Content warning: The following commentary discusses sexual assault.
We’ve been witness to various reckonings in recent years. From the height of the #MeToo movement in 2017 that brought powerful well known abusers to supposed if not temporary justice, to last year’s mainstream acknowledgement of how racism is woven into the fabric of our historical institutions.
And now we have a reckoning of our own.
On Aug. 6, 2021, Sasha Perigo, a member of our San Francisco community and a tenant’s rights organizer, courageously came forward and publicly named the man who raped her last April, detailing the incident on Twitter by sharing a seven-page document that included her account of the events, discharge paperwork from SFGH and a letter from SFPD confirming that her rape kit had been processed. That man—well known in Mission politics and someone who El Tecolote has featured prominently in the past—is Jon Jacobo.
The news that a woman of our community had been violated by someone she trusted, a man of our community who had orchestrated an image as a community servant, was devastating. But given the history of abuses committed by men of influence, it wasn’t a surprise. If anything, Sasha coming forward about her attack was a grim yet necessary reminder that abusers exist in all forms, including charismatic community leaders.
“Coming forward publicly about your rape isn’t fun,” Sasha told El Tecolote over email. “I’ve been subjected to a barrage of comments picking apart every aspect of my life. Commenters have told me that I’m an unfaithful girlfriend, a whore, a liar, and even that I deserve to be raped repeatedly in order to “teach me a lesson.””
This incident is a microcosm of a greater issue that has long plagued our community and machismo culture at large, and one that has largely been ignored.
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you are a survivor yourself, the child of a survivor, or have at the very least have witnessed or experienced the frequent harassment of a catcall along 24th Street. Many of us have felt this toxicity fester for generations in our communities and yes, even in our homes.
“But I am also very aware that the opportunity to come forward this publicly, and to receive the community support that I have, is not afforded to all survivors,” Sasha said. “For example, the media has heavily reported the fact that I am a Stanford alumna this week. While I am Latina, I am also a white girl, and I already had a large platform as a writer prior to this week. And, of course, the man who assaulted me is a dark skinned Latino man, which plays into people’s preconceived biases.”
“Survivors who didn’t go to a fancy school, who aren’t white, or who don’t have an existing platform don’t always receive the same support that I do. That’s bullshit. My heart goes out to every survivor who is hurting because of this news story right now, especially the people who were not lucky enough to receive the support that I have,” Sasha said.
How and when it became the preferred practice to protect abusers who perpetuate generational trauma, rather than protect and believe survivors, I don’t know. How and when we just collectively accepted that “abusers will always exist” in our homes and communities, I don’t know. But it’s time that we change that. And we have the collective power and responsibility to change this culture that has caused us, particularly women, so much harm.
But change won’t come without cost. Even now, amid the bravery exhibited by Sasha (which she said has now prompted five more women to come forward), the trolls are hard at work in the putrid space that is social media, capitalizing on her pain in the vile attempts to push their own ridiculous recall campaigns. And sadly, the voices of some longtime community members, despite the evidence and testimony put forth by Sasha, have chosen the path of shaming and blaming her for being the victim of rape.
But for Sasha, a path forward is possible.
“I definitely think restorative justice is possible here,” she said. “I firmly believe that no one is disposable and that everyone is capable of rehabilitation. A lot of people have criticized me for coming forward publicly about my experience with Jon, but I actually think involving the community is a critical step towards restorative justice. When Jon and I talked in April, he told me that his behavior would change, but there was no way for me to hold him accountable.”
Sasha continues; “Survivors of sexual assault cannot be responsible for overseeing our perpetrators’ rehabilitation. When I found out six weeks later that Jon had hurt another woman, I knew that I needed help to stop this pattern of behavior. Women in our community deserve to know if Jon poses a risk to their safety. They deserve to be at the table when deciding if and when Jon can reenter certain community spaces.”
“I am definitely not an expert on restorative justice, so I don’t know what comes next. But I’m inspired by the women in the Mission who have been fighting against sexual violence for generations. They are not responsible for Jon’s healing either, but the vast level of expertise in the Mission and throughout San Francisco’s activist communities gives me hope for the future.”
“I do know that justice will not come through involving the police. Supervisor Myrna Melgar and Ani Rivera said it well in their #YoTambien statement this week — the criminal justice system has never been fair to “either men of color nor to female victims of sexual assault.” Prisons do not rehabilitate offenders, and they tear apart our communities rather than helping us heal. In outing him publicly, Jon has already been forced to retreat from public life for the time being. There is no need for anyone to go to jail.”
This cycle of abuse has been in motion for centuries. For the Latinx community, if you can trace your ancestry to anywhere in the Americas, the generational trauma of sexual assault as a tool and consequence of colonial conquest has likely been passed down to you. It’s a cycle that has convinced so many of us to relentlessly chase and flaunt power and status, even at the expense of our own children, women and the most vulnerable people in our communities. This cycle must break, and to do that, we need to change our culture. Particularly our men.
The only way to achieve that is to first have that very hard and uncomfortable and real conversation with oneself, before having them with our family. We then need to teach our brothers, our sons, and ourselves, to unlearn what we’ve been taught—or not taught—about informed, freely given and knowledgeable consent. That no matter who we think we are, we aren’t entitled to anyone’s body.
While we all play a role in upholding the legacy of patriarchy, this event is a reminder of the daily work that men especially need to do to unearth the layers of pain and tear at the roots of colonization that keep us tangled in place. Those roots are strong. But together so are we.
Instituto Familiar de la Raza
La Clínica, bilingual and culturally competent counseling and therapy
Asesoramiento y terapia bilingües y culturalmente competentes
SF Women Against Rape
Advocacy, accompanying to legal or medical appointments, counseling, support groups and technical assistance to professionals and providers.
Abogacía, acompañamiento a citas legales o médicas, consejería, grupos de apoyo y asistencia técnica a profesionales y proveedores.
24 hour crisis hotline 415-647-RAPE (24hr crisis hotline)
General Inquiries: email@example.com 415-861-2024
Bay Area Women Against Rape
Crisis line, counseling and support and referral services
Línea de crisis, asesoramiento y servicios de referencia y apoyo
(510) 845-RAPE (24 hour crisis line)
La Casa de las Madres
Shelter for victims of domestic violence, drop-in counseling, phone and text counseling
Refugio para víctimas de violencia doméstica, consejería sin cita previa, consejería por teléfono y mensaje de texto
Línea de crisis 24 horas/24-Hour hotline: 877-503-1850
Línea de apoyo por texto/Text Support Line: 415-200-3575
National anti-sexual violence organization, advocacy and direct support
Organización nacional contra la violencia sexual, abogacía y apoyo directo
Línea directa/hotline 24/7: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
The Women’s Building
Sexual Assault Harassment Prevention Project
Proyecto de Prevención del Acoso y Agresión Sexual
(415) 431-1180 ext. 20