I’ve racked her brain. Neither of us know. Her memory goes dark about two hours before mine because she passed out and proceeded to sleep for hours. I’ve been told that I have more memory because I didn’t sleep until I got to the hospital. How much I believe that logic is questionable, but it’s vaguely comforting, so I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

The door to the police station weighed about 50 million pounds. There was a female cop and two male cops that I remember. Male cop A was older, balding, tall, and kinda fat (if I’m honest.) Male cop B was young. 

“My friend is missing. I went to look for her and she wasn’t there and something bad happened to me and she’s gone.” 

Female cop: “Is she over 18?" 

"Yes"

Female cop: "How long ago did you last see her?” 

“I don’t know."

Female cop: “Has it been 24 hours?” 

“No. No, not 24.” 

Female cop: “Well, there’s nothing we can do to help you until she’s been missing for 24 hours.” 

“No you don’t understand. She’s never been to New York. She wouldn’t just leave me. Something bad happened.” 

Female cop: “Ma’am, as I said, there’s nothing we can do until she’s been missing for 24 hours. Go home.” 

I grew panicky and started to cry almost uncontrollably. Male cop A stepped in and told me to please calm down. I said something to the effect of, “I can’t calm down. You’re not listening to me. She’s never even been to New York. She wouldn’t just leave me because she will have no idea where she is or how to get home. Her phone is off. I went looking for her and something bad happened when I went where he said she was, please.” 

Male cop A: “Where did you go to look for her?” 

“An apartment” 

Male cop A: “Where?” 

“I don’t know. Somewhere close. I walked here.” 

Male cop A: “With who?” 

“I don’t know him. He said she was there. But she wasn’t and when I tried to leave he - they, wouldn’t let me.” 

 Male cop B: “Ma’am what’s your name?” 

“Becky"

Male cop B: “How old are you?” 

“23.” 

As he’s about to say something else, Male cop A stops him. 

Male cop A: “Becky, is it?"

“Yes."

Male cop A: “Becky - you’re a 23 year old grown woman, slurring her words, with a hickey on her neck. Go home and take responsibility for your actions.” 

I hadn’t looked in a mirror. I didn’t know I had a hickey. It was like being punched in the stomach. In that moment, I felt like I was stripped bare and attacked all over again. I caught my breath, turned around, and left; completely ashamed. Male cop B looked at me with such pity in his eyes I wanted to vomit. Male cop A just gestured for me to leave while he shook his head and muttered something under his breath. If any part of this experience has been the most difficult to shake, it was his words. “Take responsibility for your actions."

I did go home. When I got there and my friend wasn’t there, I called the police again. I didn’t know what else to do.

Two officers showed up at my door - one female and one male. 

This time it was the female officer that met me with the gut punch: 

“Ma’am if what you’re saying is true, and your memory is so foggy, the only explanation for that would be that you were drugged. But if you were drugged, it would be impossible for you to hold a coherent conversation with me right now (which is actually not true dependent on which drug was used.) I think you probably just had too much to drink. Your friend will turn up and you’ll both laugh about this whole thing over dinner.” 

By the time the SVU detectives arrived to the hospital, I was more human - fluids and some sleep will do that to you. They asked me a million questions and they asked them over and over again. They repeated the same questions, asked me in a timeline order, then out of order, and circled back again. They wanted to know if I’d ever had a one night stand before. Had I ever reported sexual assault on another occasion? How much did I have to drink? Did I do drugs? Had I ever done drugs? Did I remember saying no? Was I sure I’d said no? What was I wearing? How long did I talk to the subject?

Listen, I know that due to a flawed judicial system that those officers do not control, they had to go about it this way. After all, this is, they explained to me in no uncertain terms, how it would go down in court.  

Because my recollection was so foggy, because I’d been drinking, because my past wasn’t perfect, because I went willingly, and because there were three people in that apartment and two would say everything that happened was consensual, my case would be difficult to prosecute - if they even found the guys. If my drug test came back and the drugs had already worked their way out of my system, it would be even harder, despite the fact that the rape kit showed signs of sexual assault and physical violence, and that they were able to obtain DNA. It could take up to a year to get to trial, and the defense would rip me apart because of my past (which isn’t truly that much to write home about.) I declined to move ahead. Somehow I wound up feeling like I’d done something wrong.

Hating the police is a popular attitude these days. “F**k the po-lice” and all that. I see videos of the police all the time that disgust me and make me sick to my stomach. I also know that the majority of the police are good. I often wonder if the many people who so vehemently hate the police have never actually had their own negative interaction with the them. 

An internal affairs investigation was supposed to be launched in regards to the officers that I encountered at the police precinct. The call never came. I could hate the police if I wanted to, and with good reason. And for a while I did.

But I decided a while ago that hating them served no one. They didn’t know I hated them - the only person who felt that horrible fire burning deep within me, was me. The only person forced to face the ramifications of that fire, was me. Also, as a Christian, I’m called to respect those in authority over me. Romans 13 is pretty clear on that. 

     Romans 13: New International Version (NIV)
Submission to Governing Authorities
 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good

But this is also where it gets tricky for me. Because according to the above, in my situation, the police didn’t do what they were called to do: serve for my good. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter. I’m not responsible for their actions or consequences for those actions. I’m responsible for mine. Their failure to fulfill the call on their lives, can’t be used an excuse for me to be disobedient. 

Also, hating the police would be a waste of time and energy. What would it accomplish? 

Romans 13: The Message (MSG)
11-14 But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! 

That night did end. Dawn did break. And I’ve got bigger fish to fry than hating the police. I'm on earth for a limited time (let’s be real, we’ve all got our expiration date) with a purpose in mind. And I highly doubt that hating the police is that purpose. I don’t want to fritter away my time. 

In my big and grand dreams of what I ARISE could do as an activist organization, I have four initiatives that I would love to pioneer. Police response and protocol to situations involving sexual assault is at the top of that list. Instead of hating the police, I want to get to know them. I want to be a friend and a partner of the police. [“I get by with a little help from my friends…” and all that.]

I think there needs to be massive reform and re-education, and I want to be on the front lines of that movement. But in order to do so, I need to learn, and I can’t do that with bitterness in my heart. I want to learn and understand exactly what police officers are taught about sexual assault and how they are instructed to work in those situations. And then I want to help them be better. Just like I want my friends to help me be better. 

I mean can you imagine being a police officer? The stuff they must see every day? Especially in New York City. It’s no wonder that jadedness takes over sometimes. But that doesn’t mean it should. If officers, or just the general population for that matter, viewed the women who report sexual assault the way they would view their wives, sisters, daughters, or mothers, I think the general attitude would change. If there was education on the statistics, on just how common sexual assault and sexual violence is, maybe it wouldn’t be so quickly cast aside. If people weren't judged by their past, but viewed as survivors, the ability to listen and hear the truth could increase. If there was re-education in place to teach that rape is not just the lady grabbed in an ally at knifepoint, but also the girlfriend or wife that says no and is forced against her will, the girl who is drugged and seems to “willingly” leave with someone she doesn’t know, the drunk girl who passes out and is used while unconscious, and the consenting participant who changes her mind at the last second to no avail, not only might there be a real desire for change, but the actual response itself could shift. 

I know the statistics. I’ve quoted some of them on this blog. I know that it’s bigger than just re-education and reform. But we’ve got to start somewhere. Small change encourages big change.

That may seem naive, but nobody ever accomplished anything by not trying because it seemed naive. And nobody ever changed anything by focusing on hate.

I won’t hate the men and women who have bravely vowed to protect the citizens of this country and I won’t support people that do. I won’t respond to my own experience with the police by inciting negativity towards them. I won’t participate in discussions fueled by anger and hate. I won’t encourage people to act out against the police or disrespect their authority. I won’t do any of these things, because my experience with the police is a part of a greater, collective experience. And I won’t allow that experience to perpetuate any more negative experiences. 

But I will allow it to positively change the world. 

                            Dawn always breaks 

                            Dawn always breaks