Episode 009 – Keri Potts, Sr. Director of Communications at ESPN – Part 2

Keri Potts – Part 2

Every 90 seconds, an American is assaulted. In this Part 2 of my interview with Keri Potts, Sr. Director of Communications at ESPN. We talk about her assault in Italy, how she escaped by jumping from rooftops, and the process to bring her assaulter to justice while she was in America. This may be a tough episode for some of you. Please, do what you need to do by way of self-care, even if that means not listening. For more resources please visit RAINN.org, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE, or use their online chat.

I have minimal notes below because this is truly an episode that needs to be listened to.

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Additional Show Notes:
  • Was traveling in Italy with a friend.
  • Met up with a local artist after dinner, something she normally wouldn’t do but her friend had met him and encouraged her.
  • At the end of the night, he attacked her, bit her face, digitally raped her. She fought back, jumped over a balcony railing and climbed down 7 stories and jumping down roofs.
  • She did all the things at the beginning of the night to make it very clear that she wasn’t interested in sex. She set a curfew with him and her friend was right there when she did that.
  • Her athletic background helped fend him off, but also her sensitivity to other people helped alert her.
  • Bobbi-Sue gets annoyed at people in Keri’s life asking Keri “Why did you go up there?” Keri talks about how the brain works and people’s need for self-preservation.
  • While trying to escape, she thought about hitting him in the head with a very heavy bottle of rum but stopped herself because she knew it would kill him.
  • After he mocked her and she realized he was a full on psychopath, her whole body started to shut down, including her ability to move – Tonic Immobility. Your brain works fine but the body doesn’t work – happens a lot to trauma victims.
  • Somehow she broke through it in order to fight him and then jump over the balcony rail.
  • Keri talks about taking a self-defense class and the real benefit of it is learning to think “what would I do if?” Other tips:
    • Break glass – it gets people’s attention.
    • The time to fight is before you are locked into a space, like a car trunk.
    • Shatter, break things so that it leaves evidence of a struggle
  • She never got too close to him because he was so strong and big.
  • Wrote her blog posts through the perspective of a victim and not as a trained assault counselor.
  • Three moments of Divine Intervention
  • ESPN and Walt Disney Company helped get her out of Italy, made sure she was getting medical help, put her through therapy. No one from her family or company questioned what happened to her, and fully supported her fighting for justice.
  • Keri did an ESPN-wide training about how to be better when discussing sexualized violence.
    • Even using the term “date rape” makes it sound like “rape light” as if there was some sexual exchange that went bad. Instead we should use “stranger rape” or “non-stranger rape.”
    • “Domestic dispute” – makes it sound participatory on both sides, “dispute” makes it sound verbal and not physical and thereby not as bad
    • “A woman was raped last night” vs “A man raped a woman” – the former doesn’t have an actor in it and focusing too much on the victim and not the perpetrator.
  • Changing the language in newsrooms can change the perception of sexualized violence overnight.
  • What’s the appropriate way to respond to someone that confides in you?
    • “Thank you for sharing that. I believe you. What can I do to help?”
    • At no point do you ask ANY type of question about what they did to bring it on themselves.

Quotable moments:

  • “We’ve all been made to think that it’s because women don’t make things clear enough. But that’s not how predators work.”
  • “I said no ‘sexo’ because he leaned in to kiss me at a cafe.”
  • “He was testing my boundaries… Instead of slapping him, I got embarrassed and kind of started to retreat into myself.”
  • “It just never occurred to me that I don’t get to call the shots on what happens with my own body… I never learned that my words might not be respected.” – Keri’s response to when people ask “Why did you go up there?”
  • “I’ll never get out of Italy if I do that.” – Regarding why she didn’t hit him over the head with the rum bottle.
  • “I felt like I could do anything, and I didn’t feel pain… I could hear him hitting me and the cracking when he did but I couldn’t feel it.”
  • “I wanted to be unconscious it hurt so bad the next morning.”
  • “Shattering glass is what gets people to know something is wrong. Because it’s not a natural sound. Nothing good is happening when there’s breaking glass.”
  • “I want to reach as many people as possible. I want to normalize it for them.”
  • “If you are that person that they confide in you, that’s such a gift but with a responsibility.”

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