She Says: They Say
In this episode, we hear from Linda’s family about how life has changed for everyone since the assault in 2015. We also tell the story of another Charlotte woman who tried to file a police report but was turned away.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT:
EPISODE 8: THEY SAY
Editor’s note: This podcast includes adult language and themes. It also contains descriptions about sexual violence. Please be advised.
SARAH DELIA: Being afraid is one thing. Being alone and afraid? Well, that’s a whole other category of fear, especially when you’re on a road like the one we’re watching Linda go down. It’s dark. She’s traveling all by herself. She can’t see anything except for the small steps she’s about to take in front of her.
LINDA: But I've really worked hard through therapy and things to be able to leave the house, because initially I couldn't even leave the house. The only time I left was when I was forced to, like to go to one of the kids’ school functions, stuff like that. You know, we started ordering groceries versus me going into the grocery store because, you know, I was just constantly and if I would see someone that just vaguely looked like him, you know, I was just terrified.
DELIA: Now, it’s April 2018, and a lot has happened over the past three years. She’s identified the man she believes to be her attacker through a Google search. He came back as a DNA match. He was arrested. He posted bail.
LINDA (in court): I did not know him until, um, the night of June 29, 2015, when he sexually assaulted me.
JUDGE: In 2015?
LINDA: Yes, sir. Yes, your honor.
JUDGE: All right, so why are you filing the complaint against him now?
DELIA: Her anxieties are bubbling to the surface with the release of this suspect, but she knows one thing: Her family can’t go back to living the way it did in 2015. They can’t endure living in constant fear again.
LINDA: And that was me knowing that he didn't know my name or where I lived or anything about me. And that took a really long time, and it never fully went away.
DELIA: The fear of her family’s safety weighs on her mind. The family even came up with strategy if this man were to ever show up at the house. Linda, Linda’s husband and their children all know where to position themselves if someone tried to get in. This safety plan includes both parents being armed.
Linda worries she’ll project her anxieties onto her children. She’s scared that she won’t be able to hold it all together.
There’s a lot of pressure on the family right now. Her husband feels it, too.
LINDA’S HUSBAND: Things will never be the same. They are either going to be better, or this will impact us as a family and as individuals and as a couple, and I’m going to do everything I can to not let that happen.
LINDA: And it's really hard to put that away and smile for Easter bunnies and birthdays and graduations and proms and 5th grade graduations and driver's license-getting. I mean, you know.
DELIA: And all these fears are exacerbated by something that’s hard for Linda to see at times. She’s not alone. There are loving and concerned eyes watching her from the side streets of the winding road. There are caring arms that reach out when she stumbles and needs help. There are soft words of encouragement being whispered from the shadows when she picks the right path. In some ways, Linda is lucky. Not everyone on this journey has this kind of love.
Those supporting her, well, they have a lot to say. And this episode, we turn to those who have been bearing witness to Linda’s journey since the day of the assault over three years ago.
From WFAE in Charlotte, I’m Sarah Delia. This is She Says.
(end of intro)
DELIA: Watching someone you love figure out what life should look like after a traumatic event has happened is a little like when someone you love has a full on car breakdown. You’re not a mechanic. You don’t even know how to change a tire or where to start to fix the problem. All you can do is stand by them and listen as you wait for help or AAA to come.
That’s what Linda’s sister has done for the past three years, and it hasn’t been easy.
LINDA’S SISTER: When Linda told me how you wanted to hear what it's like for family members to go through this, I felt like in some ways, I don't know the answer to that because it's been three years -- have I even totally processed it? In some ways, I don't know.
DELIA: I’ve known Linda for over a year now. And periodically, she’ll bring up her sister. Whenever she does, it’s always in this very loving way. She clearly respects and admires her sister. Linda describes her as the responsible older sibling. She’s the sister she turns to when she’s needed help or advice.
Linda’s sister is four years older than her and owns a small business in Charleston, South Carolina. We aren’t naming her to maintain Linda’s anonymity. Linda’s sister is not listening to the podcast. She’s just not ready, she says. But her husband has listened to at least the first episode and has shared its contents with her.
When Linda mentions she’s going out of town, I just assume it’s to see her sister, that’s how frequently they visit. So Linda will make the drive to Charleston to see her, and the beach. Her sister says the beach has always been a sanctuary for Linda.
LINDA’S SISTER: Almost every single time she will take several hours to herself and just go to the beach. That's always been her refuge. She always says that she loves to look out to the ocean and see no land. I guess it's that whole idea of realizing that, you know, you're a small piece in this huge universe and there's something kind of peaceful about that.
DELIA: Linda’s sister says they had a typical big sister, little sister relationship growing up. She was the responsible first born, always looking out for her baby sister. She says with a smile in her voice that Linda always made people laugh and was the center of attention.
Linda’s sister is usually the one who gets the phone call from Linda when something is wrong. She was one of the first Linda called from the hospital after her assault.
LINDA’S SISTER: I actually was at my parents’ house in North Carolina and got the call from her and, I mean, she was already like crying and upset. And I don't even remember the first thing she said, but I just remember listening to her, and she was sobbing and, you know, I just remember my heart breaking, but also, like, it's hard to process. You’re immediately thinking: What are the next steps? You know, I have to get to her, that sort of thing. So after I took that call — I don't remember exactly, but I probably told my husband first and then went upstairs to where my parents were and told them. That day, we went down to Charlotte to be with her and ended up bringing her to my parents’ home, which is outside of Charlotte, where she just felt safer.
DELIA: You got this horrible news and then you had to share that with your parents. Do you remember, like, how you explained it to them or how that went at all?
LINDA’S SISTER: I think the first thing I said is, ‘She's OK,’ even though she wasn't, but I didn't want them to go to worst case scenario. Like, she's alive, but this is what happened. Just like most people, it's just such shocking news. How do you process that? I mean, it just hits you. You know? You kind of feel stunned. You feel devastated. You feel horrified. And then I think you also step into action; like what can we do to make this better? What can we do to be there for her?
DELIA: Yeah. Did you feel like you kind of had a good sense of what was going on in the investigation from like what she was sharing with you?
LINDA’S SISTER: Yeah, she kept me up to date on all of that. The whole process has been a nightmare. And it's been interesting because, you know, everybody deals with tragedy in different ways and the way Linda has dealt with it is to really dive in, and it's one of her top purposes in life is to get justice not only for herself but for others. There were times where it was difficult for me because it almost seemed like her life was suddenly completely defined by this horrible incident. And I, on the other hand, wanted to process it best you can and — not move on — but don't let it define who she is.
But over time, I've kind of realized that I think she had no choice but to plow forward and really get justice and then also devote her time to helping others who are in similar situations. In terms of our communication, there's been times when, you know, she's telling me these things and these updates, and she can talk about it for a long, long period of time. And I just have to tell her, ‘OK. I need to stop now.’ Like I can't — I want to know and I want to be supportive, but I can only handle it in small chunks, and she's respected that as well. So it's been an interesting process of learning how different people handle the same situation.
DELIA: I mean, did you ever think like maybe she should just let this go because that's like the healthier choice? Did that thought ever cross your mind?
LINDA’s SISTER: Well, it crossed my mind. I don't know that I ever thought that was the right thing, but it crossed my mind because you kind of have to relive the moment over and over and over and over again. It was something that, you know, was an internal thought process, but I never, you know, vocalized that to her because, at the end of the day, I know her well enough to know that she wasn't going to stop and that this had become her mission. And over time, I was able to see that, as awful as all of this is, in some ways, it’s — I see an empowered version of her that I haven't seen in the past, that she has really kind of risen up from that moment and found incredible strength.
DELIA: When she shared that she had been recording the police, what was your reaction to that?
LINDA’S SISTER: I don't think the point was ever to tear down the police or to point blank blame them. It's just to say: This is what's happening. This is what should be happening and it's not. There's a disconnect here, and how can we fix that? I don't think her intention was ever to make them look bad, so much as to say there needs to be some more education here. We need to reevaluate this process. This is why women don't follow through with this, because it's just too difficult.
DELIA: Linda’s sister says one of the most devastating parts of Linda’s story is the mysterious CODIS hit and the confusion over the DNA evidence in her case — when police told Linda she had misidentified her assailant, only to have them go after him in the summer of 2017, over two years after her assault.
LINDA’S SISTER: I think the most shocking thing has been the whole issue with the DNA kit and them telling her it wasn’t him and then, oh, guess what, it is. And to put a victim through that is just cruel. I mean it's just awful. That can't continue. Like, something has to be done. You know it’s, these women have been through something — and sometimes men, you know, have been through these horrific events — and to be put through a scenario where, basically, you know, based on a mistake, you're telling them what they know to be true is false. I can't imagine how she must have felt, and she didn't deserve to go through that.
DELIA: Linda’s sister also found it to be a little difficult when Linda decided to bring her story to a reporter.
LINDA'S SISTER: I was worried about it at first. Part of it was wondering how the rest of the family would react. Our mom is a very private person. Where Linda, I'm sure you've noticed, she's a very open and transparent person. What's right for Linda isn't necessarily right for the rest of the family, but ultimately it's, you know, it’s Linda's call. So, you know, I was worried about that. Like how it would affect, you know, the family dynamics, but mostly I was just worried, wondering if there's any reason it would backfire with the case, especially with the investigation. I think that fear was short-lived, and now more than anything, I'm just so proud of her. I think she did the right thing.
DELIA: After the suspect in Linda’s case had posted bail and been released, Linda and her husband decided to make a safety plan for her home and family in case he ever showed up. They also had to disclose to their children what the man looked like in case they ever saw him in person. And they asked for their neighborhood to regularly be patrolled by the local police.
Kim Dupius with Brave Step, a Charlotte nonprofit that supports sexual assault survivors and their family members, says the fear a sexual assault survivor feels is a real palpable thing and it can grow when treatment isn’t sought out.
DUPIUS: To be honest, I think that fear is there regardless if the assailant is arrested, found, in jail, tried or not or never found. There is this change in the way you view the world. You become hypervigilant. You now look at everybody in every situation as: How do I manage this? What if? How am I safe? Who do I have near me in case? And so it really changes your view of the world if you’re not really — what’s the word I’m looking for — progressive in seeking out your own care and utilizing those coping mechanisms.
DELIA: She says Brave Step offers counseling support for family members of survivors.
DUPIUS: You can have second-hand trauma. You don’t have to be the person who experienced it yourself, but when it is your family member or close friend or loved one, wife, spouse, you become affected by that trauma as well. And so I do feel like it’s critical for them to also have the options for treatment and support services.
DELIA: Linda’s family isn’t immune to that second-hand trauma.
LINDA’S HUSBAND: It is emotional for the kids. They do feel the stress. Her PTSD, she doesn’t announce it — ‘I’m having PTSD’ — sometimes. So we don’t know when she’s acting a certain way, how she’s feeling or where she’s at. So there is a lot of tiptoeing around, but there isn’t anyone in the house that doesn’t care.
DELIA: Linda’s children don’t have all the details about her attack, but they are all aware it was a sexual assault.
Linda’s husband said recently, one of their sons was playing with friends near a creek by their house. They saw a strange person in the woods.
LINDA’S HUSBAND: I went with them back there just to check, and one of the things he said was he was concerned that he was going to be kidnapped and or raped. That’s the first time I’ve heard him say anything like that.
DELIA: There was someone out there he says, but it was just someone minding their own business, hanging out by the water.. He decided his son needed to see there wasn’t anything to worry about. So he took both of their sons out to the creek.
LINDA’S HUSBAND: Went right up to the area. ‘We understand, you’ve got to make a decision. You’ve got to let it go.’ It was kind of like a lengthy conversation, which was pretty much what I’ve been trying to do. Teaching my son what I’ve been trying to do. Yeah. If you let the fear of the unknown and the helplessness that you feel, as you watch your wife go through this and your family, I don’t know how people do it.
DELIA: Well, you’re doing it.
LINDA’S HUSBAND: It’s been very challenging. I’m doing the best I can, but I still feel I should be doing more.
DELIA: Part of the reasoning behind the family’s safety plan, which includes firearms in the household, is that it does give them a little power back, he says. He already had a handgun and would show Linda how to handle a shotgun.
That part of the safety plan is complicated for Linda’s sister.
SISTER: I don't like the idea of having a gun in a home. It's just my personal thing. Particularly when risk of depression and a lot of anxiety — I don't like the idea of a gun in a house. But, with that said, if I were in her shoes, I would consider it. I understand why she's frightened. I’m frightened. It’s smart to have a plan whether it involves guns or not and, you know, do what it takes to make yourself feel safe — and your family.
DELIA: Remember, Linda’s sister isn’t listening to the podcast right now. Her husband has heard the first episode, and he shared the gist of it with her. From that first episode of the podcast, though, there was something Linda’s sister learned about the assault. She didn’t realize her sister was seeking drugs that night.
LINDA’S SISTER: I didn't know that, and I was really upset when I found that out. What was most upsetting is that the nature of our relationship has always just been so raw and so honest. And, um, and I felt like she could always come to me and know that there wouldn't be judgment. I understood why she didn't want to tell me that right away, but I didn't understand why she waited three years and then let me find out in such a public, you know, on a public forum, you know. But we've talked through it. You know, it’s OK.
DELIA: Were there ever parts where you found yourself, you know, just accidentally judging a little bit and you had to kind of readjust or reassess, or did that not happen at all?
LINDA'S SISTER: Well, the original story was that — you know, because she wasn't upfront about the drugs initially — was that he'd offered to give her a ride home. And I mean, my first reaction: What was she thinking? But I don't care what she did. No one deserves to have what happened to her happen. Finger pointing -- it infuriates me. So, no, in terms of judgment. Like no, it wasn't there. But in terms of the, ‘Oh man, why did you do that? Things may have been different if you hadn't have done that?’ That's there, and to me that's different.
DELIA: One of the hard things about telling Linda's story is that so many people want to know things about her. And because, you know, we want to respect and maintain her anonymity, it’s really hard to kind of paint a full picture of who she is as a person. And, so I was just wondering from your point of view as her sister, is there anything that you think, like if you wish, that like you could share something about what Linda is like as a person to listeners? Like, what would that be if you could share something?
LINDA’S SISTER: Probably what you're not going to get is just how charming and charismatic and brilliant she is. She was the one that was always the center of attention, could make people laugh. She has an ability to talk to any person, anybody. It doesn't matter what your social status is, economic status. She just has a way of bringing people in. And, um, she's funny, she passionate and she's strong as hell. She's just a really special person, and I don't know that she knows that.
DELIA: What does justice look like for Linda?
LINDA’S SISTER: Him being prosecuted and found guilty and put away is one element of justice, but I think, ultimately, she has a bigger picture than that, and it's justice that women will be heard. Sorry.
DELIA: No, it’s OK.
LINDA’S SISTER: It actually makes me want to cry. It's just it's more than about her. I think it's a much bigger picture of justice.
DELIA: That was Linda’s sister reflecting on what the past three years have been like for Linda’s family.
Coming up, we hear what happens when another “they” speaks up to help a victim get results. The “they” in this case should be familiar. It’s you, the public.
I’m Sarah Delia. This is She Says.
DELIA: When Linda had questions about how her case was being handled and wasn’t feeling particularly heard by the police, she reached out to the media. In the case of Leah McGuirk, a Charlotte woman who was the victim of a crime, when she felt like she wasn’t being heard by the police, she took to the internet to make her story public.
McGUIRK (from video): I tried to file a police report in downtown Charlotte, but the officer refused to let me file, stating that I would need to return the scene of the crime and call 911 from there.
This is audio from a YouTube video the 31-year-old posted on May 28, 2018. She’s sitting on a wicker chair and looking directly into the camera. In the video, she recounts her attempt to file a police report after she was drugged at Rooftop 210, a bar in uptown Charlotte.
To back up for a second, Leah says she was roofied on Saturday, May 12, 2018, while she was having a girls’ night out. She remembers trying to make her way up to the u-shaped bar that night. It was a packed room with people on either side of her. She ordered one drink, a tequila, water and lime cocktail.
McGUIRK: I was holding my cup in my right hand, but I set it down on the counter right in front of me so I could dig through my bag. So, I find my wallet, stick my card in there and then I take a drink from my cup and I leave. My cup was in front of me the whole time, but people all around me.
DELIA: Drink in hand, she went to meet her friends. Everything was fine until she got about two-thirds in. Something didn’t feel right.
McGUIRK: I was there for maybe 20 to 30 minutes before I started to feel kind of woozy. My vision started to go out, like it was starting to get really spotty. I don't know if anyone has ever felt faint before, but it's that thing where, you know, all of the sudden all of these black spots just start to take up your vision, and I also heard like this weird hissing or popping sound in my ears. And um, if you're not familiar with that venue, they don't really have chairs there. They have some but not very many. It's more of a standing-style bar. I saw this metal column to my right, and I braced my back up against it, and my vision went completely out at this point. But I was still conscious, so I just let myself sort of slide down the middle column. I was sort of in a crouching position, and if anyone has ever done yoga and they're familiar with malasana — it's like the squatting pose — that's basically what I was in.
DELIA: Her friends were concerned. They thought that maybe she was having a seizure or hadn’t eaten enough that night. But Leah says she doesn’t have a history of seizures, and she made sure to eat something before she headed out that night.
Her friends tried to get her out of the bar as quickly as they could. Another friend picked her up and stayed with her. She recalls having a horrible headache and feeling like she awake yet unable to hear or comprehend what her friend was saying. She says she spent the next several days recovering and in denial about what had happened.
She decided she needed to warn others about her experience, so she took to the internet and posted the details of what happened that night. Very quickly, she started getting private messages from women and men saying they also believed they were roofied at Rooftop 210. Leah, it turns out, was somewhat lucky. Some of the individuals who were contacting her said they were roofied and had also been sexually assaulted.
So, on Friday, May 25 — 13 days after her experience at Rooftop 210 — she decided to call 311, the city’s information number, to find out how she could file a police report. She wasn’t in immediate danger, so she didn’t want to call 911. The person she was connected to instructed her to go to the police station to file the report in person.
OK, she thought. That’s what I’ll do. It was a Friday night and she headed to CMPD headquarters in uptown.
McGUIRK: So I go up to the main desk there -- I believe they call it the rotunda. The male officer made eye contact with me, so I walked over to him, and he said, ‘So you're here to report some sort of a crime?’ and I said, ‘Yes, the fact that I was roofied two weeks ago.’ And he said ‘Why did you wait two weeks?’ And immediately I thought, ‘Oh my God. This is really happening right now.’ You hear about these things. This is every assault victim’s worst nightmare, and it's happening right now. So, I said, ‘Well, guess I was in shock and, you know, feeling ashamed.’ And he said, ‘Why were you ashamed. Were you raped?’ He was very aggressive and, like, hostile. And I said, ‘No, as I stated before, I wasn't raped. I was roofied. And I would like to file a report about that.’
DELIA: She says the officer told her if she wanted to file a police report, she would have to go back to the scene of the crime and call 911. She asked if that was normal. She was standing at the police station. Why did she have to leave?
McGUIRK: Then he gave me some lame excuse, but he couldn't give me a valid reason for why I needed to go to the scene of the crime, and so I said to him, ‘Does that apply in cases of sexual assault as well?’ Because at this point I'm like, let me get all the information here. This is just bizarre, because I had already called 311, and they never told me this. And he said, ‘Oh, well, yeah I mean you need to be in the area where the crime occurred in order to file the report,’ and just mumbled something. And I said, ‘Wow, I can see why sexual assault survivors don't report the crimes committed against them if they have to go back to the scene.’
DELIA: She says she thanked him for his time and left. By this point, she says, she had also reached out to Rooftop 210 to talk to them about improving their security practices. She says no one would take her seriously. That’s when she decided to post a video on YouTube.
McGUIRK (from YouTube video): Something has to change. These responses are unacceptable for victims of these crimes…”
DELIA: She says a day after she posted the video, she got a phone call from an unknown number.
McGUIRK: And I pick up, and it's a detective from the CMPD and he said, you know, ‘Someone in our department saw your YouTube video and they wanted me to reach out to you regarding filing your report.’ So I said ‘OK, yeah I mean I want to file a report.’ He said, ‘Great, when can you come in to do it?’ So I set up an appointment with him for Wednesday the next day.
DELIA: This time, she brought backup; her sister came with her. It was a fairly straightforward process. The detective said he would let her know what he found as things progressed. That brings us to Friday, June 1. She got a call from the detective working her case. CMPD was going to hold a press conference that afternoon about the police report debacle.
ROB TUFANO: I'm going to go in a kind of an unconventional direction this afternoon. Most of you know why we're here. Most of you are intimately familiar with the incident that we're going to reference this afternoon.
DELIA: That’s Rob Tufano, the director of public affairs for CMPD.
TUFANO: And the way that it's been communicated is that the officer told her, ‘Well I ain’t taking a report for you. You've got to go back to the scene of where the incident took place.’ Needless to say, this isn't exactly the response that this woman, a victim, was hoping for, and it's not a response that this woman, this victim, should have gotten. Not any way — any way shape or form — the way that we expect our folks to address a victim. There is no requirement for someone who may have been victimized in this kind of nature to go back to the scene. So there was some misinformation there, and needless to say, she didn't leave with a very good feeling about the way that she was, she was treated and this situation was managed.
DELIA: Tufano pointed out the reason everyone was gathered at this press conference: Leah’s YouTube video.
TUFANO: You know, we all know the power of social media and just how big of a ripple effect that can garner. And sure enough, it has garnered quite a ripple effect for good reason.
DELIA: Captain Melanie Peacock, the head of the sexual assault unit at the time, said when she heard about the video, she sent a detective to follow up with the victim.
PEACOCK: It's certainly regrettable that this young lady didn't receive the immediate customer service we would have liked, and we're certainly rectifying how we're handling that internally to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
DELIA: Peacock went on to say:
PEACOCK: Once this lady took to social media to put her information out there, I immediately heard about it and assigned a detective to follow up with her. She didn't come back to us making a report. So we reached out to her because we value helping victims in any way that we can.
DELIA: Peacock says she regrets the customer service Leah received that day when she tried to file a police report. Peacock also makes a point of saying CMPD reached out to her to follow up.
But, if there hadn’t been a YouTube video, would there have been a follow-up?
McGUIRK: It’s messed up that it took a YouTube video for this to happen. And if I hadn't posted a YouTube video, I wouldn't have received this preferential treatment. And I know that there are other victims that have been pushed away. And, you know, I also have to wonder about the fact that, you know, I'm a somewhat attractive white female and I'm sure that doesn't hurt my story either. So I realize that I received preferential treatment and also they were scared about the bad PR.
DELIA: Publicity about a case does put the detective working it under the microscope, says Randy Hagler. He’s head of the N.C. Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, an organization made up of police officers.
He says victims have two choices.
HAGLER: I think they can go to the media. That may be quicker, may make them feel better that they bring a little — they shed some light publicly on a detective or an officer’s shortcomings, but I don't know that it makes them feel any better for everybody that everybody know all of their business about what happened. I think that folks who feel like they have been shortchanged in the investigation and they don't feel like the detective is doing what or how they should be doing, bring that to the chain of command’s attention I think that would be investigated. I believe the same results would occur.
DELIA: The social media and traditional media scrutiny of police in recent years has led to some changes that Laurie Robinson thinks are positive. She’s a professor of criminology, law and society at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and she also served on President Obama’s task force of 21st Century Policing.
ROBINSON: I think that I think that people are more savvy now and more willing to raise issues with police departments now. And I think that that's a good development. Now, I'm a strong supporter of law enforcement, but why I say it's a good development is that we need communities and individual citizens to recognize that they are being served by police departments and there needs to be dialogue. It's important for citizens to be very vocal about what their expectations are.
DELIA: Leah wants CMPD to make some changes, so something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else. She says she hasn’t received an apology from CMPD. They use familiar words like ‘regrettable.’ And at this point, she’s not really looking for an apology.
McGUIRK: No, I don't care about words. I only want action. Words are meaningless. If you want to know, like in your personal life how someone feels about you, you see how they treat you, what their actions are, not what they say.
DELIA: CMPD said it has reviewed procedures with officers regarding what should happen when someone would like to file a police report. Leah filed a complaint with CMPD, which the department says it’s still investigating.
We reached out to Rooftop 210 for this story. The bar said while it believes there is no proof Leah was roofied, the establishment has looked at ways to improve their security system. The bar said it now has lids for the cups it uses. We decided to check it out. Reporter Alex Olgin and I went out to the bar around 5:30 on a Tuesday evening. Our drinks came with no lids. When I followed up asking if they provided them, the bartender told us, yes, you can have a lid if you request one.
For Leah, reaching out to the public via social media got her some movement on her case. She did that because she felt powerless and like no one was listening. Linda would also make a public appeal for similar reasons, but, in a very different way.
Back after this quick break. I’m Sarah Delia. This is She Says.
DELIA: On the fourth floor of the Mecklenburg County courthouse is domestic violence court. It’s where you’d go if you need something like a restraining order. When you walk in, it’s very quiet. The seats, which look like church pews, are all facing the towering desk of the judge.
The women sit on the left side of the courtroom, the men on the right.
And this room on the fourth floor is Linda’s next stop. She’s attempting to get something called a 50C, a no-contact order.
This type of order basically means that the person you are filing the order against cannot contact you. But, it’s not a criminal order. So if this person were to contact you, they wouldn’t necessarily be arrested.
Kim Dupuis with Brave Step, an advocacy group for sexual assault survivors in Charlotte, says she’s supported and helped clients walk through this process of filing for a no-contact order. But, it’s not a perfect solution.
DUPUIS: A no-contact order is a piece of paper. It’s not an impenetrable force that’s going to keep this person safe. And so, no, there are not enough resources out there. There are not enough things in place to protect survivors and really, you know, support them and give them that power back.
DELIA: But it’s something Linda can do. And right now, she feels so powerless. So she decides after his release that she’ll go to court. She says he already knows her first and last name, so what does she have to lose?
I was with Linda the day she went to court. We sat waiting for her name to be called by the judge. She’s asked to come forward.
COURT OFFICIAL: Place your hand on the Bible and raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
COURT OFFICIAL: You may be seated.
DELIA: The judge begins.
JUDGE: All right, ma'am could you please state your name.
Linda states her first and last name. He asks her how she knows the person she wants to take the order out against.
LINDA: I did not know him until the night of June 29, 2015, which he sexually assaulted me.
JUDGE: In 2015?
LINDA: Yes, sir. Yes, your honor.
JUDGE: All right, so why are you filing the complaint against him now?
DELIA: What Linda wants to say in that moment is judge, how much time to have? Instead she starts to explain her story -- in front of the judge, in front of a room full of people waiting their turns for their cases to be heard. She starts to explain why she’s here asking for this order. She’s asking, in so many words, for the judge to help her get some control over her life back.
LINDA: OK, the investigation, because he was a stranger to me, took quite a while. About 990-some days. He was arrested.
JUDGE: So this incident that happened in 2015, that was not a date?
DELIA: At first, Linda’s is a little confused by this question. Then, quickly says:
LINDA: Oh, no. I had no idea who this person was at all. The only information, the way that eventually I was able to identify him is when he assaulted me he had his work shirt on. He had a patch on his right chest that had his last name. And on the left side ...
DELIA: The judge takes a minute and then…
JUDGE: All right, ma’am. Have a seat back there, and the clerk will give you a copy of the order in just a few minutes.
DELIA: I’ll admit, I was a little confused at this moment. It was a little unclear if the order had been granted or not.
LINDA: OK. Does that mean that…
LINDA: It’s granted?
JUDGE: I'll tell you when I’m not going to grant your request.
LINDA: I'm sorry?
JUDGE: I will announce if I’m not going to grant your request.
LINDA: Oh yes, your honor. OK.
JUDGE: He won’t be able to contact you, or he’ll be ordered not to contact you.
DELIA: The order was granted, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. Next, the man Linda believes to be her attacker will have to be served. Then, Linda will have to return to court to make her case one more time as to why she wants this no-contact order. Only now, she’ll have to make her case in front of him. The last time she saw him, she was in the very back the courtroom, and he was wearing an orange jumpsuit because he was in custody. This next meeting, they’ll be feet apart.
Next Time on She Says, what we haven’t told you.
She Says is written, produced and reported by Sarah Delia. Our editor is Greg Collard. Joni Deutsch is our producer. Alex Olgin is our reporter. She co-wrote this episode. Music is provided by Pachyderm Music Lab. Keep the conversation going on Twitter using the hashtag #WFAESheSays. You can tweet at Sarah Delia directly @SarahWFAE. If you want next week’s episode in your feed as soon as it comes out, make sure to subscribe to She Says on NPR One, Apple Podcasts or wherever you find podcasts. You can find more information about the podcast at WFAE.org/shesays.
Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.
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