University of Arizona Lieutenant David Caballero will never forget the day he opened his computer to find an email from former student Jillian Corsie sitting in his inbox.
“It was October 28, 2015,” Caballero told HuffPost last week. “I’ll never forget that date.”
The veteran cop had just sat down at his desk and begun deleting the junk folder in his inbox when he came across something that caught his eye. It was an email from a woman he had crossed paths with more than a decade ago. Although he didn’t remember her, she remembered him.
“I’ve carried your card around in my wallet since the night we met,” Corsie wrote. “Ten years ago this month you interviewed me about a rape I experienced on campus. After an embarrassing and horrible interview for me, the [University of Arizona Police Department] deemed my experience ‘consensual.’”
Corsie told HuffPost that she was raped in 2005 by a male classmate in her dorm room during the first month of college. When she turned to her friends for help, most of them were wildly unsupportive. Her boyfriend didn’t believe her and thought she had simply cheated on him. Corsie later went to local police for help, but they told her “not to mix alcohol and beauty,” she said. The two patrol supervisors on duty that day, Caballero and another officer, concluded in their report that “a sexual assault did not occur.”
Caballero said he was stunned by Corsie’s email and the response he had given her that day 10 years ago. He immediately picked up the phone and called her.
That interaction sparked Corsie and co-director Amy Rosner to create their short film, aptly titled “Second Assault,” which HuffPost is exclusively premiering below. “Second Assault” is a documentary-style film that follows Corsie as she confronts the people who failed her after she reported her rape in 2005.
“The film is about my journey to confront a system that failed me, and also to confront the culture that we live in — and how that supports this idea of a second assault, which isn’t necessarily just what happens when you report, but also what happens when your friends and boyfriends and people around you don’t believe you,” Corsie told HuffPost in 2017 when she and Rosner were still crowdfunding.
In the film, Corsie confronts Caballero face-to-face and tells him about their interaction 10 years prior. Caballero, for his part, is open and honest about his missteps and points to a lack of trauma-informed training as a reason for his insensitive response.
“Having that conversation with him just allowed me to let go of all of the anger that I had been holding against him for more decades,” Corsie told HuffPost last week. “To have him ― without question, without meeting me, without knowing my motive ― show up and put himself on camera is a huge risk on his part. And I’m really grateful for what he did and what he continues to do.”
Caballero was so taken by Corsie’s letter that he shared her email with his entire team, telling HuffPost he wanted to make sure his officers “understood that their words matter.”
“Whatever I did, whatever I said back then needed to be corrected. It needed to be done in a way where I needed to take full responsibility for the response that we gave her back then,” Caballero said, adding that, at the time, they believed they were responding correctly with the training they had been given.
“Second Assault,” which premiered at multiple festivals last year, has won several awards, including Best Director at the Global Impact Film Festival and Audience Choice Award at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival.
Rosner and Corsie hope the film starts a much-needed conversation about how the criminal justice system, and society as a whole, responds to sexual assault survivors.
“This conversation alone has had a ripple effect in both Jillian and David’s lives, and I think, if possible, we need to have these conversations more openly,” Rosner said.
These days, when Caballero sits down at his desk, he’s greeted by Corsie’s letter, which is framed and hung up on on his wall.
“Every day,” he said, “I look at Jillian’s letter and it reminds me words matter.”
Watch the exclusive premiere of “Second Assault” below.