Editor’s note: The following story includes a description of a sexual assault, which some readers may find disturbing.
It was supposed to be a Halloween party. But it ended up changing a young woman’s life. She said she was raped by members of the San Diego State University football team.
The woman told her story to KPBS this week. We are withholding her name as a victim of sexual assault.
She said it happened at an off-campus house on October 16, 2021. She was a 17-year-old high school senior at the time. A friend posted about a college party and decided to go with a group of friends wearing a fairy costume, complete with wings.
“I went in the back and there were a lot of people,” said the now 18-year-old woman. “My friends broke up with me and a guy came up to me and gave me something to drink. We were talking. One thing led to another.”
She didn’t know what was in the drink. She said the man took her to a room inside the house. She said there were already several men there.
“They threw me face down on the bed and took turns attacking me from behind, other things in the mix,” she said. “And I was bleeding everywhere. My piercings were broken. I had belly button piercings, nose piercings, and ear piercings.”
During the attack, she drifted in and out of consciousness. After the attack, she was bloodied and bruised. He had bruises on his neck and said he didn’t know if they were hiccups or something. He also had bruises on his legs.
“It was really aggressive. It was aggressive. It was really scary,” she said.
After that, the men left and her friends found her. She told them she had just been raped.
“Of course they were scared,” she said. “They didn’t really know how to react to something like that.”
Resources at SDSU for victims of sexual assault
• SDSU Counseling and Psychology Services: (619) 594-5220 (non-emergency)
• Access to counseling and crisis line: (888) 724-7240, www.sa.sdsu.edu/cps/
• Student Health Services, Calpulli Center: (619) 594-5281, shs.sdsu.edu/index.asp
• SDSU Police Department: (619) 594-1991
• Center for Community Solutions: (888) 385-4657 (bilingual rape crisis hotline), ccssd.org
She told KPBS she didn’t know how many men were in the room or how many assaulted her. She didn’t know where the reported number of five came from either. She said the first she heard about it was when the Los Angeles Times broke the story in June. The Times reported that rumors had been circulating at SDSU for months that five football players had raped the girl during an off-campus party.
She said she only knew the names of three suspects, which police gave her based on the descriptions she gave. These names have not been released.
On Monday, SDSU announced it had begun its Title IX investigation into the reported rape. The university said it has been asked not to do anything that could interfere with the investigation, including launching its own investigation until now.
“Had the university taken any action, including launching its own investigation, it could have compromised SDPD’s already active criminal investigation,” university spokeswoman La Monica Everett-Haynes said in an email to KPBS. “Ignoring SDPD’s request could have caused irreversible harm by misidentifying potential suspects – who were not confirmed by SDPD at the time and still are.”
She said potential suspects could destroy evidence, cooperate with each other or harass or injure witnesses.
But the victim said she thought there was another reason the university was waiting so long.
“It’s hard not to assume the worst,” she said. “It seems like since that football team was doing so well, since they’re so well known, maybe it could be the fact that they’re good players (that it was the varsity) that’s trying to sweep it under the rug. “
The Aztecs were 12-2 last season after winning the Frisco Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press poll.
The victim said it doesn’t make sense for San Diego State to drag its feet so much.
“Especially because I feel like we have some very strong evidence that we’ve found in the first two months,” she said.
About a month after she reported the rape, she said police had her make “pretext” calls to the suspects, which are recorded phone calls.
“I went under kind of, like, giving the impression that I was just worried about what happened, trying to figure out what happened, worried about STDs, worried about the pregnancy,” she said. “And I had to call each of the suspects and ask them to explain what happened that night. And most of them admitted what they did or lied about it. And so I feel like that’s pretty strong evidence in itself.”
She said one of them apologized for what happened.
“Which is really hard to hear because it almost makes me feel like I should feel bad, even though I know it’s not my fault,” she said. — The rest were not.
The university says police have not shared the names of the suspects with SDSU. The school has created a webpage detailing the steps it has taken since learning about the attack, along with resources for people seeking help after being bullied.
As for the victim, she said she is coping as best she can with everything that has happened in the past two months.
“I was in therapy. We talked about it a lot and overanalyzed what happened to her,” she said. “It’s hard for me to talk about it with people close to me, so I carried it with me, but mostly just therapy and time, honestly.”
She doesn’t think she will begin to fully heal from the trauma until the suspects are held accountable and she is locked up.
KPBS is a service of San Diego State University