In June of 2016, a woman walking on an Upper East Side street was violently grabbed by a man who shoved a bag of feces under her pants. On the one year anniversary of the horrifying attack, the victim has come forward to talk about her experience and how it impacted her. "It is time to show my face, to share my name, and to tell you about my experience as the victim of a violent and very public sexual assault," Hannah Zaks wrote on the Huffington Post, adding, "I am not just the woman in the blurry video footage whom you may have pitied or made jokes about. I am a survivor, and am ready to share my story."
On June 27, 2016, Zaks was on East 74th Street when Ekwan Hill, who had apparently been following her, yanked her and then stuffed the feces down her clothing. Here's her graphic description of what happened:
Suddenly, I felt rough hands violently grab me around the waist. As I tried to spin around, his force overpowered me. His hand, which held the bag of dog shit, pushed past the elastic waistband of my shorts, into my underwear and then, into my body. I tried to jump forward, but he used one arm to hold my waist and the other to continue to invade me from behind.
Feeling disgusted, I wanted all of the “evidence” off of me as quickly as possible. Despite my immediate desire to grab wipes and clean myself, my recent stint on a grand jury months before informed what I did next. I asked my friend to take a picture of my backside, because I knew a photo could serve as evidence to verify the severity and sexual nature of the assault. My instincts later turned out to be spot-on.
Once I changed into clean clothes, I spoke with the two police officers (one male, one female) who had arrived on the scene, preparing to take a victim statement of a potential “harassment.” I stopped the male officer as he pulled out his notepad and said, “This is not harassment ― what happened to me is sexual assault. I have a picture, and I am sure there is video surveillance of the attack because it happened right in front of this garage.”
I watched the female police officer with pleading eyes, hoping she would understand, and she did. She asked if I minded showing just her the photo, and after seeing it, immediately nodded to the male officer and calmly said, “We need to get SVU down here, now.”
Zaks said the constant replaying of the surveillance video—which did lead to Hill's capture—was difficult, as viewers couldn't hear her screams of "let me go" or understand how upsetting it was—"To the people who did not know me, or did not know it was me, I was almost a fictional character; my closest friends and family saw my anguish, my pain, my humiliation, but it felt as though the rest of the city saw my trauma only as a punch line of a joke or as a talking point for debates about mental health and homelessness."
Police were reportedly tipped off about Hill by a security guard at his Brooklyn homeless shelter.
Describing her journey from victim to survivor, she wrote, "Being sexually assaulted will not define my life, but it is an event that undoubtedly has and will continue to shape me. A year later, I am proud that fear no longer holds me back from sharing what happened to me, in my own voice and in my own way, and that I am brave and confident enough to say that I am the survivor of sexual assault."
Hill, who also assaulted another woman with feces by shoving it into her face and mouth before attacking Zaks, is serving a year in prison for forcible touching. His next court appearance will be on August 25, 2017.