By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — The ongoing trial of two police officers charged with raping a woman inside her East Village apartment could have a chilling effect on the willingness of future victims to step forward, a rape survivor and advocate warned.
The eventual verdict handed down by a jury in the case of two East Village police officers charged with raping a drunk 27-year-old woman after responding to a 911 call to help her could dramatically affect that, she said.
"It seems that they might get away with it. I hope not, and pray that they don't," said Grayce, 40. "It's going to send a message of — you're not protected, you're not going to be safe no matter who you turn to.
"A lot of young women don't report rape. This is going to add to that if it doesn't come out the way we hope it will," she continued. "It's going to be very detrimental. Women are not going to feel that they can turn to police officers and get the support they need."
Grayce, who has co-hosted the Rape Declaration Forum radio call-in show on WBAI for the past seven years, and recently founded her own East Village-based multimedia network to counsel survivors, said she has heard from a number of rape victims whose attackers were authority figures.
"Believe it or not, I'm not surprised that police officers are involved. It's become something I hear over and over again," she said.
"We hear calls of survivors who have been raped by police officers and people of authority. They never had the strength this woman had. It was a lot easier for this woman to keep quiet. It was really, really courageous."
Grayce, a native New Yorker, said she was raped in San Francisco after moving there from the city as a 29-year-old. She sees many similarities between the "devastating" experiences both she and the alleged victim underwent.
Manhattan — and especially the seemingly safe East Village where the alleged victim lived at the time — is seen as a place where ambitious young women flock to experience big-city living while pursuing their dreams.
Grayce moved to San Francisco about a decade ago to pursue her own dreams, but was raped during a job interview less than a month after she arrived.
She explained that she was attacked by a restaurant manager as the man's wife and family, as well as Grayce's friend, were in another room of the restaurant.
But she said the feelings of trauma she felt after the rape sent her into a state of shock that only intensified during the criminal trial against her assailant.
Grayce said that DNA evidence linked her attacker in San Francisco to the crime and ultimately led to a conviction. There is no such DNA evidence in the East Village woman's case.
"It took about two years until I finally started picking up the pieces," she said, noting that reliving the experience in court was worse than the immediate aftermath of the attack.
"Part of me was like, I don't want to do this, I'm just starting to get my life together. It's very isolating," she added, saying that she feels sympathy for the woman in the alleged East Village attack.
"I hope she has a good support system, because she needs it."
Sensitive and personal details of the alleged East Village victim's attack — including her sexual history and graphic details about her anatomy — have been publicly dissected in recent weeks during the trial.
The alleged victim's appearance on the stand showed her emotional vulnerability early on during questioning that gave way to more poised resolve — something not easily achieved by victims who are thrust back into the traumatizing experience via the courtroom, Grayce said.
"Rape is about power. People get confused and think it's about sex," she said.
"The truth is, it's an act of violence and an act of someone taking over someone else's power. This woman had the strength and the insight to pick herself up, and [she] decided to take her power back and make these people accountable for their actions. That is a very courageous thing."
Regardless of the trial's outcome, Grayce added, the woman should take heart in her decision to stand up against her alleged perpetrators, which many women don't do in instances of rape.
"No matter what the outcome may be, she will know she did the best she could," she said. "Now it's up to the justice system to do their job."