Rape survivor reflects on our community’s response to Mission serial rapist

[The following essay was submitted anonymously via email.]

Reflections on our community response to a serial rapist

As a survivor of rape, I wanted to share some of my reflections about the recent
arrest of Frederick Dozier in connection to several sexual assaults occurring in the
Mission over the past six months. I was compelled to do so personally not because
I’m particularly qualified in any way, but simply given the lack of closure I’ve felt
regarding these horrific incidents.

Let me start by saying that I’m relieved, if not overjoyed, that he’s in custody, and
that there is no such thing as justice for the women who suffered these violent
attacks. I must say as well that I’ve been quite disappointed to see how our
community has responded to this news. Let me explain how things went down, and
where I think we have an obligation—and opportunity—to do better.

Background

I learned about this incident the same way most of my friends did—by the
forwarding of a post written by San Francisco Women Against Rape, after the story
broke on December 8th. I in turn sent this note on to a few friends and neighbors,
and started taking some additional precautions while going home at night (mapping
out the three crimes, apparently I live at the rape epicenter of the Mission). Many
friends reported taking similar steps, and appreciated efforts made by community
members and organizations to spread the word.

I went away over the holidays, then came back wondering what had ever happened.
I did a Google search, and found a press release on January 6 from the SF Police
Department: “San Francisco Police Make Arrest in Sexual Assault Investigations
in the Mission District,” along with several articles on other sites, such as the SF
Examiner and MissionMission.com, that released Dozier’s name, photos and videos,
along with several disturbing Facebook posts and the fact that he worked for the
San Francisco Unified School District. I felt simultaneously relieved to know he had
been arrested, and disturbed to see how this incident was being framed.

So he’s been arrested—now what?

When the story that a serial rapist was prowling my neighborhood hit, I received
emails, texts and facebook posts from 8 different friends. When the news came out
that the rapist had in fact been apprehended, I didn’t receive anything—not from
friends, nor any of the organizations working locally to end violence against women.
Speaking to friends about this article, they were all surprised to hear he had actually
been arrested. After so much warning about a rapist being on the loose, why didn’t
we as a community close the loop here?

I’m disturbed by our collective silence—but not perhaps for the reason you’d expect.
Of course, it feels wrong to send out messages that there is someone dangerous
lurking about, and then never let people know when that person is off the streets,
or show due respect to the police officers who must have been working tirelessly to
make this happen. Other media got this message out, and slowly people are starting
to catch up on the news.

I’m mostly disturbed that, in the absence of a more holistic voice examining the
situation, the message we got from the media was the stereotypical storyline of, “a
black man from the projects was seriously fucked up, and thank god we have
removed this dangerous element from our society.” Now we can all go back to our
gated Victorians and pretend that the world is ok.

To be clear—Frederick Dozier is definitely fucked up, possibly mentally ill, and
god knows what trauma may have been in his past. Nothing excuses his actions.
But scapegoating him as a typical “bad apple” does NOTHING to actually help end
violence against women—and I’ll go further to say, does nothing to address the
violence against all people, whether physical, political or social, that can lead to the
perpetuation of cycles of violence.

Getting the story straight

Let’s start with the facts—most rape victims knew their attacker. As the National
Center for the Victims of Crime (NCVC) reports, “When most people think of rape,
they visualize an unknown lunatic violently dragging a defenseless person into
a dark alley. This is a very inaccurate portrayal. Almost four out of five rapes are
committed by attackers who knew or recognized their victims.” They could’ve
added, “unknown lunatic, probably brown or black”—given that most people
conjure up that image automatically.

Statistically, the average rapist is NOT a hoodied black man from the projects, but
is more likely to be a white college student. (Another fun statistic: “Every year, an
estimated one woman in eight in college is raped.”) Recently I was walking with
a friend in Nob Hill, who joked that while the Mission may be more hip, at least
serial rapists aren’t running amuck in his neighborhood. I replied, “there are just as
many rapists in Nob Hill; they just happen to be blond, and don’t get arrested.” As
the NCVC reports as well, “Less than 2% of acquaintance rape victims reported the
assault whereas 21% of women raped by strangers reported the crime to police.”

Here’s the message I would’ve liked to see in the newspapers and email
chains: “Great thing we caught this asshole, AND here’s a bunch of work we need
to do as a community to address the underlying causes of rape in all its forms.”
I.e, how do we get the conversation to turn from more fear and self-prevention
techniques, to making sure everyone has received and internalized the “Fifty Ways
to Prevent Yourself from Being a Rapist,” including gems like:

8. If you see a woman in a parking lot, don’t rape her.
9. If you see a man walking alone at night, don’t rape him.
10. If you see a woman in a short skirt, don’t rape her.

While I’m not asking us to have too much sympathy for any particular rapist, we
do have to have an awareness, and take some collective responsibility, for the
circumstances that can lead people to perform unconscionable acts. We need to be
thoughtful about how we create a community where everyone has the opportunity
to thrive as emotional, social, political and spiritual human beings. In a country
where 1 out of 6 women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime, clearly
we have some work to do together to address the fact that sexual assault is not
just an act committed by those who are mentally ill, dangerous, brown, black and
hoodied—but is an act as American as football, and apparently engaged in just about
as often by our young people.

So now here we are, in the calm after the storm. Beyond waiting for more people
to get attacked, feeding our fear of one another, and for more people to get locked
up, so that we can engage in a collective sigh of relief, what is our response? What
actions can we take to encourage a culture of greater accountability, support and
restorative justice in my neighborhood?

I haven’t a clue, honestly, about how we do this. But I wanted to raise these
issues with the hope that we can start addressing these questions together, as a
community. Please share your ideas with us, and with your friends. I hope these
ideas will spread far and wide, as least as far as the news that a serial rapist was in
the Mission.

30 Responses to “Rape survivor reflects on our community’s response to Mission serial rapist”

  1. blah says:

    This a thoughtful piece. I’m not sure, though, what the basis is of the suggestion that Dozier was “scapegoated,” a term that I think is rather ill-advised in this context since it implies a sort of baseless, collective vindictiveness focused on an innocent individual. I also think it’s a little odd and insensitive to say that the arrest of Dozier “does nothing” to end violence against women.

    The author seems to be suggesting that the focus on a particular suspect who was committing particularly public and particular brutal crimes somehow implied that other people did not or do not commit sexual assault, and I just don’t think that’s a fair reading of anything that occurred in this case. Who ever suggested that that was the case?

  2. Meg says:

    Surprised the author never heard about the guy getting caught. When I found out, my friends and I swapped emails with links to news articles about his arrest. And I was living in Noe at the time of the arrest, and it was the talk of the neighborhood for a few days– I heard multiple shopkeepers and neighbors discussing it.

  3. GG says:

    Thank you for sharing. A lot of parallels can be drawn from the points made in this response to child abduction, where “Amber Alerts” are flashed across highways and kids are warned about STRANGER DANGER — even though the number of children kidnapped by a stranger are miniscule compared to how many are taken by a family member or someone they know.

  4. Thanks says:

    It’s weird that one of her points is that rape is essentially a white person’s problem. I assure you rape happens in minority communities as well, unfortunately it is less likely to be reported or pursued by law enforcement. Especially when it comes to things like date rape and statutory rape.

  5. MrEricSir says:

    You hear this sort of thing a lot about “coming together as a community to solve problems.” But unless the problem is specific to the community, that’s not going to have any real effect. We’re deluding ourselves if we think we can simply wipe out an entire category of crimes that have occurred since the dawn of the human race with a bunch of feel-good meetings and Neighborhood Watch stickers.

  6. bilbo says:

    Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

  7. No fish today says:

    TL;DR

  8. partyjesus says:

    Are the stats “1 out of 6 women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime” and “Every year, an
    estimated one woman in eight in college is raped” inconsistent? Perhaps it is logically possible for both of these statements to be true, but it seems to me that if college girls have a 12.5% chance of being raped every year, than a lot more than 17% of women would be raped in their lifetime.

    • tofupuppy says:

      They seem consistent to me, but I’m no statistician or even that great at math. So, a woman has a 1-in-8 chance of being sexually assaulted during any given year of college. That stat then rises to a 1-in-6 chance over the course of her lifetime.

  9. JT Snowball says:

    I see what Anon is saying, but this particular series events was that kind of ‘rapist on the loose’ story. like the other readers here, i heard the day after the arrest. i live very close to one of the incidents and followed the story as closely as i could.

    but i also get why newspapers etc. would not pan out from this event to the broader discussion. it seems a little strange to say, rape occurs most often in a very different fashion and this sort of opposite event reminds us of that.

  10. sx says:

    Speaking to friends about this article, they were all surprised to hear he had actually
    been arrested. After so much warning about a rapist being on the loose, why didn’t
    we as a community close the loop here?

    Well, for one thing, if the police had caught the wrong guy, the real rapist would still be out there. So perhaps it’s a good thing not to give the “all clear!” signal…. But then again, just below that you complain that we closed the loop too quickly:

    the message we got from the media was the stereotypical storyline of, “a
    black man from the projects was seriously fucked up, and thank god we have
    removed this dangerous element from our society.” Now we can all go back to our
    gated Victorians and pretend that the world is ok.

    So did you want to hear that we removed a seriously fucked up man from the streets or not?

  11. Heather W. says:

    I agree that it is very important to address the issue of date rape/acquaintance rape, but there are a few inconsistencies in this essay. First of all, this WAS the case of stranger rape in a dark alley, so it seems like kind of a leap to use it to promote a community discussion of date rape.

    Also, there are 2 mentions here of rapists as “mentally ill.” While they are certainly deranged, mental illness is not a reason people commit rape. Despite common beliefs, the mentally ill are usually the victims of crime, not the perpetrators.

  12. candace says:

    The hypocrisy is hilarious. You say the neighborhood is ignorant about the rapes occurring, yet you didnt even know the guy had been apprehended?

    I live on Valencia, the least dense street in the Mission, and my housemates and my neighbors on my block ALL knew about it.

    If you’re going to call others ignorant, at least be somewhat more knowledgable than the people you’re condemning.

    • melissa says:

      I heard about the capture from my mom, who lives in the south bay, who saw it on the news. I think as city dwellers, we tend to steer clear of main stream media…but it was there.

  13. Emma says:

    This is the first I’m hearing of the Mission Rapist’s capturing.

  14. damian says:

    with all due respects to :bilbo;who says “whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty”may i/we add for the 1,000th time:HIS D.N.A.LINKS HIM TO SEVERAL:S-E-V-E-R-A-L OF THE CRIMES IN QUESTION;IF NOT ALL AS CHARGED(2)maybe you missed it:HE CONFESSED TO THE CRIMES;WITH INCRIMINATING INFO THAT ONLY THE SUSPECT WOULD KNOW ABOUT;and yes as part of the adversial system;that our legal system is world famous for;this MAY NOT always be 100% conclusive to the many doughters;until something SO-O-O-O-O mind boggling happens;that casts dought on HIS D.N.A.AND CONFESSION…its pretty much of a slam dunk

  15. James says:

    I have been informed that more men are raped than women, however, since the rape of men largely occurs in prison it is largely ignored because people in prison “deserve it.” But in reality, those who are raped are more likely to be those with shorter sentences, and those who do the raping are more likely to be those with little hope of getting out of prison. So essentially, the worst criminals are getting away with rape while the least violent or less offensive criminals are the ones getting raped. Society should not tolerate violence inside or outside of prison.

    As for “closing the loop” I think the main point is that people should not have to be in constant fear. The news and the commercial world are constantly focused on dangers or what is wrong with the world that their product (or a police state, drug wars, war on terrorism) will solve. So many people surrender to the onslaught of that message and try to spend their way out of insecurity or give up their rights to authoritarians.

    A community of caring individuals can watch out for each other, build a sense of belonging and establish standards of behavior as part of the social contract, and spot problems and potentially steer things in a better direction, or solicit professional assistance before tragedy occurs.

    No one should be living in fear.

  16. the wolf says:

    legally;and technically;this individual is;in fact still”innocent until proven guilty”he remains in jail;unconvicted of anything;so legally he is still innocent..there is enough evidence linking him to the crimes to justify retaining him in jail;until trial or plea deal.but legally he is still presumed innocent.so he is not “guilty” per se;its just the public perception;plus the fact there is dna evidence;as well as his statements and confessions;that place the perception of guilt on him in the minds of many,he can still go to trial and contest the charges;and prove himself innocent(not likely).so; legally;technically;and theoretically;he remains”innocent until proven guilty”

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