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‘The System Has Failed Me’

PAIN AND SURVIVAL Stirling, who was sexually assaulted, says the NYPD has a deeply rooted problem with how it handles reports of rape.

RACHEAL STIRLING’S NECK THROBBED AS the 6 train rumbled over the tracks. It was late afternoon in September 2014, and Stirling was headed uptown from her East Village apartment. She stepped off the subway on 125th Street in East Harlem and trudged toward a boxy brick building, the headquarters of the New York Police Department’s Special Victims Division.

She had hoped for a bright, clean office full of relatively friendly detectives, men and women who were eager to help. But when she walked inside, an officer led her down a dark, dingy hallway into a small room with plain white walls. There, she waited nervously, going over what had happened in her mind—details she had filed with her local precinct the day before. Soon, the door opened, and Lukasz Skorzewski, a baby- faced detective in the Special Victims Division, walked in. He sat across the table, and almost immediately, she says, she had a bad feeling. Not only had he not read her complaint, she tells Newsweek, but when he asked her what had happened, he seemed confrontational, brusque.

Three days earlier, according to a statement Stirling later made in court, she had been hanging out at her apartment with Juan Scott. He lived on her block, and the two had been enjoying a “carefree summer fling.” But as Stirling, then 26, sat barefoot next to Scott on her bed that evening, he suddenly made a confession: He liked to climb onto his roof to watch naked women through their windows, then find them on the street and ask them out. “Kind of makes you wonder how I found you,” said Scott. He then started taking off his clothes and suggested they have sex. Stirling felt uncomfortable. His comments were disturbing, she recalls, and she told him she didn’t want to sleep with him.

Enraged, Scott smashed a beer bottle on the floor, the shattered glass blocking her path to the door. He started screaming at her and pinned her down, threatening to rape her. Stirling cried and begged him to stop. At one point, Scott slammed Stirling’s head into the wall and shoved his fingers inside her. This is it, she thought. This is how I die.

After hours of Scott screaming and sexually assaulting her, according to Stirling’s statement, he apologized and used a broom to clean up the broken glass. Stirling realized her only chance to get away from him was to act as if everything was normal, so she pretended she wanted a cigarette and suggested they go outside to smoke. Once they reached the sidewalk in front of the building, Scott asked for a hug and a kiss; Stirling agreed, hoping to keep him calm. They said goodbye, and as he walked away, she stepped back into her building and locked the door behind her. Later, she went to the hospital and learned she had a broken rib, a sprained hip and a concussion.

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THE NEW IRON CURTAIN? For years, Russia has tried to weaken and divide the EU, supporting groups ranging from Catalan separatists in Spain to British Brexit activists. The Kremlin had offered loans to France’s National Front and used its propaganda channels to whip up fake news about the persecution of Russian minorities in the Baltics. According to Political Capital, a Budapest based think tank, Russian-based trolls, Twitter bots and social media sock puppets have been put to work, boosting exaggerated stories of crimes by immigrants and “selling pro-Kremlin narratives within a tabloid, conspiracy package.”