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First-person feature: parents of a rape survivor tell their story

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UPDATED: This story has been updated to clarify attribution about the crime.

This article is part of a special report the Loyolan put together about sexual assault. To read the other articles involved in this report, click here

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story was written by the parents of the survivor of the rape that police say took place in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2014 on the 8700 block of Yorktown Avenue. The case is still unsolved. The parents asked the Loyolan to share their daughter’s story in the hopes that by telling it, the perpetrator will be found. They hope other students will learn from their daughter’s experience.

On Halloween night of 2014, our daughter dressed up and went out with her girlfriends, like so many other LMU students were doing that night. She and her group had been to a couple of parties throughout the course of the evening before returning to campus to drop off some friends and decide where the night should take them. The girls decided to head out to an off-campus SAE party they had heard about. When they arrived at the party at 12:10 a.m., fewer than 50 people were there. They decided to make it a brief visit.

She felt safe. After all, she knew a lot of the people, and it seemed like everyone there was an LMU student. There was a sign on the garage announcing that the house was equipped with security cameras. Thirty minutes later, when she got up to use the restroom, the first one she found was locked. Testing another door, she walked into a dimly lit room, only to find out it was a garage, and that a much larger man had followed her in. He was white, in his early 20s, with brown shoulder-length hair. He was wearing a white top hat, white shirt and dark pants. She did not know this person, and he would not let her turn around. She noticed four other people in the garage, two guys and two girls, who quickly dispersed, walking out and leaving her alone with the stranger. She tried to leave. He wouldn’t let her. In fact, he physically forced her to stay. That’s when she was raped.

Once he was done, he ran out of the garage. So did she, running straight for her friends. Between the fear in her eyes and the marks on her neck, her friend guessed what had happened and asked if she had been assaulted. Barely able to speak, our daughter said, “Yes.”

It was a rape. A forcible rape that could be seen in the marks and bruises all over her body. Based on the look of the bodily trauma alone, he could have killed her.

Her friends told people living in the house – yes, the now infamous unsanctioned SAE house on the 8700 block of Yorktown Avenue – but no one seemed to want to help. No one dialed 911. They didn’t do anything.

She and her friends returned to their home. Our daughter was in shock. One friend called her mother, who suggested taking our daughter to the ER, where she was then transferred to the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center. The police took down her report, and evidence was collected.

It haunts our family. It is a nightmare for parents to know their child has been subjected to such pain and suffering and to imagine our daughter fearing for her life. It haunts us more to know we were not called to be by our daughter’s side. Had she been hit by a drunk driver or robbed at gunpoint, we feel there is no doubt we would have been contacted. Yet authorities left the burden of contacting us in the hands of our daughter – a rape victim deeply traumatized and shamed by the evil abuse of another. She was not of sound mind to communicate or make decisions, and we should not have found out about the rape 48 hours after the fact.

Rape is a violent, damaging crime and it is time we treated it as such. Our daughter did nothing wrong that night, and anyone who helped the rapist get away or is withholding his name is at fault. We need to treat this crime like every other. We need to place the blame on those who choose to do it and those who cover it up. 

However, we are extremely grateful to her friend who took the initiative to contact her own mother and get our daughter to the Rape Treatment Center. That way, when the rapist is caught, he will be held fully accountable in court. 

THE INVESTIGATION

Then the investigation began. LMU’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) and LAPD started working together toward justice. With only 50 people at the party, I am guessing no more than half were men. At a party hosted by SAE, whose motto is “The True Gentleman,” perhaps many thought a suit was an appropriate choice. After all, Halloween is the time to dress up as the things you are not. But, of these men, how many were wearing white? And of all of the men in white, how many were in a white top hat with a white shirt, dark pants and shoulder-length brown hair? We wondered: How hard could it be to catch him?

We were initially told that our summary was verified and that men who were at that party fitting the descriptions would likely come forward and volunteer DNA swabs in order to clear their names. These young men had a lot to lose, being juniors and seniors. Yet it is our understanding that not one person came forward, just like no one helped the night it happened. In fact, we have heard that individuals who knew a rape occurred had the audacity to contact our daughter’s friends to see what the course of action would be. A warrant was even put out in order to rule out someone who was at the party and had made a statement on social media, but the statement could have been a way to keep us from the actual attacker. As for the security camera sign, according to LAPD investigators, there are no real cameras on the premises.

Our words serve to shed light on an issue within the community – that sometimes rape does happen where the victim does not know the attacker. That victims are not always incoherent. That alcohol is not always a prominent factor, and that victims do not have to be completely incapacitated for rape to occur. That many victims freeze and cannot fight back when being attacked. They freeze to prevent further injury or possibly death.

After much research, it is our opinion that this perpetrator has done it before, has become more aggressive as he continues and will rape again. Learn about rape. Learn about consent. Rape isn’t about sex; it’s about power. It is a crime committed by heartless people who feel power through another’s lack of control, pain and humiliation. It is a small percentage of people who rape, but my research shows that  more often than not, they are repeat offenders.

‘HER VOICE IS HER POWER’

We are, and always have been, very proud of our daughter and her choice to attend LMU. She has made the most of what this university has to offer and will always continue to succeed. This person did not take her power or agency away from her. He tried, but her soul is kind, her heart is pure, and her voice will never be silenced. Her voice is her power.

After choosing to pursue her attacker, not only has a Loyolan writer shared her own heartfelt story [see page 5], but other victims have also come forward about being sexually assaulted. Because of our daughter’s courage, and the courage of others, an LMU alert was able to go out and warn other potential victims. We need the people who attended this party to step up and be real adults, come forward and tell the truth. We need them to show half the courage our daughter has shown. Anyone who was at the party who has not been interviewed by LAPD – contact them and contribute to catching this rapist.

We cannot comprehend why a person would rape. But we also cannot comprehend why anyone would want to help him hide. If “brotherhood” is standing united under the same beliefs, then prove to your community and to us that rape and terrorizing others is not one of those beliefs. The public knows, thanks to Facebook comments left on news articles from the coverage in December 2014, that people know who it is. SAE members claimed it was not one of them, but the party was invite-only.

To everyone who was at the party, we do not understand why you have not come forward. Our daughter would be at anyone’s side in a heartbeat, especially if she could help find the person who dared to do such brutal damage to another human being. Whether she knew you or not, please don’t make her stand alone. You all have the power to speak up against rape and those who perpetuate it in speech or action. We are coming forward to show you that you can, too. Maybe you choose not to speak because you heard a different story, or do not think what you know is important. But any little piece of information is helpful. And perhaps after hearing our story, you will make the right choice. 

NOT ALONE

To other victims who came forward, we think of you often. We sincerely hope you have taken advantage of the free assistance offered by the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center. The Center has been the biggest support for our daughter and for us as parents, as we go through this in our own ways, but always together. We hope that you know it was not your fault, and we hope you know that you are not alone. We would like all victims of sexual assault, especially those who have not come forward, to know there are people who care and can help. This is not something you ever should have to handle alone.

What are the preventive steps LMU and LAPD can take? After going through this, we have a few suggestions that could help the next victim and their family. First of all, just as students sign forms to grant parents access to academic information, so should they have a form where students mark whether to contact their parents if they are victims of a crime. This way, students will not have to make big decisions while overwhelmed with shock. The forms would give families a chance to talk about it, and would give peace of mind to many that if something like this occurs while their child is away, they would be notified. Allow the families to support the victim, and if the victim chooses, allow the family to advocate for them from the start so they can focus on healing and moving on with the positive parts of their life.

While we continuously provide information on how to prevent rape, it is time to provide adequate education about what to do if a rape occurs, both for the victim and their friends. Have facilitated community discussions. Screen the film “The Hunting Ground,” which is a must-see for everyone interested in learning more about rape on college campuses. No one is ever prepared for rape, but if there is prior knowledge and planning, it can help.

LAPD, for its part, must get the rape numbers down by getting the arrests and prosecutions up. After our daughter’s attack, we looked up some statistics that broke our hearts. According to our research, over 58 rapes occurred in 2013 within the Pacific Division, which is the area surrounding and including LMU, but there were only seven arrests. Over 60 rapes occurred in 2014 with only six arrests. We cannot stop this epidemic unless we look at the statistics, admit this is happening and begin documenting them properly. Of the seven sex offenses reported in the LMU crime log in the month of December after our daughter’s rape, our daughter’s appears to be the only instance reported on the Crime Stat for the Pacific Division area. Though the victims found the courage to come forward and tell Public Safety, they chose not to file a report with LAPD. And these are just the ones we know about.

We feel that there is no way to deny that rape on college campuses is an epidemic that threatens the livelihood of bright, young students. No college will find a cure until we properly acknowledge it; treat the victim as we would a patient and treat rape as an invasive disease. Let’s start by catching this one, and set a precedent that this cannot happen to our students. It is time to hold people accountable. All students, especially survivors like our daughter, deserve to feel safe on their campus and to walk around free of shame, unshackled from the burden of someone else’s violent tendencies.

This is the opinion of a rape survivor’s parents, whose names have been withheld. Loyolan staff verified the details in the piece to the extent that they could be fact-checked and corroborated by third parties. However, some details referenced could only be known by the parties involved in the case and could not be independently verified. Email comments to editor@theloyolan.com

 

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