May 2010, Bay to Breakers. As Heather Marlowe recalls telling first a friend, then the police, and eventually ABC 7, "I think something really bad happened to me today. I think that I was drugged. I think that I was raped."
Marlowe says she awoke in a stranger's bed as he was telling her to leave. Next, she endured a four-hour sexual assault exam at SF General Hospital, where an officer told her the evidence gathered from her body would be tested soon.
It wasn't. After a time, it was in storage according to the Examiner. Months later, Marlowe says SFPD told her that her case wasn't a priority.
"For the police to tell me that they're going to test all of the kits," Marlowe told ABC 7 in another interview, "and to continue to misrepresent me, I would say that's incredibly deficient."
Marlowe has now announced a federal lawsuit against the City of San Francisco, maintaining that the police department's mishandling of her rape kit is a reason the man who attacked her is still at large.
"She came forward with the hope that the San Francisco Police Department would do what it is charged with doing," says Marlowe's attorney Irwin Zalkin, "and that is to investigate what happened to her, to find the person who did this to her."
After its initial reporting, ABC 7's investigative team found that Marlowe's rape kit was one among thousands in an astonishing backlog. As the Chronicle reported last summer, all kits from 2015 were to be tested by year's end, and state law and SF policy in 2014 aimed to put an end to rape kit backlogs altogether across California.
"It's more than frustrating," says Marlowe. "It's been very traumatizing." Her lawsuit, which names Chief Greg Suhr, Police Commissioner Suzy Loftus, and others, seeks — in addition to damages — to compel San Francisco to test her rape kit and release the results to her. That represents, she believes, the best chance that the man who raped her will be brought to justice.
The suit also alleges some harrowing details of the criminal investigation's allegedly criminal mishandling. According to the filing, an officer named Joe Cordes discouraged Marlowe from continuing with her case though he encouraged her to confront her alleged rapist.
“Cordes instructed Marlowe to make contact with suspect, and flirt with him in order to elicit a confession,” according to the filing. “Cordes also instructed Marlowe to set up a date with [the] suspect to prove that Marlowe could identify [the] suspect in a crowd. Cordes told Marlowe that if she refused to engage in these actions, SFPD [sic] would cease its investigation of her rape.”
In a healing effort, Marlowe's one-woman play "The Haze," which opened in 2014, has also been an attempt to convey her experience to the public and to make herself understood. As the Examiner quotes her performance: "Why it is hard to care about someone who’s been raped?” Marlowe asks.