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Regional Interests

‘This Was My Closure’: Why Sasha Perigo Chose Not to Pursue Legal Action Against Her Alleged Rap

Content warning: This story contains references to rape and sexual assault.

Jon Jacobo, a prominent San Francisco affordable housing advocate and community activist, resigned his seat on the city’s Building Inspection Commission last week and took a leave of absence as chair of the non-profit Latino Task Force’s health committee following allegations that he raped a woman earlier this year.

In a seven-page document posted to Twitter on Aug. 6, housing organizer Sasha Perigo accused Jacobo, whom she had known since 2019 and considered a close friend, of raping her at his home in early April.

After the incident, Perigo went to the hospital to complete a rape kit — also known as a sexual assault forensic exam — and texted friends about what happened, actions experts say are important for sexual assault survivors to take when it comes to holding attackers accountable. Perigo included screen shots of text messages between her and Jacobo as well as between her and friends in the document she posted to Twitter, along with a photo of a letter from SFPD confirming that her rape kit was processed.

A police report is automatically generated when a rape kit is processed in order to catalogue evidence – but beyond that, Perigo has intentionally chosen not to pursue legal action.

“What I haven’t done is fill out any details,” Perigo told KQED this week. “I didn’t talk to an officer at the hospital [or] give him Jon’s name. And I don’t want to cooperate with an investigation going forward.”

Perigo shared some of the reasons why she’s choosing not to pursue legal action against Jacobo: the trauma of retelling the incident, her distrust of the criminal justice system and the absence of a sense of justice she believes she would feel.

“There’s a lot of reasons that victims of sexual assault don’t go to the cops. That’s actually quite common,” Perigo said. “To say that we don’t take this seriously, unless people talk to the police, to me shows a misunderstanding of the crime of sexual assault and the trauma that follows.”

Perigo was referencing remarks made by San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí before Jacobo resigned: “We can’t try people via social media. Regardless of what information is presented, I think everyone is afforded due process,” Safaí said last week. He also indicated that only if criminal charges were filed would he see it as a strong indication of evidence warranting Jacobo’s resignation.

For many sexual assault survivors, the experience of having to retell their experience multiple times within the legal system is re-traumatizing. “That is not something I want to do,” Perigo said.

Perigo also acknowledged what she sees as her own position of power within the justice system. “I’m a white woman, he is a dark-skinned Latino man,” Perigo said. “[Pressing charges] doesn’t feel like justice to me, and doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“I do not trust the cops … I genuinely believe that we should abolish and defund the police. I don’t think justice is brought forward through our current criminal justice system.”

Perigo said her Twitter post marked a moment of letting go. “This was kind of like the end for me,” Perigo said. “This was my closure. This isn’t the beginning of a campaign to get justice.”

But even without Perigo’s involvement, a rape case against Jacobo could still proceed. Rachel Marshall, a spokeswoman for San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s office, told Mission Local this week that Boudin’s office is investigating the case in cooperation with SFPD.

“We prosecute violent crimes even without witness cooperation when we can prove the case,” Marshall said.

Perigo’s experience indicative of larger systemic issues

Tinisch Hollins, the executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice told KQED that Perigo’s experience is part of a larger systematic failure of the criminal justice system when it comes to rape and sexual violence.

“When communities of color experience crime and violence, there’s a perception that we somehow contribute to our own victimization,” Hollins said, “rather than looking at the systemic issues and things that contribute to violence and crime in our communities, especially when it comes to sexual assault.”

Hollins shared some of the reasons she’s observed that people choose not to report sexual assault: “One is obviously the trauma of having to relive and retell your experiences to systems that are often not equipped to help you deal with the trauma,” she said. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) two out of every three sexual assaults go unreported.

Another reason Hollins said people choose not to report is that the process of prosecution can be lengthy. In California, rape kits were severely backlogged for several years. Some sexual assault survivors had to wait over two years for the results. Hollins also said that while folks are waiting to go through the legal system, the people that assaulted them may not have been charged or prosecuted. “Some people just don’t feel safe,” she said.

According to RAINN, of the sexual violence crimes not reported to police from 2005-2010, the top three reasons given were fear of retaliation (20%), belief the police would not do anything to help (13%) and the belief that it was a personal matter (13%).

In a Medium post titled “Yo Tambien” (Me Too in Spanish), San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar wrote about her own experience of sexual assault, and encouraged others to avoid perpetuating a false narrative from the decision not to report.

“A system that has never been fair to either men of color nor to female victims of sexual assault — is being used as evidence to render her word suspect,” she wrote on August 8. “The system places the burden on the victim to pursue justice. Let me state unequivocally that this is crap.”

“This is our #YoTambien moment, San Francisqueños,” Melgar added. “Part of growing and developing young leaders … is to hold them accountable.”

Melgar further emphasized the systemic nature of sexual violence and the need to do “the hard work of dismantling the patriarchal systems within our own community and holding our leaders accountable.”

A review of racial disparity in sentencing by the Open Society Foundation found young Black and Latino males tend to be sentenced more severely than their white male counterparts. This sentencing disparity has been highlighted in recent years in the Bay Area, specifically in the case of how judge Aaron Persky chose to sentence Brock Turner compared to Raul Ramirez. Turner received a six-month jail sentence and probation while Ramirez was sentenced to three years in state prison for similar sexual assault charges.

Hollins said she doesn’t believe the criminal justice system offers as many options as many victims and survivors would like to see when it comes to intimate partner violence. “The majority of cases, even if they are reported, go without conviction,” she said, which leaves people with no closure.

With so many barriers, “it’s understandable that many people just don’t even see the point in reporting the crime to begin with,” she added.

But Hollins also noted that there is still an opportunity for reckoning and healing, “not just this particular situation,” she said,  “this overall conversation about folks who have an obligation to protect and heal our communities, working on their own self healing and traumas that may have influenced them to behave a certain way.”

Jon Jacobo did not reply to requests for comment on this story.

Resources

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800) 656-HOPE, (800) 656-4673, which is 24/7, confidential and free. Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR) operates a 24-Hour Hotline in English and Español: (510) 345-1056. Instituto Familiar de la Raza, offering therapy and counseling in English and Español: (415) 229-0500 The Women’s Building’s Sexual Assault & Harassment Prevention Project: (415) 431-1180 ext. 20

Copyright 2021 KQED