The Unbearable Burden of Owning Your Truth | An Open Letter to Jeffrey Epstein’s Victims

When I found out the series of southern California murders were connected to the rapes in northern California, what I fantasized was one day I would meet the amazing rape survivors and somehow find common cause among them. While I wasn’t raped, the monster that had attacked them had raped my stepmom and killed both she and my dad. Somehow, I imagined, they would understand.

I’m happy to report they did understand. These women are now my friends.

I’ve have watched these women of incredible strength, face their attacker in the courtroom for the first time. I’ve watched their hands shake and their faces flush. And this wasn’t even about testifying yet. This was just being in the same damn space, breathing the same air as the man who haunted them for years. There are still some who have not joined us – for whatever their personal reasons – but for those that have faced the monster, over the course of a year, I’ve watched them change. From my point of view, its been for the better.

That doesn’t mean the change hasn’t come with pain. Even I was thrown back to my 18-year-old self and I’ve had to deal with “my shit” related to the crime. But I have to say, the impact has been tremendous. For me, it has meant a life change that I didn’t see coming. I’m committed to advocating for survivors and I’m back in school to become a certified life coach. It’s from that place that I encourage survivors of Epstein and his evil cadre of rapists, to consider coming forward. To step into the light.

Pain can live in you like a cancer. Releasing the toxins might be the answer.

None of us know the journey these victims have taken as they moved from children to adult women. I suspect they’ve told themselves a lot of rationalizations that somehow have allowed them to cope. But I’d like to push into some of the more common ways we “justify” what happened to us when we were children that may have helped us grow into adulthood, but now no longer serve us. That’s when we need to adopt new, healthier strategies for survival. Watching Christine Blasey Ford testify and then deal with backlash that triggered all of us who’ve suffered at the hands of men has led us to a new place.

The #MeToo Movement isn’t just about women.

It’s also about aligning with the men who see what’s been happening and are just as disgusted with this kind of behavior. It’s about healing and taking back what’s ours regardless of gender. We have the right to be honored for who we are – warts and all. We have the right to be heard and to be believed. And bit by bit, this evolution is happening. If there’s a “yeah, but” forming on your lips, I get it. There will be bumps in the road.

But right now, let’s be clear about a few things we all tell ourselves when we’ve been abused that are absolutely, positively false – regardless of what anyone, including our President says.

I deserved it. Nobody deserves to be hurt. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you are wearing, whether you agreed to go to the party… I could go on. The point is, one person does not get to hurt another person.

I’m unworthy. This one is a hard one to fight when you’re really in the shit, but it’s wrong. Everyone is worthy and your story matters. Adding to the collective consciousness helps us all and as you start to share, you may find you feel stronger and more worthy every day. If you aren’t ready to share, that’s okay too. Just know, your worth is not connected to those men or their crimes.

Nobody will understand. Oh, but we do. You know who really understands? Olivia Benson, aka Mariska Hargitay. There’s a reason Law and Order SVU is so popular. And Dateline. It’s because we DO understand. Good people have come together to pursue true crime and help victims get answers. Mariska has a foundation with a mission to “transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.” Your advocates are legion.

We are on the precipice of living in a world where women have true power.

A future where women’s values, talents, capabilities and genius will help humanity evolve to embrace human rights, civil rights and true compassion. But that change does come at a cost. The cost of owning our truth. Speaking out won’t be perfect, there will still be mistakes and unintended consequences, but that’s how change happens.

Your strength at this moment will make a difference. Stand tall. Be strong. We are here for you.

If you were victimized by Epstein or his associates, the FBI wants to hear from you: 1-800-CALL-FBI. I recommend having a friend (or rape crisis counselor) help you with this call. Have her/him sit with you, conduct the call on speaker, take notes, and don’t agree to anything unless you’re ready. It’s good to listen and then tell them you’ll think about it, so you have time to consider what you need. Self-care is vital during this process.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is (888) 373-7888.
Please report any suspicious activity in any language.

True Crime Preliminary Research Results | Infographic!

[UPDATE: I have fixed the Infographic – now all ages are there and I added an explainer to the impact question.]

Okay you wonderful people. I am thrilled to tell you about my research! Over 600 people took my survey and the results are compelling. I’ve created an infographic of the basic findings. I do not have my analysis done because it’s a lot of data! I want to do more with the data, but you guys have been asking about this and it’s time to share something!

I’m telling you, women have your back!

You’ll quickly see that adult, white women is the primary audience. I don’t think this would surprise anyone over at MyFavMurder – the Murderinos are indicative of this demographic. And we know I love me some Murderinos. Karen and Georgia are the humorous overlords of these wonderful women and they blend true crime with wit and snark. I mean how is that not delicious.

I heard from almost all the states. 20% of the respondents were from outside the US. Within the US, California had 16% of the respondents and then it dropped to about 4% for Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Crime has touched many of us; but that’s not necessary to care.

More than 75% of respondents have been physically and emotionally harmed. For the 36% of you that haven’t been harmed, please don’t feel left out. That’s actually how life is supposed to work. When I get a chance to compare groups of people to answers, I think we’ll learn more about this. I will also be going through the qualitative answers and publishing a longer report in the coming weeks. I need a little time to crunch the numbers.

If you like true crime, get involved. Here’s how.

I have lots of hypotheses about these answers and I know I’m going to need to do a follow-up. But let’s start with this amazing information: true crime folks are engaged. They watch shows, read books and blogs, subscribe to podcasts and participate in online groups. Some are even helping with crowd-sourced crime solving. That was asked about often in the open questions. I know Billy Jensen was doing something on this. I’ll see if I can get more info from him about what’s going on. I think the Murder Squad podcast with Jensen and Holes is also doing that.

If you have questions, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. Or ping me on Twitter (it’s where many of the truecrime junkies hang out).

True Crime Profiling Infographic from

Golden State Killer Survivors Exploited for Political Gain

It’s 4am as I start this because I can’t sleep. I’m so angry, it’s beyond my belief. I have to get this off my chest because what happened yesterday was absolute garbage. Regardless of your position on the death penalty, that’s not what this is about. No, it’s possible for everyone to have their own point of view on the death penalty. That’s how it works. What happened yesterday was not about the death penalty: it was about politics and we were used without our consent. (Disclaimer: written while triggered and sleep deprived. There are bound to be typos here.)

Think about that. Victims of the Visalia Ransacker, East Area Rapist and the Original Nightstalker: now collectively known as the Golden State Killer Survivors, were once again victimized, in broad daylight, without any single member of the prosecution considering how we might feel about what went down yesterday.

I call it crashing thoughts. When my front brain can’t keep up with all the crap my back brain is processing.

Our gathering yesterday was weird. I’ll write it up, but I need to jump around a bit to explain what’s going on. I left the afternoon event yesterday feeling strange; like in my body. I felt anxious and sad and a feeling of dread, but I didn’t know what the feelings were attached to, so I called mom and rattled off the headlines. Typically when I make her listen to me (let’s call a spade a spade here, she rarely gets a word in edgewise), I can sort out my thoughts and feelings. Here’s what I shared with her:

The Planned Parenthood event moved me. Hearing stories from women and men about their healthcare journeys reinvigorated my commitment to female equality and the right to healthcare. The speakers discussed several laws being written today that are designed to take away a woman’s right to make decisions about her body. Decisions being made by politicians; not doctors and families. If you have never had a transvaginal ultrasound, you don’t get a vote in this one. I had several during fertility treatments. Nobody buys you a drink afterward. I understand this might sound like noise to some, but watch The Handmaid’s Tale if your imagination stops there.

Yesterday, I got to meet Mr. Harrington  for the first time. Just in front of the doors of the courtroom, he was talking to a large press gaggle and I assumed, “of course, it’s the first time he’s shown up here, makes sense.” He told the story of his murder – his brother and wife – and as he described it, I teared-up because the Harrington story is the closest to ours and his description was vivid and incredibly relatable for me. I’ve always identified with the Harrington case because the murders were so similar. I stepped away as I felt the tears coming. When Mr. Harrington emerged from the building, I introduced myself and cried again because I had looked forward to meeting him at some point. Remember, for me it’s been 20 years that this family has been part of my story. HBO was freaking everywhere with their cameras (that’s them in my photo from yesterday’s blog) and they captured our meeting on film. My feelings were authentic and if they use that tape, there will be no mistake it was real. At least for me.

The afternoon gathering was uncomfortable. As mentioned, HBO was there and I guess I didn’t realize ahead of time that they would be filming us. I thought they were there to do more background, but I’m an idiot. They were there to tape what we were talking about. Over the last year, this has been our safe space. We say all kinds of things that reflect the individual differences and the commonalities among us. You know when I talk about these gatherings, I do it broadly and make every effort to keep private information private. Every survivor is on their own journey and they deserve to share as they see fit. At least that’s been my commitment when writing. The worst part of the HBO project is that it will be subjective: meaning it’s entertainment. It’s not news and just like the McNamara book, it’s all about an outsider’s interpretation. So I remain dubious. I was taped and recorded. But I wasn’t at ease.

I met a new survivor couple and they were so warm. Bob and Gay joined us for the first time yesterday (they did not go to court). They were together during the attack and they are still together today – I’m not 100% positive but I think they are the only surviving “couple” to stay together. That alone was pretty incredible. But then I learned Bob is a lawyer. I locked in: for the first time, I could talk to a survivor who might have had the same thoughts my dad did during the attack. It was a powerful connection. I talked to Bob for a long time. I found it soothing. New Bob (my dad’s nickname was Bob, just to add to the kismet factor) is kind, thoughtful in his answers, and freaking in love with his wife, Gay. I won’t turn this into a therapy session, but he got in my head in many good ways.

The hearing yesterday was weird. Beyond weird. I wrote about how different it was last night and the number one thing we all talked about yesterday afternoon was that we felt shoved aside and irrelevant yesterday. Everything that happened in court was both a surprise and confounding. We spent a lot of time speculating yesterday about was really going on. But at that point, we didn’t have all the information.

As usual, mom was great. She listened, asked questions and helped me think more about what I’d experienced. But it wasn’t until I started writing last night, that I started to understand the big picture.

After lying in bed arguing in my damn head, it’s time to talk.

Yesterday was planned, staged and executed as a precursor to last night’s fundraiser and today’s press conference aimed at fighting the Governor of California and furthering the political careers of the District Attorneys. I’m not naïve. I knew this was coming. But I am incredibly angry that I was used yesterday, without my consent, in a political game that has nothing to do with us: the survivors. Let’s break it down.

Yesterday’s hearing wasn’t a hearing. It was a stunt.

We were unwitting victims of a political move and I did not consent. If we just take this one point and consider it: in and of itself, it’s shameful. I don’t care whose side you’re on or what your position is on the death penalty. Those things are not relevant to what happened here. The District Attorneys, mine included from Ventura, put together a “hearing” so they would have a platform for fundraising.

It started with our arrival. We were last into the courtroom. We’ve always been first. Sure lawyers might be there, but before they were incredibly respectful. Yesterday, they were front and center, so they’d be seen on camera, and amazingly, the judge agreed to let a lot of extra cameras in the room. We came in last to an unfamiliar and overwhelming scene of media and no seats set aside for us. We had to fumble and fit where there were seats left scattered about the tiny gallery. And if you don’t believe this was incredibly choreographed, at one point a camera man asked the couple I was sitting next to if they’d move because he couldn’t see them in his shot! They declined.

There were two motions ruled on – I remember the other one now – one was about pretrial publicity (dammit, I hate that now I’m thinking DeAngelo’s attorney might have a point), which the judge denied and the other was a very mysterious order of protection. We don’t know who needs to be protected but I found that intriguing. Then, in a weird move, the judge asked if there was an announcement and that’s when each DA stood and got their moment in the sun as they said they would seek the death penalty.

One by one.

Then the hearing was dismissed. The media was excused, and my Ventura-based legal team shook my hand and reassured me they were working hard.

We left the courtroom and without our knowledge, walked into a political media circus.

I was almost last out because I was talking with my Ventura folks. As I walked through the door, I saw an older man, in a suit, with a file folder, talking with the press. I was surprised it was such a big crowd but then I deduced it must be Mr. Harrington and he had never been to court before and I thought that was why the crush was on.

Golden State Killer Survivors Exploited by Politics in Staged Hearing
I managed to get around the gaggle and looked back to see if it was who I thought it was. I was pretty confident it was a Harrington. If only he had wanted to me us.

After I figured out it was him, I sat down with the others on the bench you can see behind him. Those are the survivors, sitting there, trying to figure out what was going on. I have no idea why they were sitting there but someone mentioned they were asked to when they came out. They became unwitting props in a production that didn’t bother to ask us if we wanted to participate. But again, we didn’t know any of this at the time.

Golden State Killer Survivors Exploited by Politics in Staged Hearing
See the women behind Mr. Harrington? Some of those women are survivors. They were placed there without understanding why.

When Mr. Harrington finally came outside, that’s when I introduced myself. I had left to talk with other media folks, so I don’t really know how long things went on inside and what was being discussed. I saw him, connected and then someone said to me, we’d like to have to join us at our big press conference tomorrow. A man with dark hair was pushing it and suggesting I come. He had no details other than today at 10am. I now know it’s the Death Penalty Moratorium Press Conference that will happen today at 10am in Sacramento. Again, this isn’t about the death penalty. It’s about politics and positioning District Attorneys – who are elected and therefore are politicians – as being tough on crime. Alas, I find it funny that the death penalty is where they want to hang their hats.

Let’s face it: the death penalty is the last phase in a conviction. It’s rare, expensive and only affects a handful of cases. Here’s some more factual information so you can see what crimes fall under the provision (this site appears to be neutral reporting of data). It’s always been weird to me that DAs want to hang their hat on the white elephant rather than the day to day stuff. But that’s me. I digress.

Why does my stomach ache and my head hurt.

As I drove home, and clearly mentioned on Twitter and on my blog last night, I felt sick. How was it that none of the survivors knew what was going down yesterday but one? How did the rich white man from Orange County, Mr. Harrington, who has never talked with us, just take over the narrative? How did the women and men, who’ve been coming to court for a year, sharing their stories, finding their courage, how did we become victim props for the DAs’ agenda?

Well, it turns out, yesterday in court was just part one of an integrated fundraising campaign being run by Crime Victims United. Just take a moment and delight in the cleverness of the name. United. As in, not you Golden State Killer guys, but us guys from places like Orange County. The GUYS united around a political platform that supports Devin Nunes and Dana Rohrabacher. And again, I will set this aside because I’m capable of living in a world with different opinions.

Golden State Killer Survivors Exploited by Politics in Staged Hearing
The fundraiser was last night. While I was struggling in my hotel room to figure out what happened, these folks are out using the case for fundraising. Would have been nice to know up front.

My District Attorney from Ventura was one of the speakers last night. They were specifically using the Golden State Killer case to raise money. I would have appreciated Mr. Totten telling me yesterday what was really happening and allowing me to then decide how I might want to participate – or not. Either way, this wasn’t about the victims. If it was, they would have been honest. They told none of us. Mr. Harrington was the only person (man) read in and they steamrolled the rest of us in pursuit of their personal agenda (as opposed to the collective agenda we survivors thought we were using).

Golden State Killer Survivors Exploited by Politics in Staged Hearing

Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture for a minute.

Our Ventura crime is on track. Clean, clear and DNA with a clean chain of custody. But many of the crimes DeAngelo committed are not being charged. This has been devastating for many of the survivors. Half of the time, we are merely supporting one another through the grief of not being part of the case while vicariously living through the charges that will stick. Remember Bob, the husband that was new yesterday? Their case can’t be made. There are others in the same boat – meaning, the police and DAs will not even talk with them anymore. They aren’t as relevant. It’s the cruel reality of American jurisprudence. But feelings don’t care about reality and people are human. The pain is real.

My point is, several victims have already had to eat a shit sandwich since DeAngelo’s been jailed. It’s beyond uncool to use any of us in this way. Furthermore, why did they hide their agenda from us? That’s the real question. I stood in front of Gary Totten and he said nothing. And they’d already pulled the trigger. They had their moment in court and Harrington was outside dropping the bomb. Did they think none of us would support their position? I know some of us who would have. But why ask a woman when there’s a rich, white man available? I bet some of you want to fight me on this but go back and read this again. He’s never, ever been to court. He hasn’t reached out to us. He showed up with his DA and left; making no real contact with any of us. If I hadn’t reached out to him, he wouldn’t have missed it.

I have always held Mr. Harrington in high regard. I worked in Northern California on Prop 69, which was funded by his family. The law passed requiring DNA from all convicted felons. It is a good law and it’s helping solve crimes. We share a horrible crime. I ignorantly thought we had a connection.

As for today’s press conference, it’s not about the Golden State Killer.

It’s about Gavin Newsom and politics and points of view and using a popular brand, GSK, to elevate their message. If you look at the list of participants, only Harrington is there as a GSK representative. I again ask why they chose him – and didn’t speak with anyone else that I know of – to participate in today’s press conference. In the context of #MeToo, white privilege and women being marginalized all over the place, politics once again defaulted to rich white men to control the narrative.

I’m going to talk more about this as it evolves. I want this group to pay for my week up here. My hotel, my food, gas. I was manipulated and played. Emotionally and financially. I came to what I thought was a hearing and instead it was political theater. I would have liked to know that ahead of time.

We are not fools. We are trusting. We’ve been honest and respectful and authentic. Frankly, my authenticity is all I have. I thought long and hard about what I’ve written here, but it’s too important to let slip through the cracks. I’m super interested in your opinion on how this is going down.

PS: now it’s 7:30am and it’s light outside. Happy Thursday. Talk to you on Twitter!

Oh! Take the Survey! It’s still open. We might hit statistical significance.
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The Power of Women – East Area Rapist Survivors Are Fierce

Had anyone at a Buckhorn Grill looked our way, they would have seen a group of women, whooping it up, sharing laughter and a meal and singing happy birthday. What a wonderful group of women exhibiting a level of resilience that I believe, belongs to women. No matter what, most women know how to “soldier on”. We might be battered, bruised, traumatized and exhausted, but for many of us, we keep going. I mean this in the best possible way.  

For all the good men out there, please forgive me, in advance, for generalizing. I’m gonna do it. I can’t help myself. Women freaking rock.

I started tonight writing about court, but I couldn’t stay focused. That’s because today was amazing – but not because of what happened in court. It’s because of what happened outside of court. It started at the corner of H Street and 7th in downtown Sacramento. That’s where Victim Services has us meet to walk over to the jail where our courtroom is located. I didn’t realize we’d all be there! It was amazing!

One after another, survivors started showing up just a bit after 8am (we had a couple wonderful men who joined us, don’t want to leave them out). I hadn’t met some of the women because I wasn’t in court for the initial arraignment. Others, I had met two weeks ago at the hearing that ended up being continued to today. There were smiles and hugs and introductions. Damn! This was a squad and we were heading to court to show that man we were not going to back down. It’s our turn now and he’s OUR bitch.

A recess allowed us to head out for coffee.

The judge switched to an “in camera” session – which means “in chamber” but really it was in the courtroom with lawyers only. Like a closed session of a board meeting. He said to come back at noon, so we were off to hang. As we walked away, a reporter was following us. I dropped back and asked him to let us be right now and we’d be happy to talk after the hearing was over. He graciously respected our request and off we went. In private.

We hid in a local cafe and had the most wonderful chance to talk. We were all over the place in our conversations, but it was interesting, funny and bittersweet. The women know I blog but I assured them, our conversations are private and not for blogging. As the time passed, we realized we needed to head back. We joined the media back in the hallway that holds us all as we wait for court to resume. Then we got the message, court wouldn’t restart until 2:15! OMG! We had time for lunch.

How many survivors can fit into a hybrid Accord?

Turns out five (plus driver). We were walking to a local eating joint when Dea pulled up and said, “Hey, wanna go to lunch?!”

Several of us knew Dea, a reporter from ABC, and she has a very good reputation among us. With the caveat that everything we’d say would be off the record, Dea took us over to the Buckhorn Grill. We were like a carload of college women – complete with lots of giggling and the discomfort that comes from jamming bodies into a car. Which is to say, it was awesome.

Turns out it is Dea’s birthday, so we had a reason to celebrate.

And now the part that I must share but I won’t attribute a word. We actually were the table of women discussing the one thing I think mean fear: penis size! Can you even imagine being the most notorious serial rapist and killer in America and the one thing that every victim knows, is that you have a small peen? After studying his hands today, I can only imagine.

What a wonderful day.

Courtroom machinations aside, this was an incredible day. It’s probably why I’m so fried tonight. I realize stepping out into the light might not work for everyone, but I personally believe it can be healing. Everyone is on their own journey. Everyone has their own process. But the community we had today was worth the heat, the standing around waiting and the challenge I have to remember names. While many couldn’t be at court today, we held you in our hearts. You were there in spirit. We represented.

At some point we will need to have a spiritual reunion. One woman spoke of a dream that she had the night DeAngelo was caught. At the end of the nightmare, she saw all the victims coming together in joyous celebration. What a wonderful vision.

If you are a victim and need help, please reach out to Sacramento Victim Services.