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Why They Didn't Report: Kansas City Sexual Assault Survivors Share Their Stories

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Geony Rucker says she was drugged and sexually assaulted when she was 18. Rucker is now an advocate for survivors in the Kansas City area.

Since Christine Blasey Ford went public with her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school in the 1980s, survivors in the Kansas City area joined thousands across the U.S. on social media by recounting their own experiences under the hashtag #whyididntreport

Countless others remained quiet, while a few survivors agreed to speak with KCUR about why they never filed charges. These are their stories.

'I just felt myself melting'

About 10 years ago, Geony Rucker was a freshman at Long Island University in New York on a volleyball scholarship. One of her teammates set her up with a cute guy. She said they went out one night, and, while walking into a restaurant, he mentioned his place was right around the corner.

"I stop, and I'm like, 'Whoa dude, like, I'm not going home with you. Let's be clear about that,'" Rucker said.

The two had dinner, and she said when she came back from the restroom, there was a new drink on the table. She didn’t want another, but, at his nudging, she drank it anyway.

"And I just felt myself melting," she remembered. "I could feel the muscles in my face relaxing. It felt like my body was melting into my chair."

From there, her memory is spotty. She said she remembers tripping on the sidewalk — and the next thing is a flash of this guy, whom she had just met, on top of her. She said she remembers him repositioning her by grabbing and moving her by her mouth.

In the morning, she felt embarrassed, she said, and figured she'd been drunk, even though she only had two drinks. Rucker got out of there. When she finally spoke to a counselor, she said, the woman asked her why she had gone out with this guy in the first place.

"I just wanted to die. I'm like, 'Excuse me?' And she said, 'You could have said no,'" Rucker said.

She didn't tell anyone for years. What would the police say? She was 18 and had a cocktail.

"Who's going to believe that this really attractive, wealthy, successful family, faith-based guy who could easily get consensual sex from someone else ... who is going to believe that he would rape somebody?" she said.

'I'm just now beginning to forgive myself'

Vaughan Harrison struggled with this, too. Harrison is 26, and said he's just now coming to terms with being sexually assaulted at 16.

A well-known Kansas City musician offered to give him lessons, and Harrison, an aspiring singer, was flattered. But, he said, the much older man lured Harrison into a room and took advantage of him. 

It's something Harrison has never talked about before.

"I'm just now beginning to forgive myself," he told KCUR. 

It was confusing, and he continued to contact the man, though he didn’t understand that impulse.

"I was just trying to justify in my head how this very grown, incredibly talented musician under the guise of mentorship could do something so heinous," Harrison said.

But Harrison didn't consider reporting the assault because he worried about the man’s reputation. Plus, Harrison doesn't think the police would have believed him because he’s a man, and pansexual.

'... told me that he would make my life a living hell'

Kathryne Husk, 31, of Olathe, Kansas — who uses they/them pronouns— said the police didn’t believe their story of sexual assault.

The alleged assaulter was the nephew of the police chief in this Texas town, and the officer Husk spoke to the morning after the incident didn't respond well.

"He immediately told me to be quiet. Then threatened to basically come after me, and told me that he would make my life a living hell," said Husk, who added they were 19 and hadn't been drinking.

"It was an experience that showed me there is literally no way to be a perfect victim, because people will still stigmatize and shame you," Husk said.

It was a rude awakening that kept Husk from reporting another incident that happened in Kansas City years later. Husk didn’t want to have to explain how consensual sex turned, in an instant, to assault. Plus, Husk is physically disabled.

"People think if you don’t fit conventional ideas of attractiveness, you somehow should feel grateful anyone deemed to have sex with you in the first place," Husk said.

They didn't report to avoid being shamed all over again. 

'I didn't want it to happen to somebody else'

Taylor Hirth did report her sexual assault to the police.

"I reported because I didn’t want it to happen to somebody else. And even though I did, it did happen to somebody else," she said.

There was DNA evidence and a rape kit, but it wasn’t until the same people assaulted a sheriff’s deputy in Olathe that Hirth’s case gained traction. Charges have been filed. There've been dozens of court appearances. But Hirth said the process is far from over: "It’s been two and a half years of hell for me so far."

And that's made it hard for her to encourage other survivors to report.

'I thought he took so much of my value'

Rucker eventually did report her assault to police, but a statute of limitations stood in her way.

The 27-year-old who identified as a Republican until 2016 was raised in a conservative household, immersed, she said, in ideas of purity. After the rape, she said she blamed herself.

"I’m dirty, I’m shameful, I’m gross," she said she thought. "He took, well, I thought he took, so much of my value that night."

Rucker, who is now an advocate for sexual assault survivors in the Kansas City area, said she had to grapple with that for a long time before she could begin to believe herself — and believe her own story of sexual assault.

This story has been corrected to show Rucker's assailant was not an upperclassman.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @_tudhope

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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