by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Recent reports of sexual assault on Capitol Hill have reached a level that has many in the neighborhood upset. Granted, the reports are not always police reports filed at the precinct, but are in the form of social media posts. More often than not, a Facebook rant or tweet about rape or sexual assault usually leaves more questions than answers and the validity of such attacks are then called into question. In fact, one claim made by a former Capitol Hill business owner has been found to be false by both the police department and hospitals and clinics in the area who tell Seattle Gay News that no rape kit was used on the date reported. Whenever a person lies about such a terrible crime it has the potential to silence real victims. It is for that reason alone that SPD and other officials don't issue a statement about the validity of any single person's claim. But in a community the size of Capitol Hill, word travels fast, and people are going to hear about it anyway. The only difference is - sometimes they might hear about it inaccurately.
It's an uncomfortable thing - questioning someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted. When I say 'questioning' I am talking about an interview. As journalists we often speak to people within hours of an attack or at least within a few days. I've spoken to people who seem inconsolable, angry, and hurt. I've also spoken to people who are determined to not allow themselves to be broken, are seeking justice and have a strong support system. The point I am making is this: Whenever meeting with a victim of sexual assault or rape you never know what you are going to see, hear or feel by the time it is done. But it is important, nonetheless, to get the word out and however the victim reacts, it is important for them to know how brave they are to tell their story.
Following the trend of Facebook posts about these kinds of attacks on Capitol Hill, on Monday, well-known drag entertainer Kaleena Markos published her own allegation of sexual assault. Only this time, and what was different from the rest, Markos alleges that she was kidnapped and taken against her will, just steps away from R Place.
Seattle Gay News spoke with Kaleena Markos and she bravely agreed to tell me her story. I feel it is my responsibility to issue a trigger warning for anyone that has been through something similar. While it is important for people to know what is happening to members of our community, it is also important for us to show compassion and care for those who've already been inflicted with such a terrible thing. So please read on with caution.
Markos told SGN she had just left R Place around 1 a.m., September 4. She admits that she had been drinking but was in no way intoxicated (a claim that is believable due to the fact that she can recall a number of very important details that a truly intoxicated person might have trouble remembering). She was on her way home, walking north on Boylston, where she lives just one block from the nightclub. That is when a car pulled up - an SUV which she describes as 'box-like' - with three men who began to strike up a conversation with her. The conversation did not last long and she says she was trying to remember if she'd met these men before, because as a performing artist it is not unusual for people in the audience to remember the entertainer, but for the entertainer to sometimes forget them because of the number of people a drag queen meets in one week alone.
'They parked in one of the loading zones in front of my building,' she said. 'The driver never said a word during the short conversation. But the guy who was sitting in the front seat, and the guy who was sitting in the back seat both got out of the car.'
Markos says they were friendly, asked her where she was going and after telling them she was on her way home (she did not tell them that she had, in fact, already reached home) and had just left R Place.
'They asked if R Place was fun and I told them if they hurried up and parked they could make it before last call and that they should go,' she recalls. 'I told them from the start that I was an entertainer. I told them I was a drag queen.'
Suddenly, she says she was grabbed and shoved into the backseat and the driver immediately sped off. It happened so quickly that she says the vehicle was already turning the corner on Boylston and E. Pike, eventually making their way to Melrose and then onto northbound I-5 in a matter of minutes.
Keeping her wits about her, while understandably freaking out inside, she said she tried to play it cool asking the men, 'Where are you taking me?' She said that the driver remained silent throughout the whole ordeal while the man in the front passenger seat and the guy seated next to her in the backseat kept changing their story about the destination.
'At first they said they were taking me 'home,' said Markos. 'I told them that my apartment was back near where they had picked me up. Then they said they were taking me to their house. Then, finally, the guy in the passenger seat told me, 'You'll like where we are taking you.'
Markos, who in heels is all of about 6 foot described her abductors as being well-dressed, who looked like any other Capitol Hill clubber on a Friday or Saturday night. She said they were either 'Pacific Islander or Latino' and that they were 'brown.' She also told SGN that they were tall and spoke English with no audible accent.
During the ride to wherever these men were taking her Markos said she frantically thought to herself about ways to make them stop the car. 'The only thing I could think of was telling them that I had to pee. I just kept saying that hoping they would pull over or tell me exactly where we were going and say that I could use the restroom there.'
Her calls to use the bathroom were met with silence, she said, as the three men refused to say anything more. Left with just her thoughts alone, she scanned the vehicle with her eyes, searching to see where the locks on the doors were located, where the door handles were at on the doors themselves and if the windows were all up or locked somehow. Her ability to remain calm on the outside and think clearly on the inside may have saved her life. She will never know.
The SUV took a University District exit and the man driving the car came to a stop near the freeway, said Markos, with 'tree-lined streets and not a lot of lights.' She says the driver then got out of the vehicle and then walked towards a few cars ahead of the one she was trapped in until she could not see him anymore.
The guy in the front passenger seat, who was doing most of the talking throughout the ordeal, kept chattering on, she said, while the guy seated next to her began to pull and tug at her blouse trying to expose her bra. 'He kept saying, 'calm down,' said Markos.
'All I could do was say, 'I am not a woman. I am a man. A drag queen. There is nothing in my bra for you,' she said because she was confused as to whether or not they really understood that she was not Transgender or a cisgender woman even though she had told them earlier when they first drove up to her on Boylston. 'But he ignored what I was saying and became more aggressive.'
Markos did not carry a purse that night. However, situated in her bra was her iPhone, bank card and ID. Eventually the man became so aggressive that he got his hands up under one side of her bra, after removing most of her clothing, and flipped the cup containing her personal items which she said, 'fell to the floor of the vehicle.'
It was in that moment that Markos says she knew that she had to do whatever she could to get away. She had memorized the door of the vehicle and says she figured she would have 1 or 2 seconds after throwing the man off of her to unlock and open the door before the two men realized what was happening. She sprang into action, throwing the man off of her and freeing herself from the vehicle, she ran, wearing nothing but a bra and underwear with no money, phone or ID, towards the better lit part of the street. When she looked back she saw the driver returning to the SUV and says he immediately started the vehicle.
'I did not know what to expect,' she told SGN. 'The SUV quickly caught up to me with the tires squealing and the men inside yelling anti-Gay slurs out of the windows - they just sped away.'
She made her way to the end of the street and realized she was at NE 42nd St. and 8th Ave. NE. 'I looked a mess, I am sure. I was crying and my makeup was smeared and I didn't have any clothes on,' she said. 'Not to mention I did not have my phone to call anybody or money to get home.'
She said a few women came by but that they 'seemed scared off by my appearance' said Markos. Then she says a man, who she refers to as an angel, stopped his car and allowed her to use his phone to call her boyfriend (he did not answer and she left a frantic voice message which prompted him to call the police). 'He was a nice Asian man who did not speak any English,' said Markos. 'He gave me his jacket to cover up with and drove me home.'
Because of the language barrier and because she did not have any way to record his personal information, she says sadly, she does not know who the man is.
Once at home and safely inside of her apartment she says that SPD arrived within minutes. While that was something that Markos was impressed by, she said the questioning by SPD was what she has come to expect. Markos, who is black American and has had negative experiences with police in the past due to what she alleges is racial profiling, said that the officers did not seem to know the difference between Transgender and drag queen and once she realized that, although she says she remained respectful throughout the questioning process, the police did not seem to believe her.
'Because I was upset and not telling them my account in chronological order, they were getting irritated,' she said. 'They did not seem to care that I was upset. I mean, what had just happened to me was traumatic and they were not worried about me, they were worried about the order in which I told them my story.'
Markos wanted to be clear and says she is not anti-SPD. She also states that she could tell that the officers were not taking her seriously not because she is black, instead, because she was a man wearing makeup. It made her feel angry and it made her feel like they weren't going to do anything to help, but she does not advocate for victims to not call the police. It is important to have a record of contact if you want your attackers to be caught and prosecuted. Plus, she says, 'You get a card given to you with your case number on it and the name of the officers.'
Eventually, after she had answered many questions, sometimes having to repeat herself because she had accidentally referred to the SUV as a 'van' and that made the officers re-question her about things, she says she asked them politely to leave. 'I've seen the videos on TV of people getting all crazy with the police and not being cooperative,' she told SGN. 'I am not going to do that. I don't think it is right and I don't think it helps.'
On Monday morning, at 6:30 a.m. she was contacted by SPD. She notes that a phone call that early in the morning, on a holiday such as Labor Day, was strange. But what happened next, she says, was even more bizarre. 'The person on the phone told me that a homeless man was caught trying to break into cars in the U District and when they arrested him my iPhone and other personal items were in a sack the man was carrying with him,' said Markos.
'I had the 'FIND ME' app turned on for lost iPhones and so when the police turned it on there was a message that popped up alerting them to call my boyfriend,' she said. 'But then they told me that I would have to pick up the phone from the U District (not East Precinct which is closer to where I live) and that I couldn't do it on Monday because it was a holiday and they weren't open.'
'How does it make sense that I get a call from the police on the very same holiday they say they are closed for and told to wait 24 hours to get my property,' she asks. 'Even still, I did not know that the police department closes. I mean I can understand a bank or something like that, but the police? It was just very unprofessional.'
Once Markos was able to retrieve her property she says she found through an app on her phone that it had been sitting for 24 hours in the driveway of the house nearest the dead end on the street the men took her. She wondered if that is where the driver had disappeared into when she was being attacked in the SUV. She called SPD and relayed the information. She does not know if a detective has been assigned to the case or not. One other issue for her, she says, is that when she picked up the phone, the people at the precinct did not know that these were items that had been lost by her during an assault. 'I had to give them my case number and everything' she said. 'Wouldn't you think they police would know all of that already?'
While Markos has agreed to work with Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) as an advocate to resolve the issue with how her case is being handled, she maintains that the focus should not be on the cops but instead on catching the people that did this to her.
'They messed with the wrong queen,' she said on Facebook.
In the meantime, Markos reminds SGN readers to 'be careful.' 'Don't walk alone, don't be looking at your phone and not paying attention. I never thought this could happen to me, but it did. Just be careful out there and stay safe.'
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!