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After the Assault: Your Brain On Rape (Episode 2)

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After the Assault: Your Brain On Rape (Episode 2)

Picture of Samantha Caiola

This story is part of a larger project, After The Assault, which aims to change the conversation around sexual violence to better support survivors seeking healing and justice. USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s Impact Fellow, Sammy Caiola, helps us understand survivor experiences in the immediate aftermath of sexual violence and during police investigations. 

Other stories in this series include:

Introduction: ‘Deeply Destroyed My Sense of Safety’: Sexual Assault Survivors Say Police Interactions Often A Second Trauma

A Guide For Reporting Sexual Assault In Sacramento County

Episode 1: Start By Believing

Episode 3: A Question Of Evidence

Episode 4: Case Closed

Episode 5: Living With Trauma

Episode 6: Guide To Being An Ally

Episode 7: A Community Problem

Marissa Espiritu / CapRadio
Marissa Espiritu / CapRadio
Thursday, June 24, 2021


The way a survivor is questioned about the details surrounding a sexual assault can greatly influence their ability to access memories of that traumatic incident. Better interview techniques and the presence of an advocate during questioning could actually help survivors remember more of the assault, and lead to more solved crimes.


Sammy: I’m Sammy Caiola, health care reporter for CapRadio and your host for After The Assault, a podcast about healing from sexual trauma. I need to give you a content warning here: there will be a vivid description of sexual violence in this episode.

[music theme]

Sammy: I’ve been meeting with survivors of assault for nearly two years. I’ve been learning about the long-lasting impact that these crimes have on their lives, and I was curious about how survivors can find a path to healing, even if justice isn’t served.

In Episode 1, we talked about why so many rapes go unreported, and the low incarceration rates for perpetrators of sexual assault.

If you missed that episode, we suggest you go back and start listening from the beginning.

[music fades out]

Sammy: In this second episode we’re going to explore an area of science that could actually help law enforcement solve more of these cases.

But first, they have to figure out the survivor brain.

[music comes in]

Sammy: Experts on psychological trauma say rape survivors often find it hard to recall certain details of the incidents. This can stem from not taking in those details in the first place, or those details can fade from memory, or the brain can have problems with retrieving them.

Survivors can be retraumatized if they report the crime to law enforcement and get hit with a barrage of detailed questions that they don’t know how to answer.

I’ve been talking to a group of eight sexual assault survivors and they helped us shape this project.

I asked them what it was like when an officer or a friend started pressing them for details, like what was the perpetrator wearing?

Annie: I remember I just kept saying I don't know, I don't know, I don't know or I mean, I think I might have said, like, I don't know, blue jeans maybe.

Monica: Your mind will try to protect yourself as like a self-defense mechanism and block out certain things just because it wants you to survive and make it and not be overwhelmed. And you don't always have control over that.

Aurora: Just trying to, like, give them what they want, which is just answers. But it's like I don't have the answers. I'm looking for them myself.

Sammy: The science is clear. These memory issues are common among assault survivors. It’s been documented in dozens of studies over the past two decades. And it’s not just rape that impacts the human brain in these ways, it’s all kinds of traumatic events like combat, or child abuse, or a car crash.

If a survivor doesn’t know how normal this is, they might blame themselves for missing details or memory lapses. And that feeling can disrupt the healing process for months and years after the attack.

And if police officers and detectives don’t understand that trauma can dramatically affect a survivor’s brain, their interview techniques might not draw out the information that they need to fully investigate a sexual assault.

[Theme music fades in]

Sammy: This episode, we’ll look at the way our brains record details when we’re in a traumatic event and how law enforcement can use science to gather better information from sexual assault victims without harming them further.

We’ll be hearing a lot from Jim Hopper — he’s a Harvard University psychologist and a national expert on trauma and the brain. He’s not connected to any of the survivors we interviewed, but he’s often called in to explain to judges and juries why someone who’s been sexually assaulted may legitimately struggle to recall what happened.

Jim: We would never question the credibility of a soldier, based on whether they can remember the exact sequence of those mortars coming in and which one, you know, blew off their friend’s leg versus, you know, which blew off that guy’s arm. You know, would we question their credibility? Of course not. Would we expect them to remember everything in great detail? No.

But yet every day in courtrooms around the country we attack and question the credibility of victims of sexual assault for having the same kind of memories that soldiers have for their combat experiences.

Sammy: This is CapRadio’s After The Assault. Episode 2: Your Brain on Rape.

[Theme music fades out]

Sammy: Meet Annie Walker — she lives in the Sacramento area with her American bully, Pookie.

Here is Pookie trying to eat my shoelaces

[Sound of dog sniffing and licking shoe]

Annie: She’ll eat that

Sammy: That was the day my colleague Emily Zentner and I went to Annie’s house to interview her for the first time. I remember she was pretty nervous — she wasn’t sure where to start or what to say. She clutched her coffee cup most of the time. It wasn’t easy for her to talk about the assault.

[Annie breathing deeply]

Annie: And I think that’s… it’s… ummm… I don’t know where I want to go with this… ummm.

Sammy: She’d been emailing us for a few weeks, so we knew some of her story. This is her describing it to a detective at the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department. She gave us permission to use audio from her investigative file, which she requested.

She says she was out that night.

[audio from investigative file]

Annie: We’re dancing, having a good time, just kind of like, just having fun … you know? And I recall, [sighs] I recall...

Sammy: Let me remind you that we have decided to believe survivors in this podcast. If you want to know more about why that matters, we suggest you go back and listen to episode 1.

Annie was drinking the night of her assault. It’s relevant here, because it might have affected what she remembers.

We’re bleeping out the names of the people she was with.

Annie: I was already pretty tipsy at this point. Umm, but, I feel like I remember drinking it, and soon after that, feeling kind of odd. Well, I went to the bathroom and when I came back out of the bathroom, BLEEP was gone, and it was just BLEEP there. And feeling, you know, just kind of not so great. And I remember wanting some water.

Sammy: The next thing she remembered was the perpetrator cornering her and trying to take off her clothes.

Annie: I just remember holding on for dear life and he was, like you know, just banging me from behind and all I just kept saying, I kept repeating in my head, ‘I’m married and I love my husband. I’m married and I love my husband.’”

Annie: It was like this out-of-body experience. Sorry, umm, it’s like I was like over myself. But I did, like, I felt like paralyzed. Like, I couldn't even, like, feel like my limbs.

Sammy: Psychologist Jim Hopper says this can happen to any of us when we’re overcome with stress or fear that impairs the prefrontal cortex. That’s the part of our brain in charge of complex thinking and decision-making, also known as “executive functions.”

Instead, the brain’s “defense circuitry” takes over.

Jim: And that's what people are running on, whether it's combat, sexual assault or anything else. And when police understand that, then they have a lot more openness to why that woman didn't fight or yell, why she, you know, was like a deer in a headlights. Not because she's an idiot, but because the really intelligent parts of her brain were turned off and she was stuck on an ineffective habit response ‘cause she didn't have the executive functions to shift to a new response.

Sammy: So, you’re scared, you’re extremely stressed and your brain is switching gears. So it’s not about rational thought anymore.

And at the same time, your body is having this physical experience.

But your awareness may be split off from what’s happening in your body — like what Annie described. You might only be taking in bits and pieces of what’s happening.

It’s called “dissociation,” and Hopper says it affects memory.

Jim: And so people may describe, you know, feeling like they were floating or like they were in a movie, or a dream, and literally not experiencing the sensations and emotions that are arising in their body from that assault. In the same way, when they're being interviewed later by an investigator or someone else, they, umm, may not have access to those emotions that were associated with the event.”

Sammy: Annie was in a situation where she felt threatened, her body froze up and her dissociative state prevented some parts of the assault from getting encoded into her memory in the first place. Later, those fragments that she did hold onto took longer to recall.

That night, she says she couldn’t talk to her husband about what happened. And when she woke up the next morning, she was really confused.

Annie: I mean, I remember waking up in the bedroom in there, and like, there was like this huge bruise all over my arm. And I had bruises all over my body and... I. But my I, I literally had no idea, like, what had happened. And, for days, I was trying to put the pieces together.

Sammy: Over the next few days, details and images of that night started to come back.

Events that had originally been blurry or missing came into focus. She remembered being bent over face-down, and his hands moving under her pants and shirt.

One week after the attack, she decided to report it to the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department. She says deputies came to her house to take the report.

Three days after making that report, she says a new vivid memory popped up: the person she says raped her had a weapon.

Annie: And I knew that there was a gun at my neck, at my back, like it was just clear, and I wanted to make sure that the authorities knew.

Sammy: So she called her detective to add that piece of information. But she says the detective was skeptical.

Annie: Yeah I felt like I was just extremely, like, cross examined on the phone. Like, ‘why didn't you remember a gun? That's like a really important thing’ and, like, I couldn't explain why I couldn't remember.

Sammy: Hopper says Annie was having trouble with retrieval. Her brain had recorded and stored the information about the gun, but she wasn’t able to remember it right away because her mind had disassociated itself from some parts of the attack.

A reminder here: Hopper says stress – including the stress of being interviewed by a detective about the worst experience of your life – can impair recall.

He says in order to retrieve certain information, sexual assault victims need the right context. That can be a state of mind, a question from a friend or a detective, seeing something that reminds you about the attack, or another memory that serves as a “cue.”

But there is another important element here: it’s actually the way our memories are recorded.

He points to research on how our brains take in two types of details: central and peripheral.

Jim: Central details that are getting attention and have emotional significance attached to them, versus peripheral details that we're not really paying attention to, or not attaching much significance to, that differential encoding is greatly amplified in the midst of a stressful or traumatic experience.”

Sammy: The central details — the ones that captured attention and evoked emotions in the moment — those tend to be stored more reliably, and for longer. And even if you have that out-of-body experience, your brain is probably still storing some of those central details.

So for Annie, the gun was central. It was burned into her brain, she just couldn’t access it in the immediate aftermath of the assault.

And other details like somebody had for dinner might never come back, or they might come back scrambled. Those facts probably didn’t seem important at the time, even though they could turn out to be vital to an investigation.

Annie was confused about a lot of those little details. Like what the perpetrator was wearing

[music fades up]

Annie: I remember I just kept saying, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know or I mean, I think I might have said, like, I don't know, blue jeans, maybe, like I just felt, like, I almost felt like I had to, like, say something.

Sammy: Hopper says it’s common for survivors who are questioned right after the incident to not be able to remember this sort of thing.

But even though the science shows very clearly that this happens to survivors, Hopper says there isn’t a widespread understanding of trauma’s impact on the brain, especially among law enforcement when it comes to sexual assault.

Jim: There's a real danger when investigators are asking people for information that was never encoded or has been lost in the meantime, that they can, you know, stress out the victim, leave them feeling misunderstood, incompetent, not wanting to further engage with the investigation. Or, even worse, they could be creating inconsistencies and basically false pieces of memory.

Sammy: Like when Annie told the detective that the perpetrator was maybe wearing blue jeans …. Just because she felt she had to say something.

[music fades out]

[theme music transition]

Sammy: Science describes how traumatic incidents can affect survivors’ memories in surprising ways. Details might drop out in the aftermath and pop up days or weeks later. Or not at all. As disturbing as it might be for assault survivors, it also poses problems for law enforcement officers trying to collect evidence to make a criminal case.

Law enforcement officers I talked to say it’s crucial that the employee conducting the interview directly tell survivors that it’s OK to not remember everything. And that they have to rethink pretty much everything they’ve learned about interviewing.

Dave Thomas is with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which provides best practice guides for law enforcement.

Dave: Most of our questioning is linear. What happened from the beginning to the end. And that's not the way somebody who's been traumatized, that's not the way their memory is laid down. And what we realized is we have to ask questions in a way that that individual is able to provide information based on the experience that they've had.

Sammy: You heard Annie’s struggle with memory, but she isn’t alone. So many of the survivors that I talked to for this podcast told me they didn’t remember the details of what happened to them until weeks or months later. They couldn’t remember the sequence in which those details occurred. And those who reported to law enforcement said they felt chastised when they couldn’t recall the facts or the order of events.

Carrie Hull helps teach officers how to interview people who have been through trauma. She is a former detective with the Ashland, Oregon Police Department.

She says the typical process for reporting a crime just isn’t tailored for survivors of assault.

Carrie: You know, the expectation is someone is supposed to come in, sit down, they're supposed to be ready to talk. They're supposed to know what to talk about. They're going to tell you what happened to them from the beginning through the middle and then the end.

That is a very traditional understanding of both just humans and then also memory and recall. And what we've developed with study over the years is to be a lot more understanding and adaptable as a practitioner versus putting those expectations on the participant.

Sammy: For example, Erin Price-Dickson said she felt pressured when detectives asked her about the night she was raped.

Erin: Like how come you don't know. Well, what time did you leave? Well, what time did it happen? What time did you get back? I don't know. And it was like, well, why don't you know?

Sammy: Let’s go back to Annie’s story, because her situation says a lot about how fragmented memories — and the way officers react to them — can affect the way an investigation unfolds.

Annie’s case wasn’t initially assigned to a detective, because the sheriff’s department employees who worked on it didn’t believe that what she reported described a criminal act.

[music fades up]

Sammy: Annie says she and her husband had to keep calling the department to get them to assign it, and ultimately an investigation was conducted.

About a month after Annie made her report, a detective was sent to the location where she says she was raped to look for the surveillance footage. Here’s that detective explaining to the owners of that location why they were back at the scene.

Detective: The original report, the way it came in, the way it was, it was, disclosed, was not criminal. It didn’t describe a criminal act, therefore, it was not assigned. So, now that we’re getting notifications of well, no, well there was this, now look there was this … when we start changing things, it causes a problem.”

Sammy: So the officers who handled Annie’s case saw these additional details she was bringing up as problematic. But the new additions did alter the course of the investigation, even though that security tape didn’t end up being important.

[music fades out]

Sammy: Let me explain something here: every law enforcement agency handles this differently. I heard there was at least one department in the Sacramento area where officers are taking the science seriously, so I went to check it out.

Nicole Monroe is a detective who handles sexual assault cases at the Elk Grove Police Department — it’s in a suburb of Sacramento.

She says all officers do their interviews differently — some have had special training on the science, and some haven’t. And the ones that don’t regularly do this kind of work might have a tendency to be too harsh, or too direct.

Nicole: And we need to learn as a whole to step back and let the victim take the power in that situation and be able to speak. Otherwise, we'll close them down. And I think that's one of the biggest things in those trainings that they teach you, is to just step back and, umm, let the victim have the control and talk and have that open conversation, instead of being very direct questions.

I will always tell the people that I interview, hey, umm, especially if it's fresh. You're going to remember things for who knows how long. Umm, bits and pieces will come back. Smells will come back. Sights will come back. When you think of these things, give me a call and let me know, so that it can be added because little things like that are going to make a difference.

Sammy: The Elk Grove police department is following the best practices recommended by Dave Thomas’s group, and by nonprofits that advocate for sexual assault survivors.

That includes having a “soft interview room” at the station — it’s a quiet, furnished space for victims of violent crime. Experts say that’s becoming more common as agencies understand more about the science of trauma, and as survivors and their families speak up about the challenges with the reporting process.

I did a quick Google search and I found a handful of law enforcement agencies that have added these soft rooms in the past couple of years. And I found a nonprofit that’s raised enough to install them at 20 different police stations across the county since they started their mission in 2018.

The Sacramento-area police departments I talked to said they have soft interview rooms.

The Elk Grove Police Department installed theirs eight years ago.

[Sound of opening door]

[Sounds of a door opening with keys] “Sounds great… kind of cozy.”

Sammy: It looks like someone took a living room out of a furniture catalogue and stuck it in a police station. There’s a beige couch with navy throw pillows, a coffee table, a few plants and some nice, soft lighting.

Nicole: So the detective or officer will sit in the chair and then we have the victim, the WEAVE advocate or the support person, whoever they may bring on the couch, just to give it more room.

Sammy: But this option isn’t guaranteed. Some of the survivors I talked to had to give their reports in traditional interview rooms.

Marianne Candela told me about when she reported an assault on her college campus 13 years ago.

Marianne: They brought me into an interrogation room. There was two chairs. One lightbulb. It was dark, it was cold. And there was a certain kind of metallic smell to the place.

Sammy: I talked to a survivor named Penny. She asked that we not use her full name and that we alter her voice.

She says when she was interviewed, it was in a small square room with beige walls. She described it as ‘cold’ and ‘uninviting.’

Penny: You know the room contributed to the overall feeling [music fades up] that I was a suspect in a case, and she was trying to get the information out of me ... I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if they had given me a space to be in that felt welcoming, where I didn’t feel like maybe they were going to restrain me.

[music fades out]

Sammy: So, soft interview rooms can really help make this a better experience for survivors.

So can having a WEAVE advocate. That’s a counselor from Sacramento’s rape crisis center who’s on hand to provide support to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Jessica Garcia is the embedded advocate for the Elk Grove Police Department. She’s been there for seven years.

She says making sure the survivor is relaxed is a big part of the job.

Jessica: Well you know, we make sure that there's breaks, that there’s food, that there's water, that they are comfortable even in the soft room, you know. Is this an OK place for us to talk? And then it's just again, it’s kind of a, starts a general conversation to where the victim is feeling OK to share. And then there comes the questions that obviously the detective needs to have answered, but in a more delicate, conversational manner.

Sammy: Garcia works alongside Nicole Monroe on domestic violence and sexual assault cases. She listens in on the investigative interviews and helps coach officers on how to talk to survivors.

She says Monroe handles these cases pretty well. And her interview techniques help survivors feel calm, which lets them think more clearly about their memories without feeling pressured.

Jessica: It's not like, “and then what happened?” you know. She doesn't do interviews like that where she's like, “OK, so this happened, and then what happened? And then, and then what happened, and then what happened?”

Because those are not productive questions to ask someone who has just experienced a trauma. You know, she'll ask, you know, “what are the things that you remember?” Like she said, “what are the things that you could remember in the room?” What are, you know, just kind of having that person draw, or speak, to what their experience is and that's very powerful for them.

And it also, it just makes the victim feel like they're heard. And a lot of times when people report this crime, they don't feel like they're heard. They don't feel like they're believed. And reaching out for help is such a big step to make. And so when she's conducting these interviews and she's, you know, really having a genuine conversation but also doing her job, you know I feel like that facilitates the case a little bit better.

Sammy: But the concept of having law enforcement team up with social service organizations for sexual assault cases is still pretty new.

Police stations in Elk Grove and Citrus Heights — that’s another Sacramento suburb — have had embedded advocates for years. Sacramento Sheriff’s department and Sacramento Police Department were only able to hire them more recently after attaining grants to do so.

Ronald Lawrence is Chief of Police at the Citrus Heights Police Department. He’s also a former president of the California Police Chiefs Association.

He says patrol officers generally don’t have the specialized training needed for these interviews.

Chief Lawrence: They may have just come from a traffic accident where they had to deal with a fatal traffic collision, or they may have just come from a domestic violence, or a bank robbery or a burglary or who knows, a neighbor dispute. And sometimes we have to very rapidly change gears, if you will, in our mind and our mindset to make sure that we’re providing the right level of service for our victims.

Now our detectives get a lot more proficient at this because they do focus on, you know, a lot more specifically just dealing with certain investigations like sexual assault. But the initial response, the police officers, that is kind of a challenge for us and that’s where the advocates really come in to be very helpful for us.

Sammy: He says advocates can be a huge help to patrol officers. But it’s hard to get sustainable funding for them. Typically departments need to apply for state and federal grants, and those run out after a certain period of time.

Chief Lawrence: But I would love to see California step up and give more funding, we need more of them. And I think that would be a huge fix.

Sammy: California advocacy groups have lobbied the state to increase funding for rape crisis centers, and that includes more grants for embedded advocates at police stations.

But even without the help of an advocate, there are ways for officers to guide survivors through the investigative process in a way that helps facilitate healing.

It’s called Forensic Experiential Trauma Interviewing.

Carrie Hull — the detective from Ashland, Oregon that you heard from before — helps promote this kind of education.

The motto is “collect the dots, then connect the dots” — don’t try to put the story together at first. Just try to figure out what information is accessible.

Carrie: Making sure that they're not doing an investigation during the interview, because the minute you start doing that, you are inviting opinion, you are inviting bias.

Sammy: Hull says if officers do this interview correctly, they can actually help the survivor remember things that they might not have had access to when they walked into the room.

And she says eliciting that kind of information is a specialized skill that most law enforcement departments don’t develop.

Carrie: Because they haven't had the time, or necessarily the funds, to invest in really enhancing the skill set. We really view it as, as important and as, needing of expertise as, like, your SWAT team, you know, you have a very defined group of people that are able to deploy a skill for a very specific reason, which is simply information gathering.

[music fades up]

Sammy: So just to recap: traditional ways that police officers gather information often don’t work on people reporting sexual assault, because the who/what/when/where/why assumes victims remember everything that happened and remember it in order.

When victims can’t answer those questions, they might get stressed and shut down. Or they might blurt out answers that aren’t accurate.

BUT there are ways to do it better: keeping a survivor calm, in a comfortable space with a counselor, and asking them open-ended questions about what they DO know and inviting them to add details as they remember them, can yield more information. Officers can get special training on “brain cues” that can help victims remember something important that they may have stored away.

[music rises and fades under narration]

Sammy: Two years later, Annie still doesn’t remember everything about the night of her assault.

She wonders if her case with the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department would have gone differently if she could have recalled even more details. Or if she’d been interviewed by a detective who knew how to help her recall more.

Although her case was assigned to a detective, it was never sent to the District Attorney’s office where it may have had a chance of being filed in court. No one was ever arrested.

Annie was in therapy at the time the assault happened — her therapist explained some of these memory challenges to her. But this isn’t common knowledge and she says people who have been through trauma need more education.

Annie: I had no idea. I've never experienced anything the way, like, things have come back to me, the way that they had with the assault. Like people, I imagine there's so many women or victims I should say, that truly feel and believe, like, maybe they're crazy, or if other people are like, “how come you didn't remember that?” They go, oh yeah, I guess I should have remembered that, you know, like, it's.

It's, yeah, I think people just need to be educated, especially victims, when they go through something, like, they need to feel, like, the way that... the way that things are happening in their mind is, like normal for them I guess.

Sammy: So here’s the moral of the story:

Current law enforcement strategies for gathering information aren’t designed with sexual assault victims wellbeing in mind. The process of reporting this crime often leaves women feeling embarrassed, or confused, or even blamed. And it makes it much less likely that strong cases will be built and that perpetrators will be held accountable.

[music fades out]

Sammy: But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If police officers become educated on the science, if they take a training or team up with an advocate, that can increase the odds of justice. It can change the whole experience for assault victims. And that can affect how survivors move forward and heal in the aftermath.

Psychologist Jim Hopper says it’s an important shift.

Jim: There's a concept of, you know, procedural justice, which is that even if a crime is never charged, even if it never goes to court, even if the perpetrator is acquitted, if the survivor is treated with respect and dignity and understanding at each step along the way, you know, that's a kind of justice.

It's not holding the perpetrator accountable, but it's the system at least treating the survivor as a person worthy of respect and care. And that's the kind of justice that can be had by some people, and that’s why a lot of us keep doing this work.

You know, we train the police we can, we train the prosecutors we can, we try to educate judges and other people in the way we can, in the hopes that, you know, even though the deck is so stacked against survivors in these cases, that if they can be understood and treated with compassion and dignity, that that's a kind of justice.

[music fades up]

Sammy: Throughout this podcast, we’re going to keep asking questions about the law enforcement process, the ways in which it is and isn’t set up to support survivors of sexual assault and what officers and advocates can do better in the future.

Roughly 44% of U.S. women experience sexual violence in their lifetime. They are your sisters, your daughters, mothers, co-workers and friends.

And it’s not just women: about a quarter of men are sexual violence survivors. One in two transgender people are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.

Many survivors are affected by that trauma for a long time. And for some, like Annie, the process of reporting the crime only leads to confusion and frustration.

Whether you’re a survivor of assault or you know someone who is, stay with us to learn more about the survivor path to justice, and healing.

Next episode, we’re going to look at another part of the investigative process: the need to collect DNA evidence, and quickly.

Bill Green: Well, the he-said-she-said thing, um, is a real problem in sexual assault because oftentimes there are no witnesses and you got, you got, two competing stories about what, what, the events in question were. Um, and that's where forensic science comes in.”

Sammy: You can learn more about reporting a sexual assault in Sacramento County and how to support survivors on their healing journeys at

[music fades down]

Marci: My name is Marci Bridgeford, and I am the director of community response at WEAVE — Sacramento County’s rape crisis center. We support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assualt and sex trafficking.

We have a 24-hour, seven day a week support and information line. You can call it anytime at 916-920-2952. You may also reach out to us via our message boards or chat features on our website at

[music fades up]

Sammy: After The Assault is a production of CapRadio in Sacramento, California.

Emily Zentner is our data reporter.

Catherine Stifter is our podcast editor.

Sally Schilling designed the sound.

Mark Jones is our audio engineer.

jesikah maria ross directed the project in collaboration with Nick Miller, CapRadio’s Managing News Editor.

Joe Barr is our Chief Content Officer.

Music is by Jay Urban. Audio chords from Pond5, Empyreal Glow and Anchor.

We want to hear from you. Go to to tell us what you think about what you heard in this podcast. We welcome your comments and your questions. Visit

We’d like to thank Annie, Aurora, Erin, Jesa, Maddie, Monica, Laura and Penny for helping us shape this project.

Thanks also to Sacramento’s Sexual Assault Response Team and area advocacy groups for their ongoing consultation and participation.

After The Assault was produced with support from the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s Impact Fund.

I’m Sammy Caiola, thanks for listening to After The Assault.

[This story was originally published by CapRadio].

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