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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Solving Unsolved Sex Crimes

A little over a year ago I received an email from my colleague at Strength United, a community agency affiliated with CSU Northridge committed to ending abuse, empowering families and developing leaders. I have worked with them most recently as a sexual assault survivor speaker to their Advocates. Ann Conkle, Outreach and Engagement Officer reached out to me after receiving a request from the production company for Cold Justice a show that follows detectives around the country as they solve cold cases. The were developing a spin-off show that would focus on sex crimes with particular emphasis on cold cases related to untested rape kits. An issue that has been brought to light within the past few years. They were in the process of picking detectives for the new show and needed sexual assault survivors to role play with the potential detectives. The producer ideally wanted victims who had been through the prosecution process and comfortable speaking about their experience. Ann said she immediately thought of me and if I was interested in participating provided me with the contact information for the producer along with the date in which it was scheduled.

I had watched every episode of the original Cold Justice show with my boyfriend and was excited that this potential spin-off show could help solve sexual assault victims cases in the way it helped murder victims families. After letting Ann know all this and thanking her for the referral I emailed the producer with my story and background which began our correspondence in preparation for the day ahead and what I could expect.

As I arrived to the production offices that day I was greeted and introduced to the staff and crew then settled into a waiting area where three other survivors of sexual assault joined me. While alone we introduced ourselves and shared our stories of (coincidentally) date rape and the paths that our lives took subsequently. It is always a safe space when surrounded by only survivors with no one else listening in on our conversation. We can share as much or as little as we like with each other knowing we have been in the same shoes, so to speak. The women I met were all so brave and strong moving on successfully with their lives except for one young girl. She was openly telling her story for the first time trying as best she could to navigate her way through the experience. The three of us knew what that first time was like and offered what we knew she needed as far as support and guidance. 

A representative of LA's Peace Over Violence, a rape crisis organization, arrived and would stay in our waiting room to be there as we each returned from role playing with the detectives. She checked in with each of us and if necessary would provide one on one counseling. Every victim/survivor reacts differently after retelling their story and it's important to have someone there to provide counsel. 

I would be the third called in by production to role play. They introduced me to two very seasoned special victim's unit detectives who told me about their background and experience investigating these types of crimes. I remember thinking how similar in demeanor and compassion they were to Detective O'Malley who was the law enforcement professional that took my statement and the first person I told my story to in its entirety. The crew explained that everything was going to be recorded on video. There were cameras in and outside of the room and I was fitted with a microphone similar to my doing an interview. The "interview" took about 45 minutes to an hour. The idea was for all of us to react as if we were meeting for the first time, having my statement taken and being provided the information on how the legal process would move forward as a victim. Once finished I met briefly outside the room with the producers while they asked me for my feedback of the detectives performance. Then I rejoined the ladies, each time one of us returned we discussed our experience and opinions with the others. Before leaving we exchanged each other's information.

Shortly thereafter the producer came to thank us for our help and we all discussed our hopes and excitement for the show to air on television. Cold Justice airs on the TNT network and about 2 months ago during one of their recap shows they introduced the legal team who would be part of the Cold Justice: Sex Crimes spin-off and I couldn't have been happier. The new show will premiere Friday July 31st at 9:00pm East and 6:00pm West. I hope it's a success, helps a lot of victims heal and puts their attackers behind bars where they belong.

Additionally this week I received my RAINN Newsletter with an article providing information about the assistance they provided to each victim for each episode as well as details about Cold Justice: Sex Crimes and RAINN. See link below to read more.

RAINN Partners with TNT's Cold Justice: Sex Crimes to Provide Support to Survivors