The story reads like a "Law & Order: SVU" episode: Single mom Taylor Hirth was peacefully sleeping next to her 2-year-old daughter in her Missouri home. Suddenly, she woke up to realize there was a man she didn't know standing in her doorway. The rest is straight out of every woman's nightmare.
Now 31 years old, Taylor recounted the tale of her horrific night in a lengthy and detailed piece published on Cosmopolitan.com. Laying next to her daughter as the man and his friends gang raped her, the most heartbreaking moment of her interview with police was when she recounted the moment when her daughter woke up and held her hand. She didn't want her daughter to be scared and she was afraid the men would hurt them both. So she pretended to enjoy what was happening, told her that they were nice men, everything was OK, and to go back to sleep.
In a video interview with a detective of the Independence Police Department (IPD), recorded on the morning of Feb. 10, 2016, Taylor told police how of several men pushed into her apartment shortly after 1 a.m. on Feb. 9, and proceeded to sexually abuse her in her own bed in the Kansas City, Missouri, suburb where she and her daughter live.
The details are gory and bone-chilling as Taylor cries on screen, giving her testimony. The most heartbreaking moment came when she tells the detective, "I was so proud of her for just laying there and being quiet," during the part when she recounts her daughter waking up next to her as the horrific crime was happening.
After her attack and unable to find her cell phone, she posted on Facebook that she had been raped and asked for someone to send police to her address. A friend called the police and then joined Taylor at the hospital to support her and take care of her daughter while she submitted to a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exam.
But despite doing everything she should, including reporting the crime immediately and receiving vaginal swabs which indicated male DNA during her exam, several months later, the case was closed.
On Aug. 31, the IPD detective wrote that all investigative leads had been exhausted. A few months later—after another rape had been committed in a nearby county and the DNA sample matched one from Taylor's rape kit—police reopened the case in light of the new information. One man has now been charged in Taylor's case, and it's still unfolding.
But her journey to justice has been a rocky one—and is still far from over.
Taylor lists off all of the ways she tried to be helpful to police officers by providing leads herself: Noises from downstairs after the assault, a company whose workers may have had access to the building, the words "you sexy" written in the dust of her car windshield in the parking lot, one of the men talking about another's birthday the day of the attack and hearing the name of one of the attackers. Although she wasn't exactly sure of the name, she gave detectives three similar-sounding names in hopes that would help her case.
Yet the detectives seemed to focus on other parts of her story, questioning what she did earlier on the night of the attack and questioning whether she was on Tinder or other dating websites. (She hadn't been.)
When two male officers who came to her apartment also asked her about Tinder in an accusatory tone and the detective asked her "if for some reason you had a guest over, and then it got out of control, and you're trying to cover for somebody," Taylor was disturbed.
Taylor says that some days she feels empowered and determined to keep speaking up on behalf of herself victims everywhere. Other days, she feels hopeless and convinced that her efforts have been futile.
"I kept thinking, 'How could I be a more perfect victim,'” Taylor told Cosmopolitan. “I was sober, dressed in sweatpants, sleeping in my locked apartment on the third floor with my daughter, not on Tinder or OkCupid, not dating or married … and still wasn't believed.”
In October, when the detective who originally interviewed Taylor called to let her know that a man's DNA from a rape case in nearby Johnson County, Kansas, had a positive match to the sample obtained from Taylor's rape kit, it wasn't all good news. Although the man in question has been charged, he won't appear in court for Taylor's case until the resolution of the Johnson County case. And, in December, when Taylor found out her rapist had finally been charged in her case, it turned out the man had lived in the same building, one floor below her. She felt absolutely sick.
Now Taylor has no recourse but to go back to her life as a working single mom, despite the increased stress that the rape and investigation has taken on her life. She has tried to reestablish normalcy, but mentions that she moved into a new apartment and sleeps with a Taser nearby. She's also had problems with hair falling out, her weight has fluctuated and her therapist—who she saw for about five months after the attack—believes that she may be suffering from PTSD and acute stress disorder.
The whole experience has put Taylor in a "strange place" as she questions what happened to her—and her work as a victim's advocate.
“How, having gone through what I went through and am still going through," she said in the Cosmopolitan interview, "can I still encourage women to report?”