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The mom said that BAWAR was able to provide her family with resources that they could not obtain on their own, such as access to police and prosecutors. They felt that their case against the pimp was strengthened. And Mims was a big reason for this: He personally knew many Oakland police officers and prosecutors with the district attorney's office.
And the authorities touted their proximity to Mims, who was frequently invited to conferences and fundraisers alongside police and prosecutors. For example, in 2014, Mims was advertised as one of "Nancy's Hero[es]" that the public could meet at Alameda County District Attorney O'Malley's summer barbecue fundraiser. For these reasons, Pendergrass felt that he could open doors and speed up the process.
She felt that they would be safe.
The mom said that she and Mims frequently texted the first few nights after she and her daughter escaped. On the first night, Mims texted her to ask if they were OK. She responded that they were shaken up and afraid to return to their home because Brown was threatening to kill them.
The next day, Pendergrass says Mims checked in with her again. She told him that her daughter had left Oakland for safety reasons and that she was feeling lonely and wanted to go home. Mims decided to visit her at her apartment that night, according to Pendergrass.
They talked for a while about the case, and also about their personal lives. "I felt like we were establishing trust," Pendergrass explained.
Later that night, after Mims had left, they talked again on the phone. But she says their conversation took an unusual turn: They began talking about sex.
Mims allegedly told Pendergrass: "It sounds like we have some unfinished business."
A Common (But Often Unreported) Sexual Assault
Over the next several days, Pendergrass says the two exchanged sexually charged text messages, in between communicating about the services BAWAR was providing her family. Then, on the night of January 13, less than a week after her daughter escaped her pimp — and just days after Mims helped the family file police reports and counseled them — Pendergrass says Mims came to her apartment and they had sex.
Over the next month-and-a-half, she said Mims would repeatedly arrive at Pendergrass' home to have sex with her. And he always left the same night. "At first I felt that it was consensual," Pendergrass explained. She also says she felt protected, because someone with the power to help her was taking a romantic interest.
But her perception of things evolved when the police called to inform her of Brown's arrest. Pendergrass phoned Mims to share the news. Shortly after, he attended a meeting between Pendergrass, her daughter and Deputy District Attorney Amanda Chavez, who would prosecute the Brown case. Mims spoke on behalf of the Pendergrass family, telling the DA about their background and experiences.
"The moment I had a realization, that I felt I was being used, we were in the District Attorney's office," she recalled. "I felt like we were taken more seriously by the DA because Pat Mims was there."
Things between Pendergrass and Mims changed when she needed help filing a supplemental police report with OPD. She wanted to seek relocation assistance, and the additional report was necessary before applying. She asked Mims for help, as she had done every other step of the way up to that point, but Pendergrass said Mims suddenly stopped responding to her calls and texts.
Afterward, she felt that her daughter's case was no longer a priority for BAWAR. She felt Mims abused his position of power. Feelings of confusion and remorse grew intense, she said. She worried that her access to OPD and the DA was being curtailed, too.
"I was taken advantage of," Pendergrass said of Mims. "I wasn't thinking clearly."
What most might not realize is that Mims' alleged behavior also amounts to a type of sexual exploitation, according to advocacy groups — and one that is common but has a very low reporting rate.
Even BAWAR recognizes "sexual exploitation by helping professionals" as a form of sexual assault. A page on BAWAR's website titled "Was I Sexually Assaulted?" explains that "sexual exploitation by helping professionals involves sexual contact of any kind between a helping professional — doctor, therapist, teacher, priest, professor, police officer, lawyer, etc. — and a client/patient."
The BAWAR website links to a more in-depth definition by Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, the nation's largest rape-crisis center: "When you seek someone's professional help, you're putting your trust in their hands to make decisions in your best interest," reads RAINN's own website. "Sexual exploitation by a helping professional is a serious violation of your trust and, in many cases, the law."
In March 2014, Pendergrass called RAINN's national rape-crisis hotline. They transferred her to Highland Hospital's sexual-assault response team, where a counselor listened to her story and advised her over the phone that she could file a police report and follow up with personal counseling sessions.
Pendergrass also called OPD and filed a police report. Officer Amerra Kesterson arrived at her apartment the next day and took a statement. Kesterson also gave Pendergrass a single-page brochure that the Oakland police hands out to anyone who reports being sexually assaulted. The sheet contained the contact information for several rape crisis and counseling centers, but Kesterson took a pen and crossed out BAWAR.