TRANSCRIPT: What Happens When Sexual Assault Goes Unpunished: Sarah Delia, “She Says”

Originally aired 6/20/18

LISTEN to the episode here.


From KALW and PRX this is Inflection Point. Stories of how women rise up. I'm Lauren Schiller.


Lauren Schiller: This story has three storytellers. Me. The journalist. And the survivor. But there’s also a 4th player in this drama, secretive, but always working in plain sight. And that is our cultural narrative. The storyteller who never seems to stop talking. Who says things so often we become kind of numb to them, like the statistic that 1 in 3 women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.

1 in 3. I’m a mom, with 2 daughters, so which one of us is it going to be?

What can my daughters expect in their lifetime? Will they move through a world where sexual assault is the status quo? Or will they grow up in a generation where it will be the exception?  

Five years ago now, in 2013 the World Health Organization called violence against women a "global health problem of epidemic proportions."

They recommended better access to post-rape care and healthcare training, more legal and policy accountability programs for women, as well as addressing the underlying causes that "foster a culture of violence against women."

So. How we doing?

First, let me introduce you to “the journalist.”


Sarah Delia: My name is Sarah S-A-R-A-H and my last name is Delia D-E-L-I-A. People like to put an H on the end of that but that's false and the type of reporting I do. I do a lot of criminal justice related stories, a lot of things involving the police.


LS: A couple of years ago, the public radio station she works for, WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina, received a tweet from a listener who wanted to know...


SD: ...what our plans were for certain coverages with backlog crime labs, with different sexual assault cases that were cold. Different things that were going on in the media regarding rape and sexual assault and just kind of, like, what is WFAE going to be doing about this.


LS: The listener and the news director Greg Collard send messages to each other...


SD:...and at some point she revealed that she was a sexual assault survivor and he at one point said “Well will you be willing to talk a little bit more about that?”


LS:They get on the phone and she tells him her story.


SD: And there was something about how she thought she might know who did it, even though it was a stranger that attacked her that night, that she might have put the puzzle pieces together.


And so that's something really interesting.


LS: This listener who became known as Linda, that is not her real name, is our third storyteller. The survivor and Sarah got to know Linda in a very nontraditional way for a journalist. But she was trusting her source to trust her.


SD: I said, well I've got to get to know you in person and just like spend some more time with you. And she was like “Sure you can come to my house but that doesn't mean that word necessarily doing a story.” And I was like “Alright, that's fine.” So I came to the house. I left my recorder in the car, which was you know scary, because that's like rule number one is bring your recorder everywhere and always have it on and even when you think the conversations done, like you know that's when the person's going to say the most brilliant thing. So keep your recorder on. So I left that in the car.


LS: Sarah spent the day at Linda’s who told her right upfront...


SD: She very quickly said that she had been drinking and that drugs were involved. And you know she wasn't trying to make herself out to be this perfect cookie cutter person. She's a human. And she made some choices that she wishes she could she could take back. But she did what she did and she's been honest about those choices.


LS: Linda’s story has all the makings of the true crime podcasts and TV shows. But in those other stories the victim is a victim because she's either dead or someone else is telling her story. In this story, the protagonist has a voice. And Sarah, the journalist, brings it to life in a new podcast called “She Says.”


SD: “She Says” is an investigative podcast that looks at the complicated road that a sexual assault survivor has to learn to navigate by themselves. After their assault and sort of how they have to interact with these different agencies from the hospital to the police to crime labs, all these different agencies that in some way play a role in their investigation. So we follow Linda at the main person in the in the podcast. She was sexually assaulted almost three years ago. And when I met her over a year ago at this point, she didn't have a lot of answers to her case and it wasn't so much that she thought that the police were necessarily doing something wrong. She just didn't know what they were doing at all.


LS: And what we'll learn from this one case in North Carolina is just a microcosm of how we're doing nationwide when it comes to sexual assault and violence against women. Today's Inflection Point episode is about Sarah and her podcast, “She Says”, which you can subscribe to after death and how she created it. So why did Linda want to share her story?


SD: I think her approach was “if I'm confused about how this works and I'm trying to call the detective all this time and I'm doing all these research about DNA law and just trying to understand the system better, like if I am like this much on it and have this much time to devote to trying to figure out, who did this to me, like what about someone that doesn't have like access to resources like I have or just doesn't know where to start or doesn't have the willingness or just doesn't feel like they can put themselves through that to ask all those questions”.


LS: Now let's go back to Linda's living room where it all began.


SD: I walked up to the door and she and her husband greeted me. And then it was just kind of like sitting on their couch for the whole day. I mean it was the whole day. And I remember I did not eat lunch before I went. And just like my stomach was kind of making noises the entire time. Kind of one of those days but just being really engaged by her because she was like “OK, here's my story from start to finish” and then like “What do you have to say about it?” “And what do you think about it?” So I let her, I let her tell her story. I just listened. I asked questions. I took some notes, like some very, like very basic notes but I didn't even want that to worry them. In case they decided that they didn't want to do the story. And then by the end of that time together I could tell that both her and her husband were more comfortable with me and they were excited about the possibility of maybe doing a story. And she said well if you need an answer right now like we're leaning towards yes. And I said I don't need an answer right now. I need you to think about it because this is not my life. It's your life. And I think there are good things that might come from doing this story with you. But there could also be some really challenging things for you.

Like if something ever progresses with your case or just personally you might find it really taxing to have to work this closely with a reporter of telling your story over and over again. So you really have to think about that no one else can make that decision. But you. So I told her to take a couple days to think about it. Talk it over and then call me. And it was a long two three days of waiting for her to give me a call back and I also remember going back to my boss at the end of that day and saying. So I spent the day with them. I don't have any tape and they're going to let us know if they want to do the story maybe. So you know that's something that like it was nice of my boss to. I mean I think he was a little like Oh OK. But you know he gave me the space to do that. And that was very nice.


LS: And were you also trying to suss out who is going to drive this narrative? You know because I could see where if somebody has a story to tell their tendency might be to want to be in control of their own story but now they're handing it over potentially to someone else who's going to have an opinion about how that story gets told.


SD: Yeah we thought a lot about that and we had a lot of conversations. And by we I mean me my boss and then me and Linda I mean there were things that she would ask me you know are you planning to include this?

And I my answer was always to her was If you tell me something you need to go into that mindset. This could be on the radio or this could be in the podcast. So if you don't want that you know to be in there. You know that's a conversation we need to have offline to make sure that you know not saying a certain thing is still going to make your story factually accurate. But if you you know if you're going to talk about how difficult something was between you and your husband because of the assault you need to be OK about talking about that on tape with me and knowing that that might be a part of a podcast episode. So stuff like that. I mean it was an ongoing conversation and the first time I recorded her it was a lot of starting and stopping one because there was just a lot to go over. And she had a lot of documents that she was showing me as we were recording because she wanted me to know like this is how I know this is true. You know she was like here's my Google search here's my search history here's this e-mail from the detective. Here's my call logs like she had done her research. So that was that was somewhat impressive. But then there was a lot of breaks just because talking about your sexual assault is pretty exhausting and having to you know explain over and over again to a stranger that's me or a reporter. You know why you did something or how you felt about something. I mean you know you have to take your time.

So we had a lot of conversations about it. But you know at the end of the day she didn't get to listen to an episode before it aired. I mean we still kept that integrity and control of the story in that way. So I know that as soon as the podcast drop at midnight I know she's up at midnight listening to them because she really wants to know how she came across.


LS: Have you heard from her about her reaction to what you've done?


SD: Yeah, I remember when the first episode dropped when I woke up and I did not sleep well that night because it was just kind of like you know the night before Christmas you're waiting and there's just so much anticipation and this thing that you've been working on for a year like Finally everyone is going to hear it. It's a lot to sleep through. But anyway I remember waking up in the middle of the night and she had you know my phone was blowing up just like oh my gosh like that's my story. And that was you know that was a nice text to wake up from that she felt like I got her story right.


LS: One of the many things that interested me about this is that her, her role in what led to the events of her assault was more complicated than you might like to think. Like she talks about having you know she walks to the bad part of town. She asks some stranger to help. Like all things that you tell your daughters like don't do that.

I was almost like listening to you know your classic like you know it's going to end and something terrible. And she talks at the very, very beginning of the series about how she cheated take all of those steps and how she's then treated by the police.


SD: Yeah I mean I think that's like has a lot to do about like how our culture portrays sexual assault or rape. And just when you think it's just like you know the cliche of you're walking home alone or like in a garage by yourself and you know you drop your keys and all of a sudden there's a man behind you. In situations like that we seem to be able to justify victims coming forward more we seem to be able to accept victims stories more. But when there is this complication of drugs or alcohol or you know taking a left turn when you know you should taken a right turn then all of a sudden it becomes more complicated and people are asking more questions of those victims. Why did you do that? And I guess my answer to that is like what I really like about Linda's story is that she is she's a human. And she made some decisions that she says she wishes she could take back. And how many of us have been in a situation where we've done something and we wish we could have taken that back but we did what we did. You know, you know like maybe you went out to get something from a convenience store super late at night by yourself and it's in a sketchy area of town but you really want whatever you want and you're going to go out to that convenience store and get it.

But you know you probably shouldn't do it. You should probably just wait till next day to do it. You know and you walk away thinking like wow I'm really lucky that I didn't run into anyone sketchy that could have harmed me. You know she does make some choices that I understand people sometimes are like Well she did that. So what was she going to expect. And I guess my answer to that is that I hope people can challenge themselves about what they think about consent and how they view sexual assault victims. Because even if you leave your door wide open that doesn't make it ok for someone to come in and like burglarize your home. So just because you get in the car with someone that you probably shouldn't that doesn't mean that they get to sexually assault you.


LS: Her assault took place in 2015. Is that right?


SD: Yes.


LS: And we are now in 2013 and it just seems like such a slow process. The fact that it you know it's been three years since this took place and while at least as far as we are in the series this month there's not been any resolution. It's just been a slog. So, is that I mean did you find that this is a typical waiting period for these cases? I mean is that short or long or where does that stand in the you know in the in the average of a case of sexual assault?


SD: Yeah, it's interesting because it depends on so many things. And we've asked those questions of how long does it take to work a sexual assault case. And the answer is that, well, it depends on a lot of things. One it depends on if there's DNA evidence and it's going to be sent to a lab is that lab backlogged. When is that DNA actually going to be processed when are we actually, going to have potential evidence to use to try and link someone to your case. Sometimes that happens right away and sometimes it doesn't. And if you look at crime labs at least in Charlotte, we, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department has its own crime lab. So if your assault happened in Charlotte they're the ones that are going to be processing your sexual assault kit they have a backlog of about 200 kits right now and that's not a knock against them. That's a problem that's going on everywhere across the country. Labs are backlogged everywhere. It's a huge problem. So when you look at that you come into the combination of OK you don't know if you have DNA you're waiting for it to ever even be seen by a lab technician to see if there is DNA that can be processed. I mean there are all these things that are slowing the process down. And then in , you know we work on a priority basis with sexual assault kits so like you know Linda's kit let's just use that as an example like it could have been sitting there. Let's just say I'm not saying this is real but a hypothetical situation.

It's sitting there for six months and then, there's a case that's in the media and it looks like there are several women that were victims of a serial rapist so now we have someone out in the community that is raping multiple people. Well we need that kit tested right away. OK that makes sense right. But every action has an effect so that it gets put in front of Linda's well Linda's gets pushed back. So there's really no way to say exactly when a kit will and when a case will be closed.


LS: And the kit being tested is the, they are looking at the DNA from the kid that was taken from the victim and trying to see if they can find a match in their system of other DNA that they've collected from people have previously been arrested. Is that correct?


SD: Yeah. So like, and it all starts with these fascinating S.A.N.E. nurses which stands for sexual assault nurse examiners. And so they're the ones that when you go to the hospital after you've been assaulted and you if you choose, it's choice, you choose to get a sexual assault exam done.


They're the ones that are going to be collecting swabs and samples from all over your body. And then they're sealing those samples and then they're sending them off to a crime lab and then the crime lab, they're opening that box when they eventually get to it. And they're the ones testing to see if there is DNA profiles present. And when, if there are DNA profiles present then they, which is really just like a series of numbers, they upload it to the system called CODIS which is bunch databases basically full of DNA profiles of convicted felons of people who have committed certain misdemeanors and at least in the state of North Carolina people that have been arrested for violent crimes.

So it's kind of the baddest of bad I guess to say to like put it on a really dumbed down level is just like the really bad people are in CODIS and we're trying to see if we're going to get a hit. A DNA match from the DNA that was found in someone's sexual assault kit to the the DNA database


LS: So, for one thing it seems like there's a volume issue. Right. There's a statistic out there that one in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Which is an astounding statistic. So you would think that there would be enough resources in every police department or crime lab to just be zipping through these kits.


SD: You know I've talked to a lot of sexual assault survivors about that question because the idea of resources is the issue. And I mean I can tell you that I know from speaking to a lot of sexual assault survivors they feel like those types of crimes, since they're underfunded or understaffed, that they don't seem to count as much. That the, you know, they feel like those crimes against them don't have as much of a priority. That's just anecdotally what I've heard from multiple sexual assault survivors. I mean I think it's really up to local government especially like in a place like Charlotte that has its own crime lab. And I mean how are you funding it? How are you funding the police? And it's really like putting those questions to our local leaders to ask how are you guys going to help the police do this.

You know, it's a problem everywhere it's a problem across the country and it really is looking at like OK, well, where do we want to spend our money. And what's the priority. And it backlogged crime labs are the epidemic then how are we going to choose to spend our money. And I think those are questions that the public has to put to local leaders. And if they have if they wonder why there is such a backlog I mean there are people that you can ask, you can ask the police but you can also ask you know your city council. And just ask them what are the priorities for these funds.


LS: Sarah Delia is investigation into Linda's story reveals a lot about how much or how little the police are willing to talk about their process. Sarah also started to ask questions about how police officers and detectives are trained to speak with victims. Including the language they use like victims instead of survivors. But what happens when the person who is assaulted tries to take matters into her own hands.


We'll find out after the break.


SD: Plus with more people coming out others feel finally emboldened to come out with their story. And that's great, but I think it's worth pointing out that Linda did that before the MeToo movement.


And that's remarkable. I mean she stood alone.


LS: I'm Lauren Schiller and this is Inflection Point. I'm talking with Sarah Delia, the host and reporter behind “She Says” a new podcast from WFAE in Charlotte, that follows the story of a sexual assault survivor in North Carolina's Mecklenburg County.


The conversation around the work that Linda did to understand who her attacker was and what the police were willing to accept from her and how they treated her feels like a really important conversation. Like what is the victim's role and how is the victim treated in bringing closure to an attack like that?


SD:What was interesting for me reporting this story was just seeing how much work Linda did do. I'm not saying that this is the same for every sexual assault case, because every case is very different, but multiple survivors that I did speak to did comment about the type of work that they felt that they had to do. Whether that was like emotional work or things that were asked of them if anything ever went to trial and statements, that they know the D.A. wanted them to make to give them a stronger case. There's a lot of different type of work that is there for survivors and victims to do, but I mean this isn't giving anything too much away and in the first episode we do talk about how the man that Linda presumes attacked her, there are some clues that he left behind. She says that he said how old he was and she remembers that he apparently was wearing a shirt that had what she thinks is his last name on it and maybe a company that he worked for. This is all, you know, her assumption but she through an Internet search believes with these clues, that it leads her to the man that sexually assaulted her. So you know that's like she feels like she's kind of won the lottery in that sense, that she's found this key piece of evidence and she wants to handed over detectives and she wants, like, some results and to be like “Hey, look at this look what I'm doing, I'm doing this work”. Like it just doesn't work like that you know. And of course it's like an internet search identifying someone that in and of itself is not enough probable cause, so I just immediately go arrest someone. But, it's a pretty good lead to go check them out. So you know whether Linda is believed about that. I mean that's something that we really really focus in on. On the podcast because she did do she did do a lot of detective work and it's hard to understand how the police interpreted her detective work.


LS: Well it also just seems like training of officers in how to talk to victims. I mean that's a theme that comes up in this series as well. So there's this police mentality of, you know, we either we believe you know we believe everything until it's proven wrong or we can't take a stance. We can't tell you that we believe you because we need to remain objective and collect all the facts that we can. But it leaves out the human part of compassion and empathy for what someone conceivably has gone through.


SD: So one thing in the podcast is that Linda, because she is so confused about her case and the updates that she gets in the updates she doesn't get. She starts recording her conversations with the detective working her case and she starts doing that on her own volition. She, but then she kind of she gave me a bunch of audio and said look, these are this is why I'm not just like I'm just like telling you about this I'm letting you hear. This is me. I stuck my phone in my purse and I had my like you know little voice memo app on and this is how I feel like I was treated. Listen to the audio. What do you what do you think? And it's really difficult because, one like I am not in the room and I think that's something that that's a big thing. And you know when you can't see people's body language and other things going on that has to be acknowledged. But some of the answers and some of the manner in which they speak to her. I mean that that's not how, I don't think anyone who listens would hope that they would be spoken to necessarily. I feel like constantly you'll hear her just making her case over and over and over again and especially to the point of just like exhaustion of just anyone listening to me.

And I don't think from listening to the tapes that the detectives always sound very empathetic and so we reached out to some retired detectives and also a gentleman named, Terry Thomas, who's a retired law enforcement official in Florida. But he spends a lot of his time actually doing training with current detectives on how to properly interview victims specifically, sexual assault victims and really his whole thing is just like, at the end of the day you want to catch the bad guy right. So you need to develop that relationship with that victim. And they need to trust you because, a well treated sexual assault survivor is a good witness is someone that's going to feel empowered to potentially have to take the stand or give a statement in front of a roomful of people about their assault. So like developing that relationship is so important and we actually played a particular clip for Terry Thomas between the detective working Linda's case and Linda a particularly really emotionally charged point where it doesn't really feel like the detective is hearing or listening to Linda and Terry's response was just like, you know if this detective has any hope of building a relationship with this victim something has to change. And you know it's kind of, maybe that lesson can be learned from the police with Linda's case that if they want to build and strengthen their relationship with victims they're going to have to walk that line more of being objective.

And I understand that you want someone that is objective in looking at facts, but also being empathetic because that is a very vulnerable place to be and to have been assaulted and then have to be very open, over and over and over again, so that hopefully you can find some justice with who did that to you.


LS: Well, I mean do you think underpinning any of this is actually disbelief of the victim or not taking her seriously or wondering if maybe she brought it on herself? You know some of these, some of these norms that really do need to shift just being part of the implicit bias of the conversation?


SD: I guess what I will say to that is of a sexual assault survivor that I spoke to who was assaulted in the middle of the night in her home who hadn't been drinking or anything like that. When we talked to her and talked to the police department that worked her case. She was still asked some questions that were very, that could be interpreted as victim blaming. And shocking that she would be asked those questions. And that was a case where you know she you know you couldn't say like well what were you wearing. And you know it was just like she was asleep in her house. So and she even still was treated in a manner that we find problematic and really dig into in a later episode. So it's hard to say that like if Linda hadn't been drinking, hadn't been doing drugs, you know if she had been the quote unquote perfect victim where she was just walking down the street and someone assaulted her would she have had a different experience. I think part of me wants to say yes, because maybe it would have been, I don't know maybe the police would have found her maybe more credible since drugs and alcohol weren't involved. But then part of me looks at cases where people were asleep in their homes and then assaulted and then they're still questioned in a way that could be interpreted as victim blaming and it's just like I don't know you know, like, what is the what's the answer? I think the answer is probably better training for police on how they should speak to victims across the board no matter what that situation is that the victim was in.


LS: So, I would like to talk about how reporting on this case and for you know over the last couple of years you've been so immersed in it and how, how it has affected you, personally your mental health, like how you find the support you need if you did? Could we go there in terms of the effect it has had on you?


SD: Yeah, definitely. I think that I mean mental health is something that we all tip toe around talking about as a culture but also in journalism I feel like unless you've come back from war and of course like war correspondents are. I mean that's an amazing profession. But if you're covering like the heavy stuff of crime or just different criminal justice issues I mean just being a reporter in general you're doing a lot of listening. Your doing, your doing a lot of receiving or receiving a lot of information all the time no matter what you're reporting on but if it's something like sexual assault where, one, I mean with these interviews you have to take your time. You are not going to rush someone who is talking about their experience about sexual assault. Like, you just need to be patient and you know I think that's like a gift to public radio where we take that time. But you're also, you're hearing about their trauma and in turn like that second degree trauma. That stuff that you're then walking out of the room with too. And that's something that I feel like I, it was hard for me to talk about it first. And I'm lucky to have two counselors that live across the street from me who knew about the project and I really couldn't talk about the project with a lot of people and they really only knew sort of the bare bones about it, just that it involves sexual assault and that I was doing a lot of interviews with sexual assault survivors and they were the ones that said like, “How are you doing? Like, do you know what second degree trauma is? Are you processing this. Are you speaking to a therapist? Are you, you know making sure you're taking care of yourself?” and at the time the answer was, No. Because there just were not enough hours. I mean there's still not enough hours in the day really to be working on this. But I was just so like wrapped up in the story and trying to do this but at the time I was also working on some other stories, so I wasn't taking care of myself. And it was affecting my personal life for sure. I mean I just don't think I was very pleasant to be around probably. And it also was too, like a very isolating feeling too of like having these people's stories kind of just running through my my head all the time and not knowing where to put them. And so I mean I think I think therapy is really important for people in general that's just my personal opinion. But I think that especially if you're covering a really heavy topic like sexual assault, like you need to be processing that it will catch up to you. And if you're not taking care of yourself you can't be a good reporter like you just can't. And I think there were times that I had to say like I have to take a lunch right now or I have to go do this. I just need some time to like to be quiet and to be with my thoughts and to process my thoughts. So then I can move on to the next story the next person I have to talk to, because if I just tried to shove down everything you know it comes back up.


LS: Well with Linda, how did you tread the line between you know having these incredibly intense intimate conversations with her and maintaining a you know a professional relationship? Or did you fall into becoming her friend?


SD: I would say we are friendly and I would say that I had to explain to her that there was always going to have to be a little bit of a wall between the two of us. Because I don't want someone to listen to the series and say like Well Sarah I just did this on a friend you know or that's why she did the series or anything like that like I want Linda's story to be Linda's story and I don't want anyone to think I have an alternative motive to giving her a voice. You know of course, you spend a year with someone, I know her kids, you know, I've been to her house multiple times. I know her husband and I know like if something is wrong in her life like I know about it she text me she shares a lot with me and I'm so glad that she trusts me with that. But it is, it is a line and it's just a line that as long as this story is going on there is going there's always going to be that line there. I need to be objective and and and stay with my journalism hat on. Of course, I you know there were moments are very exciting for her and it's easy to feel that excitement for her in this story and there are moments of pain and really tough moments in the story where you feel for her and just like on a human level like I can't shut that off, like I'm not a robot. But I don't think for as long as this story is going on I can say that she's my friend. But I think that's a really good thing. I think that's the way it needs to be.


LS: Well you also have other stories to pursue in your career and you need to maintain a reasonable relationship with the police and the criminal justice system, people in that system so that you can do your job on on both sides. So how has doing this story affected those relationships?


SD: I think only time will tell was that one. I hope that it's I'm sure there are going to be difficult parts for the police to hear. But I also hope that they can respect that this is a real story that happened and that also, they are hopefully not surprised by what they hear because we have had multiple conversations with the police about this story about her and about the detective. I asked to speak to the detective actually and I reached out to both detectives that were in some of these recordings and never got responses. And I was told by their supervisor that basically like they were not allowed to speak to me. And I would have much rather prefer to have spoken to them. It's a little, you know I mean, you want to speak to as many people as possible and they’re people in the podcast. And so it's it's a little hard not to be able to speak to, but that's the choice that the police made. I know that the police may hear things and not be happy that they're hearing certain things, but I at least hope that they think that we were fair, because we brought things to their attention. We let them know when things were airing. We you know, we could have we could have just done the story and not involve the police at all. I think that would have been really bad journalism and not fair and anything that they would have wanted to say about me and my character would have been justified. But we went through great pains to say, we have sensitive audio. We want you to weigh in on it. And I remember telling them I wanted this to be an ongoing conversation. I want you to be a part of this podcast.

And I was very honest with them and said this whole situation is not as easy as all police are bad and that you guys are are corrupt or anything like that. I think the system is complicated and the system is broken, but the police are part of the system. So we're going to have to look at that and see what is going right and what's going wrong. It's the same thing like with the crime labs. It's like, it's not necessarily the crime labs fault that there's a backlog. But are there things that are going on that need to be looked at, that need to be improved. You know it's just. And then, you know, well OK, detectives aren't all bad detectives, aren't all corrupt, but like how are they talking to their victims? Should they be saying things to their victim like Linda recalls, that the first real sit down interview that she did at C.M.P.D. headquarters with her detective, the detective said if you're lying to me you could be arrested. Something along those lines. I mean should we be asking those questions. So I'm hoping that this podcast we're asking a lot of questions we're also trying to find out a lot of answers, but I hope by the questions that we're asking it can be a moment of self reflection for everyone. And I hope that, I hope that this is just like the beginning of a new conversation with the police. It would be really unfortunate if they didn't want to talk to us ever again after this. I don't think that, you know, that's not going to be good for for anyone, like we don't want that. And I'm sure they don't want that either. But I hope it's like just the beginning of a new conversation of of working together to tell these types of stories, because they're part of it.


LS: And when we, when we talked on the phone before this recording and you really wanted to distinguish what this story that you've been pursuing from what's happening in the MeToo movement. And I just, I just keep thinking about that and wondering why that is so important to you to make that distinction?


SD: I think what's, and first of all, like I think the MeToo movement, like I've nothing against the MeToo movement and I'm glad that so many people are speaking out for sure. But, I think a lot of people have assumed that we started to do this podcast because of the MeToo movement and what I think is remarkable about Linda's story is that there was no movement going on. I mean her story starts in 2015. She contacted me and you know, we started talking in the early summer, late spring of 2017. I mean the MeToo movement wasn't there yet. She did this before that. And so, I think that's worth recognizing. You know, I think a lot of the stories that we're hearing right now that involve MeToo. I mean they are stories that need to be told. And I think that more and more of them are coming out because we hear more people and with more people coming out others feel finally emboldened to come out with their story. And that's great, but I think it's worth pointing out that Linda did that before the MeToo movement. And that's remarkable. I mean she stood alone.

And that's just something that I just want to point out to folks because I think it's really easy for this podcast to get swept up in the MeToo movement. And I'm glad that people are like oh, me too. “She Says”, you know and they're making OK that's fine. I just want people to also know that she was doing this before MeToo. And if the MeToo movement wasn't going on right now I would still want to tell her story. And that's really, I think, and WFAE would still really want to tell her story because it's important.


LS: So Sarah, what's the best advice that you've ever been given about how to speak up about something that's really hard to talk about?


SD: I think you have to find someone that you trust, that's going to be able to help you have a megaphone for that. And I think like for Linda, that megaphone was contacting WFAE. And I think that having that as an outlet and having that as a like, having us as an entity that was going to help tell her story. I think that was really important. And I think like she had stalled out, sort of, with her with her invest that she felt like the investigation was stopped that there's just nothing that was going on or if there was she had no idea. And so the only thing that she could thing to do was to say something and it was really scary for her.

So to answer that from Linda's perspective, I think the thing would be to just like it's OK to be afraid but try and say something anyway, you know try and push through that fear to say something and maybe you'll get results and maybe something will change. But, if you try not to be, I mean there are things that are worth being scared about over this story. I mean she you know like she's scared about what the police are going to say she's scared about how they're going to think of her if they would impact her case or anything, how they worked it. Those sorts of things. And I don't think you can ever like fully squash that fear, that fear is going to be there no matter what. So I think you have to learn to be scared but do it anyway.


LS: That was Sarah Delia, the journalist behind the “She Says” podcast from WFAE in Charlotte, NC. In an earlier episode of Inflection Point I spoke with the founder of Global Press Institute who said “to change the story, you have to change the storyteller.”


And the podcast she says does just that. And in this case, the storytellers were changed by the act of telling the story.


Linda, the survivor, was scared but spoke out anyway with no movement to bolster her and Sarah, the journalist, learned that she could not do everything by herself and that she needed to take care of herself too, so she could continue reporting on the difficult stories that must be told.


Both are lessons I really appreciate and they point to the cultural narrative I'd like to embrace. We speak up for ourselves and for each other we believe one another and we take care of each other.


And one more thing: the fact that sexual assault cases are so common the police departments can't keep up with them makes this a systemic cultural problem.


We need to focus on preventing sexual assault at a perpetrator level, not a victim level. This isn't about locking our doors at night or not getting into cars with strangers. Sexual assault can happen to anyone anywhere and in most cases by someone the victim knows.


We need to keep sending the message loud and clear that no one is entitled to anyone else's body. Period.


If you've been sexually assaulted there is a network of support for you. I'll put a link to the resources and support page that “She Says” put together. Along with the “She Says” podcast on my website at


I hope you'll take a moment to subscribe to Inflection Point for more stories of how women rise up and learn share that's our Inflection Point for today.


All of our episodes are on Apple podcasts radio public stitcher and NPROne. Give us a five star review and subscribe to the podcast. Know a woman with a great rising up story? Let us know at Inflection Point radio dot org. While you're there I invite you to support Inflection Point with a monthly or one time contribution. Your support keeps women's stories front and center. Just go to We're on Facebook at Inflection Point radio. Follow us and follow me on Twitter @laschiller to find out more about the guests you heard today and to sign up for e-mail newsletter.  You know where to go Inflection Point radio dot org Inflection Point is produced in partnership with KALW ninety one point seven FM in San Francisco and PRX. Our story editor and content manager is Alaura Weaver our engineer and producer is Eric Wane. I'm your host Lauren Schiller. Support for this podcast comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


From KALW and PRX this is Inflection Point. Stories of how women rise up. I'm Lauren Schiller. 

Lauren Schiller: This story has three storytellers. Me. The journalist. And the survivor. But there’s also a 4th player in this drama, secretive, but always working in plain sight. And that is our cultural narrative. The storyteller who never seems to stop talking. Who says things so often we become kind of numb to them, like the statistic that 1 in 3 women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.