Editor’s Note – This letter contains graphic descriptions of violence. Please be advised that the content is not appropriate for everyone.
This letter has been the most difficult thing to write, but I need to tell my story in order to cope with the overwhelming sense of fear, shame and hopelessness that I am suffering. The people of Culver City should know my story and understand that what happened to me can happen to anyone.
I will call myself Sofie. I moved to Los Angeles to attend college in Santa Monica a few years ago. I settled in Culver City and instantly fell in love with it. I was eager to be a part of my new community, so I worked hard on meeting people. I attended various events, joined clubs and organizations and volunteered my time. It was through volunteering that I met my former boss, who I worked for as an intern.
He was a man with a prominent position in the city and had access to everyone in the community. He met regularly with members of the city council and police departments. Ordinary citizens and community leaders would stop by his office just to say hello. As his intern, I had to handle numerous invitations for him to various city events and functions.
He was a handsome, well-educated man. He was also very kind and charming. He cared genuinely about my career growth and gave me every opportunity to learn from him.
He would point out things in my work and make suggestions on how to improve. He fought with his superiors to give me a better position in the company (he lost, but I commend his efforts). We went out to lunches together, went to city council meetings together, stayed late in the office working, and attending events together. He would drive me home when it got too late to walk. I even went to events with him and his wife. He was the perfect boss, the perfect mentor. I felt blessed to know him.
When I was applying for jobs he received calls from prospective employers and recommended me highly. I believe it was his recommendation that got me my job in Santa Monica.
When I was hired I left the offices in Culver City, but still conversed with him regularly. We would always keep the conversations punctual, professional and business related. He did have a charming tone in his e-mails, always saying things like “Can’t wait to see your smiling face in the office soon.” I figured that since he interacted with the public so much that he was just that type of man and didn’t think anything of it.
My boss in Santa Monica committed suicide. A few days later I discovered that my former boss in Culver City just had a major falling out with his company. Still reeling from the shock of the suicide, I contacted him and asked if he wanted to talk about the company problems. He responded that he would happily meet over a drink to tell the story.
I met with him at a Cheesecake factory bar. We were in the bar for hours, talking about his situation and how he was going after the company. I told him not to be too terribly upset at his situation because he was at least still alive, unlike my boss whose funeral I was attending that weekend.
We discussed college, work and I told him I wanted to watch some classic movies for my film class that were hard to get a hold of. He was a film fanatic, and had many of the old classics. He insisted that I come over to watch them. I told him I would think about it. I wasn’t really comfortable going to his home since he was married and I didn’t want to intrude.
By the end of the night he had finished several drinks, and all I had were two glasses of water and a slice of cheesecake since I was driving that night. It was at this point that I began to notice he was starting to get a bit more flirty than usual. He moved closer to me on the table, leaned in closer, and tapped me lightly on the leg. He admitted that he was attracted to me during the time that we worked together, that he loved the curves of my body, my hair and that he enjoyed spending time with me.
That alarmed me because I never had any indication in all the time that I worked for him that he was attracted to me in any way. I felt really uncomfortable.
Finally it was time to leave. I got up to give him a hug. He embraced me too tightly too long, and ran his fingers through my hair. He gave me a light kiss on my forehead and went on his merry way. I was left sick to my stomach, and when I drove to my boyfriend that night I told him how upset I was. My boyfriend told me that he felt uncomfortable too, and that I should probably not see him anymore. I told him that I couldn’t do that, that he was such an important part of my professional life, and that I wanted to retain my relationship with him. I told my boyfriend that it was most likely the alcohol talking since in all the time I’ve known him I had never seen him so drunk. My boyfriend told me to be cautious, but that if he was that important to me that I should try and patch things up with him.
I spent the weekend nervous, constantly checking my e-mails and text messages. My former boss responded that he still wanted me to visit him. I told him I’d rather borrow the DVDs from him instead.
I went to my boss’ funeral that Saturday. Since he committed suicide, everyone there was wondering WHY he did it and WHAT they could have done to prevent it, including myself. We all felt a pang of guilt that there was nothing we could have done despite the now obvious signs. I vowed then that I would become good friends with my former boss who was depressed and down, and that I would help him and be there for him like I had wished I could have been there for my boss in Santa Monica.
That is why I went against my better judgment and agreed to visit my former boss in his home. I wanted to spend time with him to cheer him up and tell him I wanted to get to know him and his wife better. I wanted us to be better friends. I also wanted to clear things up about what happened at the bar.
I remember that day vividly. I got up unusually early and started planning my day. I went to the bank for some quarters for parking. I went to my college in Santa Monica to do homework. I stayed in the college until the afternoon when I left to visit him at his home, planning to leave around 4:30 pm to get to a class in Hollywood.
His home was not that far. He came out from the back, and led me inside. He was the only one home. He had a few snacks laid out on the kitchen table. He told me to help myself and I happily obliged.
I sat down on the lumpy couch and asked him if he remembered anything of our conversation at the bar. He said that he remembered bits and pieces. I told him that he was very drunk that night, and how he was acting inappropriately. He looked really surprised, and apologized, saying that he didn’t mean to say those things and make me feel uncomfortable. I told him to never act that way around me again, and he agreed. He told me that he appreciated that I would take time out of my day to spend time with him during his difficult time and understood that I was in a sad place too with my boss’ passing. “We’re helping each other cope with our losses.” He said. I smiled then, knowing that I could trust him and feeling good knowing I was helping him.
We sat on the couch and spent a chunk of time watching the news and talking about random things. He talked about how he and his wife were going to fix up the home. We finally put on the movie. It was a bit hard to watch but we got through a good chunk of it. He would often pause the film to explain the finer points that I was having difficulty understanding.
At some point I got up to get more food. I sat back on the couch, chewing bread. Suddenly he wrapped his left hand arm around me and pulled me down. I lay there frozen in utter shock, the side of my face pressed against his belly and my hand with the bread still in it on his crotch. He ran his fingers through my hair roughly. I was still frozen, my mind racing and thinking of how absurd everything was at that moment. Didn’t he just promise me he would never act inappropriate around me again? What was he doing? What was going on here?
He continued to stroke my hair, and then shoved his finger roughly into my left ear. I yelled and tried to sit up. He pulled me in and kissed me. He moved me under him and was soon on top of me.
I remember saying “No” and tried to push him away from me. But he wouldn’t stop. He continued to rub his body against mine. I repeated myself “No.” I pushed him away harder, but the harder I pushed, the harder he pressed himself against me. He was very, very strong. I started becoming more frantic. “This isn’t right. Please stop.” He didn’t. He pushed my blouse up and licked me. I screamed. I tried pushing him away again, but he was so strong. He wrapped his hands around my arms and roughly held me down, preventing me from pushing. I was so scared. I begged him to stop. He held me down and continued, saying “I know you were my intern, but I need this.”
“No!” I said. “You don’t need this! Please stop.” His whole appearance changed. His face was red with rage, his eyes angry and predatory. He was breathing deep. His voice… he no longer spoke, he growled.
“Please! Think of your wife! You’re a better man than this! She deserves so much better!” I cried, but he would not listen. He sat up on my chest. With a swift movement he pulled his pants down. He forced me to perform oral sex on him.
I remember thinking that I should just bite him so I can break free. But his hand was still holding me strong, his heavy body pinned my own down. I knew I couldn’t get away. If I hurt him, one punch from his strong arm would easily knock me out, and he would do whatever he wanted with me. I didn’t want that to happen. He pulled out and rubbed his genitals on my chest, forcing me to tell him how much I enjoyed it. He got off and pulled me onto floor, grabbing my pants and trying to pull them down. “Please stop. I’m on my period.” I pleaded. “That doesn’t matter.” He said slowly. “When I’m through with you, nothing else will matter.”
I will stop the details here, but know that I struggled and screamed as hard as I could all the way through. I somehow got to my feet and pulled my clothes back on. I ran for the door.
I heard him yelling behind me “Where do you think you’re going?!” I opened the door and pushed against the screen door. It wouldn’t budge. I was screaming. I slammed against it, my hand aiming for the handle to break the door open, but it was too late. He had his arms around me. He pulled me away from the door. He threw me to the floor and I hit my head hard. I was dazed for several seconds. He quickly slammed and locked the door and threw himself on top of me.
I felt that he was going to kill me and that my life was over. He said something about how I was playing him all these years we’d known each other. That I teased him, that he knew I was going to enjoy this. I was screaming that I didn’t believe him, that he wasn’t going to pin any of this on me, that I couldn’t believe he would think this was all my fault.
I continued to struggle and scream. I got loose again and bolted for the door. This time I was able to open the screen. I ran for about a block. I hid in an empty stairwell and took out my cell phone. I called the first number on my phone, which belonged to a friend of mine who I had spoken to before I left the college.
I was sobbing uncontrollably. He asked me what was wrong. “He raped me!” I screamed, and couldn’t say anything more. He asked where I was and I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know anything, my mind was spinning. I told him I needed to find my car. I was afraid I couldn’t find it, and I was afraid he was going to come after me. I got up and continued running. I was so terrified. I needed to get away from that place. He might be following me, looking for me. I finally found my car. I got in and told my friend, who asked me again if I knew where I was. My head was spinning, my vision blurry from the tears.
I got a text message from my former boss saying “Come Back.” Other texts followed, asking why I had left, why I was playing these strange games with him. I was petrified. I needed to get away from the area. But where would I go? I needed to be safe. I needed to feel safe. I thought of the college, how it was just down the road, how he wouldn’t find me there, and that there were people there who could help me.
I turned on my GPS and it guided me to the safety of the college. I ran inside and threw myself into the staff offices crying “Help me, I’ve been raped.”
Their faces were of absolute shock. They told me to sit down and someone went to call the police. I didn’t feel comfortable sitting in front of everyone, so I huddled in a corner of a cubicle. I don’t remember anything of what happened until the police came. Later on I found out that I was crying about how I was going to miss class, and that someone contacted my instructors in Hollywood to inform them that there was a major situation.
The next thing I knew, the police were there. They were the Santa Monica police. The male officer got down to my level where I was curled up on the floor and assured me that I was safe, that it wasn’t my fault and that they were going to get who did this to me. The female officer stayed close to me and spoke to me like a mother. They asked me where this happened, and I replied “In Brentwood.” I vaguely remember them saying that they had to contact the LAPD.
There were so many people around me, so much activity. The police officers lead me to an empty classroom down the hall. The policewoman stayed with me as the policeman went to talk to the faculty and staff gathered outside. I remember giving the policewoman information about my former boss, who he was, where he lived, and briefly told her what happened. I asked if I could use the restroom, and she advised against it, telling me to wait until they brought me to the rape center.
The LAPD arrived, and they asked me in detail what happened and took a statement. They were rough and stern, completely opposite of the SMPD. I felt like I was being interrogated. I remember they left me alone in the room while they went out and discussed things amongst themselves. The next thing I knew was that the LAPD was to take me to the Rape Treatment Center, while the SMPD cleared things up with the college.
They took me to the rape center where a counselor was waiting. At that point I finally felt safe and secure. I stopped crying so much. The counselor comforted me, and I explained to her what happened. The counselors contacted my boyfriend and he came and stayed with me as the nurse did the rape exam. I was scratched up, bruised and sore, but otherwise physically ok. After taking medication for my injuries and giving a more detailed statement to the police and hospital staff, I was released.
An LAPD detective contacted me the next day to set up an appointment for a formal interview. My college called to check up on me and to offer me counseling. I quit all of my volunteer activities and job and focused all of my money and energy into finishing college. I tried to come to terms with what had happened even as I continued to receive messages from my former boss asking me to talk to him, saying he was sorry, and requesting that I come back to him and finish what we had started.
The detectives assigned to my case seemed really caring and genuine in the beginning, assuring me that they were doing everything in their power to make sure he was punished. Soon I began to doubt if they had my best interests at heart. They told me straight up that they wouldn’t arrest him unless he confessed. Knowing my former boss, I knew he would never admit to such a thing, that he had a way with words and had close relations with the LAPD. The detectives told me to contact my former boss to try and get him to confess, even telling me to say things like “If only you had waited, I would have been very willing to have consensual sex with you.” Do you know how difficult it is to say something like that to the man who just assaulted you? I couldn’t believe that the detectives were asking this of me, but I did it anyways.
Predictably, my former boss refused to acknowledge the whole thing, saying that he remembered things differently and that he would be willing to patch up our friendship over a cup of coffee and even invited me to come back to his house and finish the movie we were watching. When I mentioned what the detectives had told me (that I wanted to have consensual sex with him) he became feral, and started to describe various explicit sexual acts that he wanted to perform on me. Seeing this almost made me pass out from distress.
I was shattered after the conversation, and the detectives suggested that I should have some time to think about going forward since once he is arrested, he could be looking at years in prison and a lifetime on the sex offenders’ registry.
I spent most of that day screaming into my pillow and pulling at my hair. I knew he had to be punished but I didn’t want to destroy his life. I still felt that deep inside he was the man I had grown to respect and admire and that we could somehow salvage our friendship, that we can go back to what we were and forget this whole unimaginable ordeal. I thought of all the people in Culver City who would be shocked when they found out what he had done, and how some might even come after me for daring to accuse him of such horrible things. I thought of his family and imagined how upset they would be. Ultimately I decided to go forward with the investigation since I felt that Culver City had a right to know what he had done to me, and by cooperating I was helping protect my community from a dangerous man. I thought about the interns from Culver City High who replaced me when I left for Santa Monica. He could have hurt someone else. He could hurt someone else again.
It’s painful to know that someone I had known and trusted so deeply would do something so horrific to me. I started to blame myself, thinking it was something I had done to make him think that I had wanted it. After all, women who get raped were doing something wrong, or were already hanging out with bad people that were so obviously going to rape them. This is what I was taught to believe since I was a little girl. Only after I had it happen to me did I realize that the truth was far more complicated than that. It’s so easy to tell women and girls not to do certain things, to avoid certain areas or to not dress a certain way to protect themselves from being raped. How are you supposed to tell a grown woman that she shouldn’t go and visit a friend at his home because he intends to rape her?
I was not drinking, I wasn’t doing any drugs. I was not meeting with a stranger. I was not out by myself late at night. I was not wearing provocative clothing (I was wearing long black pants and a long sleeve black top). I did nothing wrong and this still happened to me.
I called the detectives every week to see if he had been arrested. After the horrific phone call and subsequent text-messaging with my former boss, the detectives assured me that they would be interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. But to my dismay the detectives weren’t advancing the investigation in a timely manner. I would call in one week to ask the progress in the case and the detectives would reply that they had not interviewed witnesses or brought in my former boss for questioning. They assured me it would be done, but when I would call a week later it was the same story. Finally after a month of this I sent a strongly worded e-mail to the department demanding to know what was holding up the investigation. Within a day, all the witnesses were interviewed, my former boss was questioned and the case was brought to the district attorney.
The case was dismissed, charges were not filed. I was destroyed.
All of the physical and mental pain, the guilt, the roller coaster of emotions that I had to endure was all for nothing. No justice, no validation that I had done the right thing, no proof that this horrible thing happened to me and was true in the eyes of the law.
I’m concentrating now on returning to normal life and trying to come to terms with what happened, but even now every day is a struggle. Some days are good and feel almost normal, other days I can’t even get out of bed due to the grief and shock. I almost wish I had been brutalized by a complete stranger in a dark alley somewhere. You are already naturally wary of strangers. To be so violated and betrayed by someone you admired and respected and hoped to emulate… it’s indescribable. I can’t even trust my closest male friends anymore. I live everyday with an overwhelming sense of fear, that at any moment I could be attacked again by anyone. Anyone and everyone can be a rapist. Anyone and everyone can hurt me.
The most devastating thing out of all of this is how my relationship with Culver City has been affected. I had accompanied my former boss to functions and events throughout the city and was introduced to many of its public servants, businesses and venues through him. Now everything in Culver City that was ever dear to me has been tainted by his memory. I can no longer walk the streets of Downtown without thinking of him. Attending club meetings is painful. Visiting Sepulveda Village, Veteran’s Park, City Hall, the local cafés and restaurants bring me to tears. I’m contemplating on moving away from Culver City to somewhere far, where I can see buildings and faces that do not remind me of him. But the thought of leaving this wonderful community, all of my dear friends, favorite haunts and to end the relationships I had established over the years because of him is so sad and unfair.
I want to just scream at the top of my lungs that HE did these horrible things to me. HE destroyed me and took the joy from my life. HE is friendly with YOU, your neighbors, your officials, your business owners, your children, your Mayor. You know his face. You know his smile. But I can’t. There is nothing I can do. I’ve tried everything. I feel that after everything I had endured, that I have failed at everything. After everything that I have done I have failed to keep myself and my community safe. I failed to obtain justice. He is still out there free to do what he wants. I feel like I have failed Culver City and everyone in it.
Editor’s Note – The author of this letter has not failed anyone. She reported a crime to the police, who failed her in their handling of the matter. As Martin Luther King Jr. noted “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
And while we have Dr. MLK Jr. on the page, also remember “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”