To tell my story as a date rape survivor and communicate my message in a way that can help the most people.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The recent ruling from the Ferguson MO Grand Jury pertaining to the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson has brought out a lot of emotion from the public. Most prominently centered is the subject of Justice. The family of Michael Brown did not receive the justice their son deserved. The police officer Darren Wilson and his family did by his not being charged with a crime. I will not reveal personal thoughts pertaining to the case because because for the purposes of this blog they are irrelevant. I can speak from personal experience how a victim and their family feels after not receiving justice.

In 2007 my rapist was put on trial for sexually assaulting 7 women. Although I was not included in the trial my statement and original charges were part of the case that brought Jeffrey Marsalis to Trial. He faced 37 charges to include Rape, Sexual Assault and Unlawful Imprisonment. Seven women got up and testified with nearly identical stories of having met Marsalis on, then on their date having been drugged and raped by him. It was a very strong circumstantial case that went on for 3 1/2 weeks with the jury deliberating for 5 days. They only came back with 2 guilty verdicts of sexual assault of 2 women. This was not justice. Although 7 women testified at trial there were many other victims like me who were not included in this case. We were devastated. 

Just as the family of Michael Brown believes their was enough evidence for Officer Darren Wilson to be charged I along with all of the other victims believed there was enough evidence for the jury to return guilty verdicts for all the charges in the Marsalis case. I can say from personal experience that you feel helpless and angry and a lot of other emotions. Victims and families put their trust in the Jury or Grand Jury and sometimes they do not deliver the decision we expect. It seems unfair. What didn't they see?

I am 7 years removed from that trial and because my rapist went on to rape again he was charged and ultimately convicted of Rape and sentenced to Life in prison. This is all very raw for the Brown family and I hope over time they can somehow begin to heal. I also know what it's like for your personal life to be broadcast by the media and exposed to public opinion. Although my case did not receive the level of coverage that the Brown's is currently. Watching your personal tragedy play out on the news daily only adds to the hurt that you are feeling. Even worse is having some use it to promote their own agenda's. 

There have and will continue to be victims and/or their families in this country who will not receive the justice they feel they deserve but we have to trust in the system. We also live in a country where you can fight to change what you believe isn't working. During the 2007 trial in Pennsylvania prosecutors were not allowed to present expert testimony as to the state of mind of a rape victim afterwards. This may have significantly changed the jury's decision. Because of a tireless fight by some legislators this is no longer the case. I hope the Brown family gets to right what they believe was wrong in their situation.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Questioning Legitimacy

With the continuing reports of sexual assault accusations against Bill Cosby made by those victims brave enough to coming forward and the repeated denials and questioning of their legitimacy made by his attorney I wanted to provide my insight as a victim/survivor of a serial date rapist with similar circumstances.

These women/accusers have come under fire by some (public, media, etc) for the delay not only in their reporting of being drugged and sexually assaulted but as the number of victims grows whether or not some are coming forward to capitalize monetarily. I can't tell you how angry this makes me every time I see another statement reported online or on TV or a comment posted on twitter. 

Reporting a sexual assault under what you might call normal circumstances is already extremely difficult. 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Let's then add in the element of not only having been drugged but your rapist is a very popular, very powerful celebrity. I can speak to what it's like when you wake up in a man's bed naked, sick and confused. Your mind is foggy, you don't remember anything but you know sex had occurred, something that even if you had the opportunity to consent you weren't planning on doing so in the first place. I was extremely ashamed and wanted to get out of his bed and his apartment as soon as possible but had to fight against the extreme pain I was feeling all over my body from the drugs he mixed up and slipped into my drink. I couldn't make sense of anything that had happened and because of that I wanted to forget about it ever happened. I did not tell anyone.

Once I was contacted by the authorities in Philadelphia and made aware of the violent sexual act against me made by Jeffrey Marsalis and so many other women did I gain the courage to speak up and speak out. I knew what initially didn't make sense to me finally did now. As the investigation into my attacker grew larger and was reported in the news many more victims came forward to tell almost identical stories of their sexual assaults. 

This is what's happening with the victims in the Bill Cosby case. The women are coming forward to say he drugged and raped them too. They can't stand back silent any longer. He had a pattern. They don't want to be afraid of his fame and just as the victims in my case felt they want to legitimize the others that came forward ahead of them.

Now I can't speak to the feeling of intimidation that comes along with having been raped by a man with the public stature of Bill Cosby but I can speak to how scary it is to have your private life now so public. To have the picture of your rapist on the news reporting your story and being open up to all sorts of criticism especially when you have never processed what happened to you properly. I listen to these women being interviewed and their words and feelings mirror so many of mine. I have repeated the same words and thoughts over and over to myself. When I hear any sexual assault victim speak I know immediately whether they are truthful. So it infuriates me to hear anyone question a rape victims motives when I know right away they are not lying.

Thankfully you don't have to be a victim/survivor of sexual assault to show trust and compassion towards any sexual assault victims. You just have to be a good human being. That's easy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is one of the biggest obstacles sexual assault and domestic violence organizations and prosecutors have to overcome. Why is it that with any other crime against a person the victim is not blamed? Burglaries, murders, carjackings, home invasions, muggings I could go on and on but you see where I am going with this and it is that when others stand in judgement or comment it's not directed toward the victim or anything they may have done to provoke a crime committed against them. What makes people so uncomfortable about a women being raped whether be it by a stranger on the street or out on a date or a celebrity or beaten by an intimate partner? Why isn't the first thought or words out of someone's mouth 'Is she OK?' not 'What was she wearing, was she drunk, what did she do to provoke such rage from a man???' 

I have been on the receiving end of victim blaming as a survivor of date rape. I sat in court and listened to my rapists defense attorney sweet talk a jury into believing that because my attacker fabricated his profile on and lied directly to our faces about his life as a doctor and astronaut we were bitter. He told the jury that bitterness lead to our coming forward and accusing him of drugging and raping us. As much as you know what happened to you is not a lie listening to someone else deflect blame makes you feel very, very small. It is for that simple reason I speak out and advocate because I don't ever want another victim to feel like that.

We have come a long way since the introduction of the Violence Against Women Act was introduced in Congress 20 years ago but unfortunately there is still a long way to go. The recent coverage of the victims of Bill Cosby's sexual assaults I have been watching this week have made me proud of the work done by all the advocates who have come before me. The reporting has been fair telling both sides of the story from the victims point of view and any comment from the accused side until an interview with a victim by CNN's Don Lemon. He questioned her actions during the assault and why she didn't react in a certain, specific way. How dare he??!! Would he pose the question to Bill Cosby as to why he was drugging an raping women?

The backlash for his comments have been swift and viral. Let's continue to call out those who victim blame. It's not OK and it has to STOP!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One-Year Anniversary

...One year ago today (October 25th) I walked out the door of my condo where I lived for 19 years and was the first home I bought on my own. I said good bye to my family and friends and New Jersey and got on a plane to start my new life on a new coast. My boyfriend was waiting for me in California in his current and my new home. I was about to face head on the expected and unexpected and everything ahead was new to me.

I had never been in a committed enough relationship where I lived with a significant other and besides the first 9 years of my life in New York I had only ever resided in New Jersey surrounded by family and friends. I had only ever worked for someone else and never considered for a moment being self-employed. What I did know though was that I was ready to do all the things I mentioned without hesitation. It was time to make changes that would be very good for me. Although I had the love of my family and friends back in NJ what I didn't have there was the love of a great guy and the respect and appreciation I deserved from a job that I put my heart and sole into for 6 years. Both of those were in California and I was really looking forward to what I knew I deserved.

It wasn't all rainbows and roses though because the first few months were filled with adjustments. I was moving my possessions into an already lived in apartment and combining our things was just short of a nightmare for this self-diagnosed girl with OCD and every time I got in the car to drive somewhere they were on roads I had never been on before to towns I had never been to before. I most certainly got lost a few times. Then there was that new experience of learning how to live with someone. I'll leave it at that. Once I was settled in and familiar with my new city it was time to start my new business which came with its own set of challenges but I got up every day and got to work navigating my way through it. By Summer I had made a lot of progress and was feeling very good about what I had accomplished so far professionally.

Aside from the challenges on the negative side there were a lot of firsts on the positive side. Steve and I finally lived in the same time zone and we did all the things we couldn't do the previous 2 years. Socially we keep very busy from attending sports games, theater, concerts, parties, have friends over for dinner and holidays and so far traveled to San Francisco and San Diego and this weekend our first time on the same plane together to spend the weekend in Phoenix to watch our favorite football team the Philadelphia Eagles play. We are having a lot of fun to say the least and still getting to know each other now that we live together.

In a week I will be going home (back East because CA is really my home now) for the second visit to give a speech at Univ of Penn and squeeze in as much time as I can visiting family and friends. I miss them a lot and I miss NJ too but not in the way that you want to move back but in a nostalgic way. I can't believe it's been a year but when I think of everything I have done it adds up to a years worth and more. Simply put I am happy and excited for what my new future holds...

Getting The Message Out

...Last week I had the honor and privilege of speaking (as I do each semester) to the Victimology class at University of Pennsylvania. I very much enjoy speaking to this bright, attentive group of students who always ask thoughtful, insightful questions.

Following the speech, after the students left class Dr. Kathleen Brown and I had a conversation regarding the importance of a specific focus in my speech which is to seek counseling after being the victim of a date rape/sexual assault. Her students are part of the Nursing program at the university and know frequently victims are encouraged to get medical attention and report to law enforcement but the discussion is less focused on counseling and therapy.

Dr. Brown also shared with me her recent involvement with the growing epidemic of human trafficking and the healing process for those victims. We talked about the latest obstacle to overcome is getting the message out to sexual assault victims. The message inclusive of, what type of help is out there and how much there is available. We agreed there is a need to figure out an efficient way to get the information to the victims. We have so many outlets (internet, social media, even the medical community and law enforcement involved, etc.) to get the resources available to the victims but have yet to figure out the best way to do so.

This is not the first time I have considered the issue. In an effort to promote my public speaking and advocacy I am trying to figure out new and innovative ways to get my message out. What groups of people can I get to tell my story to that have the ability to influence others? I spend endless hours each week researching and using whatever means possible to connect to those in a position of power. If I can email, tweet, message the right person I can start a domino effect that ends in expanded awareness. 

I feel we are all in this together fighting for awareness and as victims, survivors, advocates, counselors, concerned humans our voices are loud and strong. If anyone has an idea to share with me or wants to team up we can heal those victims of sexual violence so they can ultimately lead long, healthy lives...just as I did.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

...The first week of January seems to have reignited the news stories about comedian Bill Cosby and the allegations by multiple women whom he drugged and sexually assaulted. Not that it was out of the news completely but several things happened most recently. He began a comedy tour through 3 Canadian cities where protestors not only showed up outside the venues but spoke up during the show. His former "Cosby Show" co-star Phylicia Rashad made some controversial statements regarding the victims (stating "this isn't about the women but about a legacy"). Finally three more victims came forward. In the past month while this story continues to be reported I hear a frequent yet frustrating comment made by some in the public. Many offer opinions either way whether they believe the victims or not but say in this country we are "Innocent Until Proven Guilty". Every time I hear this my blood begins to boil and here's why. 

I would first like to say that I have great respect for the law and our legal process. I believe in our legal system and know that it does its best to be fair and just. It's by no means perfect but  in my opinion one of the best in the world. It is also not lost on me as a rape victim who has gotten justice and seen her attacker found guilty on multiple sexual assaults and rape that I am very lucky. I repeat this to myself frequently!

That being said I feel passionately about the subject yet the majority of victims of sexual assault who will never see any kind of justice whatsoever and I feel a responsibility to speak out and fight for them. The likelihood that a rape victim will come forward to report, the prosecutor finding enough evidence to move forward with the case, then for it go to trial and have a jury find the rapist guilty are shockingly low. So low in fact that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Does that mean that the public should only believe 3% of rape victims? That is utterly absurd. The crime and prosecution of sexual assault is monumentally different than other crimes such as a burglary, murder, etc that it's unlikely the victim even gets to prove their attacker guilty. This means that all those idealists out there get to stand up and say "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" and walk away with their conscience clean. Wouldn't it be nice if a rape victim could do the same by walking away but their lives are profoundly changed forever. I know that because mine certainly was and I'm one of the 3%. Imagine a victim in the 97% who doesn't get justice. Not to mention a statute of limitations on sexual assault and if that has expired the victim has no legal recourse whatsoever. This is the case with ALL the Bill Cosby victims. The law is essentially saying that because of a lapse in time the crime didn't happen.

As far as I'm concerned the belief of "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" is lame and a cop out under these particular set of circumstances and does a great disservice to victims of rape and sexual assault. I also think it's extremely hurtful to victims that they could be so easily dismissed by a simple statement. If the public was only informed enough to know how hard it is to get a rapist to trial they wouldn't be so quick to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused and not the accuser. I think it's time that more people believe the victim and question what the accused has done instead of the other way around. I know I'm tired of it and for as long as I can I will work to inform the uninformed!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Online Dating Predators

...Even after all we now know about embellished online dating profiles the predators continue to prey. I was a victim of the serial rapist whose fabricated online profile mirrored his fabricated life. He specifically created pictures to post on the website to match his made up career and took it to the next level with fake ID's and a staged apartment. He had everything he needed to lure women in to accept "dates" with him and then keep them interested just long enough to drug and rape us.

Numerous documentaries, news reports and over 10 years later men are still using the internet to meet women and victimize them. Most recently a California man Sean Banks was sentenced to 37 years in prison for raping two women he met on Christian Mingle and and as with my rapist Jeffrey Marsalis he maintained his innocence until the very end. Irrelevant now because both will be spending the next few decades in prison, potentially the rest of their life!

In 2011 a woman sued after she met and dated a man through the website and was sexually assaulted on their second date. The man had a violent history involving sex assault cases and if the website had a screening program for all members the victim claimed she never would have been violently attacked. had released the following statement: "Members should check out safety tips on the site, that it is their sole responsibility for screening other members and that what happens on dates is not the responsibility of the company". This is the same statement released when notified of my attacker Jeffrey Marsalis' numerous sexual assaults using the same website to meet women. It's lame legalese as far as I'm concerned.

The victim was not suing for a monetary settlement, only asking that screens its members against the sex offender registry. As a direct result of the lawsuit released a statement that ..."they will agree to check new members against the sex offender registry". Prior to the lawsuit eHarmony already had a system in which they checked the registry and other sites planned on doing so. This is an excellent way of protecting women from registered sex offenders but if the men haven't yet been convicted then it won't catch new offenders. In this case we can only trust our instincts and set up check in times or any other plan a woman feels comfortable with when planning on meeting a man for the first time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Serial Rapists: More Common Than You Think

I am a victim of a serial date rapist and contrary to what the general public believes this is more common than stranger rape. The scary unknown man coming out of the shadows just isn't the case. Most sexual assault victims know their attacker, they are the scary man that we, for the most part trust, or we wouldn't be in their company in the first place. A staggering two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

A recent speech by a Michigan district attorney during an End The Backlog press conference specifically brought up the fact that rapists rape again. They repeat this violent act over and over again which makes their prolonged punishment (once caught and convicted) so vital. Rapists are not rehabilitated in prison because when released there is a high probability commit another crime including rape again. Unfortunately 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail so the available statistics are only on convicted sex offenders.

It's exactly the reason why when my attacker (Jeffrey Marsalis) was caught law enforcement, prosecutors and many of his victims worked so hard to make sure he was put in prison long enough where he wouldn't be released to prey on more victims. Jeffrey Marsalis believes he didn't do anything wrong so what would stop him from raping again. As a result of my experience and what I've learned I was driven to spread the message to other potential Marsalis victims and tell them they weren't the only one and encourage them to either speak up, come forward, get help or all of the above. They are not alone. I also wanted to tell my story and use it as a learning tool for dating women. My actions before and during the 'date' and how I reacted after all have a message attached and that is: Trust your Instincts. If I had only done that then the outcome would have been much different but I don't dwell on how I could have changed things in the past I just want to effect change in the future. If something good comes from something bad that's all that matters to me.

The sooner we catch and convict each rapist the less potential victims there will be and isn't that really what we are all working towards.

If you would like to learn more follow the links below.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Continued Media Interest

...In October I received an email from Joe Khan (the prosecutor in my case) who continues to field all media requests offered to the victims in the Jeffrey Marsalis case. He had received a request from a producer of a very large entertainment company and television channel. She had done a significant amount of research on Jeffrey Marsalis, his crimes and his victims and was planning on developing an episode/report for one of their programs. She was asking if not only would Joe take part and be interviewed but would any of the victims in the case be interested. Joe's email included a short introduction from him and included a forward of the email he had gotten from the producer so we could read it for ourselves and decide whether we wanted to contact her or not.

I responded to Joe's email thanking him for the information and told him I would be contacting the producer to let her know of my interest and that I would follow up with him. I then drafted an email to the producer to include the other interviews I participated in, what I accomplished so far as a public speaker and advocate for date rape and sexual assault victims and how she could reach me. She called me within just a few hours and we spoke for quite awhile. I was impressed with her knowledge of the case and the many victims and her passion for getting this story out to the public and keeping it relevant. We had an instant connection and she asked if I would like to be interviewed for the show which I eagerly accepted. We discussed details of a preliminary face to face meeting and an approximate shooting date.

Within the next few weeks we spoke several more times via phone and email and met in person once. She filled me in on the format of the show and who she was interviewing and how it would fit in with my interview. I was excited and happy to be part of another program that brings light to date rape and sexual assault and be able to tell my story and spread my personal message to a very large audience and one that fits the important target group I wanted to reach. Yesterday (Monday) was my interview and it went very well. The producer took me through my story of how I met Jeffrey Marsalis online and the details of our "date", the trial, sentencing and my experience with the other victims. She was well prepared, asked excellent questions and made it all very easy for me to say what I needed and wanted to say about my attacker and the subject. I was very pleased with how the day had gone.

On a side note: I had recently written a blog about practicing self-care as a rape survivor and how I hadn't been so good at doing so but I am proud to say I not only began my emotional preparation the day before but planned out my wardrobe, driving route and all the other details I had previously left until just before a speech, podcast, etc. Once I got home I only had a few minutes to decompress as Steve and I had plans that evening but he jumped in and helped me out and I had time to close my eyes and unwind in the car before we arrived to our party.

My experience with what is now my 3rd television interview is not lost on me. I woke up that day feeling grateful for those who were there throughout the entire ordeal but also continue to share along with me the importance of keeping the story alive. I was also feeling thankful for the media who continues to learn of this story years later and wants to broadcast it to their viewers. It is never lost on me how lucky I am. Yes I was a victim of a violent serial date rapist but what I took from it is learning of how many good people there are in this world and that is a very valuable realization...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

DVAM: A Look Back

Last Friday brought an end to Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I wanted to look back at what was accomplished in terms of promotion and awareness. The NOMORE organization teamed up with current and former NFL players along with celebrity directors to create a PSA that is being played during Monday and Thursday night football games and during the Sunday games. I personally witnessed the ad being aired in a football stadium during a recent Sunday game. These men stood up to say #NOMORE opening up the dialogue on a subject that has rarely been part of a general topic of discussion. 

In the past few months Hotlines have been flooded with phone calls and staffs had to be increased as a result of not only the awareness campaigns but the light shined on this horrible act of interpersonal violence. Largely in part after the video of Ray Rice beating his then fiance now wife in an Atlantic Casino elevator. As I had written in previous blogs this put a face on something that was for the most part kept behind closed doors and not talked about by the victims. Suddenly the media was talking and sharing their outrage and the public was weighing in too. Some very successful women including Meredith Vieira told their personal story of domestic violence and everything she went through emotionally and physically while being victimized. This allowed many victims to come out of the shadows and reach out for help. 

Then in late August the NFL made sweeping changes to their Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault punishment policy taking a very vocal stand saying it's not OK. Today Ray Rice and his lawyers will begin the process of appealing his punishment essentially turning back the clock. His argument being that he was punished initially by the NFL with a suspension and then received a 2nd punishment after the policy was changed. If this is his idea of turning a corner and repenting it's not the way to go about it.

From what I've learned about domestic violence abusers and as a victim/survivor of a serial date rapist, even after serving their punishments the abusers go back to their abusive ways. In my opinion no punishment for these offenders is long or harsh enough. What we do have in our favor is our voices. I've learned throughout my healing process that my voice along with the many supporters of family, friends and advocates is very powerful and I will use it for however long and far it will take me to stop violence against women (& men) for good!