Woman who accused San Diego State football players of rape speaks out
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 a house off-campus on Oct. 16, 2021. At the time, she was a 17-year-old high school senior. A friend posted about a college party and she decided to go with a group of friends, wearing a fairy costume, complete with wings.
"We walked into the back, and there was a lot of people," the now-18-year-old woman said. "My friends ended up getting separated from me, and some guy came up to me, handed me a 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 several men already there.
"They threw me down onto the bed, face down, and they took turns assaulting me from behind, other things in the mix," she said. "And I was bleeding everywhere. My piercings were ripped out. I had my belly button, my nose and my ear piercings."
She was in and out of consciousness during the assault. After the attack, she was bloodied and bruised. She had bruises on her neck, and said she didn't know if they were hickeys or something else. There were also bruises on her legs.
"It was really aggressive. It was aggressive. It was really scary," she said.
Afterward, the men left and her friends found her. She told them she had just been raped.
"Of course, they were freaking out," she said. "They didn't really know how to react to something like that."
Resources at SDSU for sexual assault victims
• SDSU Counseling & Psychological Services: (619) 594-5220 (non-emergency)
• Counseling Access & 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 also didn't know where the reported number of five came from. She said the first time she heard about it was when The Los Angeles Times broke the story in June. The Times reported that rumors have been spreading at SDSU for months that five football players raped the girl during an off-campus house party.
She said she only knew of three suspects' names, given to her by police based on the descriptions she gave them. Those names have not been made public.
On Monday, SDSU announced that it had started its Title IX investigation into the reported rape. The university said it was asked not to do anything that might interfere with the investigation, including launching its own investigation up until now.
"Had the university taken any action, including launching its own investigation, it could have compromised SDPD’s already active criminal investigation," university spokesperson 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 are still not confirmed."
She said potential suspects could destroy evidence, collude with one another, or harass or harm witnesses.
But the victim said she thought there was another reason for the university's waiting this long.
"It's hard to not assume the worst," she said. "It feels like, since that football team was doing so well, since they're so well-known, that maybe it could be the fact that they are good players (that the university was) trying to brush it under the rug."
The Aztecs were 12-2 last season after winning the Frisco Bowl and ended the season ranked No. 25 on the Associated Press poll.
The victim said it made no sense for San Diego State to drag its feet for so long.
"Especially because I feel like we have some very solid evidence that we found within the first couple of months," she said.
About a month after she reported the rape, she said police had her do "pretext" calls to the suspects, which are recorded phone calls.
"I went in under sort of, like, giving off the impression that I was just concerned about what had happened, trying to figure out what went on, worried about STD, worried about pregnancy," she said. "And I had to call each of the suspects and kind of just ask them to walk me through what happened that night. And a majority of them admitted to what they did or lied about it. And so I feel like that's pretty solid evidence in itself."
She said one of them apologized to her 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 of them were not."
The university maintains that police have not shared the names of the suspects with SDSU. The school has set up a webpage detailing the steps it has taken since it learned of the assault, along with resources for people seeking help after being assaulted.
As for the victim, she said she was doing as well as she could with everything that's been going on for the last couple of months.
"I've been in therapy. A lot of just talking about it and overanalyzing what happened with it," she said. "It is hard for me to talk about it with people close to me, so I have been kind of carrying it with myself, but mostly just therapy and time, honestly."
She doesn't think she'll start to fully heal from the trauma until the suspects are held accountable and she gets closure.
KPBS is a service of San Diego State University