Hope, Strength and Experience!
Jeri Elster is a Los Angeles resident who was brutally raped in her home on August 27, 1992. Ms. Elster’s story bristles with horrifying terror – it is filled with angst, physical trauma leading to hospitalization, and a mental breakdown which further institutionalized her. The investigation of her case was riddled with divinely ordained mishaps and the system let her down, setting the field for her inspirited battles to change the status quo.
Not having had much healing after suffering brother-sister incest for several years starting at the age of 8 years old, Ms. Elster’s reaction to being raped was to become suicidal, depressed, and ill-prepared to provide much self-care. She lost her voice several months after being raped even though there was nothing medically wrong with her vocal chords. In December of 1992, she was institutionalized for 30 days because she was “dangerous to herself and others.” During what Ms. Elster describes as her “incarceration,” she began to address all her unsound beliefs and unhealthy lifestyle choices. She set out on a spiritually-based journey of discovery with unbridled curiosity, unending energy, and the hope of proving long-lasting changes can occur with purpose. Her goal was to live extraordinarily.
Ms. Elster is twice a breast cancer survivor, having completed her first bout with aggressive treatment ending only weeks before she went “public” with her story in front of the California Assembly in February of 2000. She has been clean and sober since 1988 and free from nicotine since 1992. Ms. Elster is constantly on the move from victim, to survivor, to activist. She delivers a strong message of hope and personal strength, tools for living, an impassioned viewpoint and she is visibly driven to action.
In 1992, rape kits were not tested unless there was a viable suspect. Ms. Elster’s rape kit sat in a refrigerated truck for seven years until she came up with a suspect on her own and notified the sexual assault detective. With a viable suspect, approval for testing her rape kit for evidence was finally obtained. The identity of her rapist was discovered in late 1999, albeit not the original suspect – it was the first “cold hit” in Los Angeles. The district attorney mistakenly quoted the statute of limitation to be eight years and, though her rapist was an inmate in a California prison when the match was made, the statute of limitations had lapsed leaving prosecution barred.
Thus, Ms. Elster has experienced the anger of a scorned victim and the healing and education of a true advocate. She saw the value in her story and how it could work in a positive way and proceeded with these purposes in mind:
The primary purpose for speaking publicly is to put a human face on the ramifications of the laws that needed to change (i.e., governing the statute of limitations on rape and/or sexual assault), as well as the reforms needed to local police practices and the justice system.
A secondary purpose is to communicate that the crime of rape is second only to homicide in its seriousness.
A third purpose is to decrease the silence and shame associated with rape and sexual assault.
Ms. Elster has made a deep impact by telling her story publicly. On two occasions, February 29, 2000, and June 27, 2000, she traveled to Sacramento to testify in support of bills which are now laws amending the California statute of limitations to be unlimited when DNA evidence is useable in court, as well as in support of the post-conviction use of DNA for convicted inmates to prove innocence.
Healing for Ms. Elster emanates from taking action, sharing with others and the ability to use her story to turn her worst liability into her best asset. Consequently, notoriety has been commonplace, she has a long list of personal appearances, including television shows, and speaking engagements. The most outstanding are:
A&E “Cold Hits” – 12/26/00
KCET (PBS) “Life and Times” – December of 2000
KEYT (Santa Barbara, CA) “In Focus” – (live) 2/3/02
Oprah “What You Should Know About Rape” – 2/15/02
Lifetime TV “Final Justice” – 2/14/03
Lifetime TV “The Division” – 2/16/03
KCET (PBS) “California Connected” – 6/26/03
L.A. City View 35 “LA Woman” hosted by Linda Alvarez – began airing in August, 2003
Huffpost.com – Documentary Movie “Brave Miss World” Interview (live in studio) – 4/21/13
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – 6/23/00
California Sexual Assault Investigators Association – 10/4/00
Texas Association Against Sexual Assault: Fall Convention – 11/13/01
Webb School – 2/27/02
PEACE for Families Spring Fundraiser – 3/15/02
SART/SANE/SAFE Training at California Hospital, Los Angeles – 1/26/03
Cate School – 3/6/03
LACAAW Donor Appreciation Event – 8/21/03
UCLA School of Health – Family and Sexual Violence Class – 2/4/04
9th Circuit Symposium on Sexual Offending – 8/505
International Association of Forensic Sciences, Hong Kong – 8/24-26/05
UCLA School of Health – Family and Sexual Violence Class – 2/2/06
10th Annual Melanie Ilene Rieger Memorial Conference – 4/2006
11th Annual Melanie Ilene Rieger Memorial Conference – 4/2007
Southern Youth Correctional/Reception Center & Clinic – Victims’ Rights Week – 4/26/07
12th Annual Melanie Ilene Rieger memorial Conference – 4/2008
Southern Youth Correctional/Reception Center & Clinic – Victims’ Rights Week – 4/27/09
Southern Youth Correctional/Reception Center & Clinic – Claim & Connect Workshop – 4/19/10
Fairfax High School – Denim Day in Los Angeles (for Peace Over Violence) – 4/27/11
California Catholic Restorative Justice Transfer of Knowledge Conference – 9/21/11
Loyola Marymount University – Denim Day in Los Angeles (for Peace Over Violence) – 4/25/12
Soroptimist International (West Los Angeles/Santa Monica Chapter) – 1/16/13
Los Angeles Times Newspaper – February 29, 2000
Featured in Marie Claire Magazine – September, 2001
Cover story in Los Angeles Times Magazine – January 27, 2002
Featured in Ladies Home Journal – October, 2002
+ Certificate of Commendation from the City of Los Angeles for commitment and unwavering efforts to raise awareness of the tremendous need for DNA testing in the fight against rape and violence and for being an inspiration to fellow survivor/activists – 2003
+ Named “Volunteer of the Year” by Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women – 2004
+ Los Angeles County District Attorney Commendation in recognition of dedicated community service – 2004
+ County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors Commendation in recognition of dedicated service to the affairs of the community and for the civic pride demonstrated by numerous contributions for the benefit of all the citizens of Los Angeles County – 2004
+ California State Assembly Certificate of Recognition for outstanding commitment to communities and for leadership and inspiration towards promoting the successful advancement and empowerment of women – 2004
+ City of Los Angeles City Council Commendation for extraordinary commitment and unwavering service to preventing assaults against women and for assistance to survivors and their families and outstanding dedication to making Los Angeles a safer place for women and their families to live – 2004