Several San Diego State football players allegedly raped a teen. Now, she's speaking out

This Sept. 17, 2020 photo shows a busy street cutting through the San Diego State University campus in San Diego, Calif. A coronavirus outbreak of more than 700 cases reported at San Diego State University has put all of San Diego County, with more than 3 million people, at risk of having to close indoor dining and shopping, many for a third time under California guidelines. (AP Photo/Elliot Spagat)
The campus of San Diego State, shown in 2020. (Elliot Spagat / Associated Press)

She was 17 on the night that upended her life, the night she alleges several San Diego State University football players took turns raping her at a Halloween party just blocks from campus.

The bruises healed, but the trauma didn’t.

She stopped going to high school and finished her senior year online. She saw a therapist and started a journal detailing her experience.

Now 18, the young woman at the center of a sexual assault scandal at the university spoke publicly for the first time this week, recalling details of what happened at the Oct. 16, 2021, party as well as her frustrations with the ongoing police inquiry and the lack of action by the university.

In response to a Times investigation detailing the alleged rape, university officials last month defended their decision not to launch their own investigation, saying they did so at the request of the San Diego Police Department. They also said that the woman had never reported what happened to the university and that police never confirmed her identity.

But the woman's father, who spoke with The Times on Friday on the condition of anonymity to protect his daughter's privacy, said he met with a university police officer on Oct. 19, three days after the party. He said he provided the campus police lieutenant with his daughter’s name, his phone number and a detailed description of the alleged rape involving football players. The lieutenant, he said, later informed him the case would be handled by the San Diego Police Department.

The father said it was “absolutely ridiculous” that the university held off on launching its own investigations or issuing a statement until The Times first reported details of the alleged assault last month.

“To keep it silent for now over nine months — the same people that are alleged to have done this have been allowed to roam free, graduate, continue to play in their sports,” he said. “It drives me bonkers.”

His daughter said she was disappointed with how the university responded. The Times generally does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

“Something like this sticks with you forever," the woman said. "And all I can really do now is just hope that I can get some sort of justice somehow and feel like people are facing consequences for their actions because I feel like I've been facing the consequences for their actions.”

Her concerns were echoed by student athletes who reported the alleged rape to officials through a campus-run anonymous messaging system, saying they were worried that the university had not taken action against the football players, according to internal records reviewed by The Times. One athlete questioned whether officials were “trying to sweep it under the rug because our football team is doing so well.”

One of the players at the center of the allegations has graduated. The university can no longer compel him to comply with a Title IX investigation since he is not a student. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at federally funded educational institutions.

San Diego State issued a statement this week confirming that a relative of the woman had visited campus police on Oct. 19 and notified them that a report had been filed with the San Diego Police Department. The statement said the university launched its own investigation after police told them last week that doing so would not jeopardize their criminal inquiry.

A San Diego State spokeswoman said Friday that university President Adela de la Torre was not available for comment. In a statement, San Diego State said the school asked police to provide information on its complaint and Title IX procedures to the woman and that the university "has been and remains eager to connect directly with the victim." The statement did not explain why the father was not provided this information when he met with campus police.

“While complying with the SDPD investigation, the university was active in sustaining and increasing educational activities and training, including mandatory training,” the university said in its statement. Training has included topics including consent, sexual misconduct and sexual violence.

The woman, who first spoke publicly this week to CBS8 in San Diego, said a detective on her case was responsive during the first few months and that police monitored pretext calls between her and the students she accused of sexual assault. But since then, she said she has received few updates.

In a June letter to de la Torre, Assistant Chief of Police Paul Connelly said police had conducted interviews, executed search warrants and were evaluating more than 2 terabytes of data. San Diego police did not respond Friday to requests from The Times inquiring whether a criminal investigation was still ongoing and what changed in the case to allow university officials to pursue their review. A spokeswoman for the San Diego County district attorney’s office said police had not forwarded the case for possible prosecution.

The young woman's experience has continued to haunt her.

She arrived at the Halloween party dressed as a fairy. She had already been drinking with her friends, she said, when she met a San Diego State football player at the house just blocks from campus. The player gave her a drink and eventually led her inside the house to a bedroom where she said several of his teammates took turns sexually assaulting her, slamming her down on a bed and ripping out her piercings.

Covered in blood, she found her friends outside after what she believed to be more than an hour.

“I was just raped,” she told them.

The next day, with bruises across her neck and down her legs, she filed a report with San Diego police and underwent a rape exam at Rady Children’s Hospital. The arduous process lasted through the night as her body was swabbed and she was tested for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Photos provided to The Times by her attorney, Dan Gilleon, show dark bruises across her neck, and on her knee and calf. One photo shows blood on part of her costume. Gilleon said he is preparing a lawsuit that would include names of known suspects.

The situation at San Diego State comes as the California State University system continues to grapple with its Title IX complaints process. The state Legislature recently authorized a state audit of campuses' handling of such issues, and ongoing investigations by The Times have revealed discrepancies in how the nation's biggest four-year public university system handles such cases among top executives, professors and students.

Though the woman’s father said he was reassured by San Diego and campus police that the accused men’s stature as college football players would not affect any investigation, he believes that their status is the reason so little has been done.

He said his daughter wants “to make sure that it doesn't happen to somebody else. That those guys don't go on to sign NFL contracts and make a lot of money, get a free pass, have it happen to somebody else. Because they got away with it once, they can get away with it twice.”

If you or someone you know needs assistance, you can reach RAINN’s sexual assault hotline at (800) 656-4673 or visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.