When my post about my sexual assault on Muni and my subsequent experience with SFPD gained traction (starting with lots of RTs to the link and ending with posts on SFist and SFGate), I was glad. Some of the comments were hard to stomach, but by and large I recieved and outpouring of support and empathy that made me feel less alone. I thought it was important to see how many women replied with some horrific version of, "This happened to me, too." And if it meant one more person might report their own assault, then even better. I expected people to say that I was making ado about nothing or that I should have done X, Y and Z to avoid being groped by a stranger on the bus or that I was wasting the police force's time. What I did not expect was two suited inspectors from the Special Victims Unit at my front door one day after reporting to them my sexual assault on Muni.
Let me back up.
I was headed out the door to go bike shopping when I saw an alert from Facebook saying I had a private message. I opened the message to see that it was from a former colleague at NBC Bay Area. It said, "The SFPD called here looking for you. They said you are not in trouble but that they want to talk to you. I don't know how they know you used to work here." She did not feel comfortable giving out my contact information and instead sent that Facebook message along. It included a phone number.
I looked down at my phone to see I'd missed two calls from two blocked numbers, and that I had two unheard voice messages. One was from an inspector with the SFPD SVU, and they other one was, too. They wanted me to call them. I did, but got no reply.
I then dialed the number given to me in the Facebook message and spoke to a nice man who said he was in media relations and that they'd read the blog post and did I mind if he hung up and had SVU call me directly? I said I did not mind.
While waiting for the return call the doorbell rang. It was two inspectors from the Special Victims Unit in suits carrying briefcases. They were there to interview me about the 9-San Bruno bus groping.
I was a little taken aback to see them at the front door. Obviously, I invited them in and they began a recorded interview with me, a very thorough one, about what happened on the bus and where and what time and did I think I could remember what he looked like enough to be sketched. I said no.
These gentlemen were very respectful and professional and stayed asking me questions for 15-20 minutes. At the end they asked if I had any questions for them.
"I guess my only question is 'why are you here?' The man I spoke with yesterday made it sound like nothing would happen."
"I'm going to tell you what happens," one of the inspectors said, "but we're going to end the interview." And he turned the recorder off.
He told me more specifically about how the case would be handled and how they are going try to find video from the bus, if it's available. They also managed my expectations respectfully, telling me that the odds that he would be arrested are slim, but that now they have probable cause.
They never addressed the blog post, though they did say, "we read your tweets." I'm not sure if every woman who reports a groping gets a house call, but I got the distinct feeling that the tweets might have had something to do with mine.
After showing the inspectors out, I returned to my laptop to find this comment on the blog post about the assault and the police report from San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr:
I am sorry to hear about your experience at our district station. We regret the traumatic and humiliating experience you underwent, and we agree that your encounter with the station counter officer could have and should have been handled differently. The SFPD prides itself on treating sexual assault and battery victims with concern and sympathy. The experience you have described is not to the level of service that SFPD is known for.
I was heartened by the message and felt much more at ease about how my local officers are trained to handle cases like mine. But I'd be lying if I didn't say I felt pretty overwhelmed by all the phone calls and voicemails and the house call.
My brain began to ask the question it had been asking since the beginning: Am I making too big a deal out of this? But all I had to do was recall the sensation of the violation and remember that I was only telling my story to know that no, I wasn't making too big a deal out of this.
I'll be honest, before I was groped on the bus I thought flashings and rubbings and grabbings on crowded subways were terrible things, but until I experienced it myself I did not know the real emotional trauma that can occur. The statistics about how many women have one time been molested or raped are ridiculously high; having some asshole grab your crotch can make a victim relive that all over again. Previously victimized or not, I now know that being assaulted in that manner by a stranger is a monsterous thing. I never expected it to feel so awful, but of course, I also never expected it. I admit I didn't go around steeling myself to an eventual groping. Though I do now, at least for the time being.
I want to say I'm impressed with the SFPD's response to my crime. They wanted to make it right, and for me they did. I do hope the same can be said for other women who experience the same thing , those who might not have what happened to them re-tweeted.