Editor's note: This is the concluding installment of the Indiana Daily Student’s investigative series delving into sexual assault at IU. The first part of this series brought you into the gray zone — exploring the vast complexities when it comes to reporting these events and the experience of one woman as she attempted to bring her case through the legal system. In these final stories, we take you through the system at the University meant to protect its students. But is it working?
Fairness. Dignity. Integrity.
I stared at the words printed on the wall in front of me. I was in the hearing room in the Office of Student Ethics. To my left sat the first friend I’d made since moving to Bloomington that fall — the man who, several weeks after I met him, raped me.
This hearing would determine whether IU would hold him responsible. I wanted him suspended or expelled. We sat at the same table but were separated by a divider that prevented us from seeing each other. Three panelists who would decide the case sat across from us.
He was there to make the case that the sex between us was consensual. I was there because it wasn’t.
I read my statement.
“I am here because I was involved in sexual activity against my will. I am here because I have been greatly wronged, and I live with the consequences of that every day. But I should not be the only one burdened with the consequences of such actions.”
I looked across the table at the panelists and searched their faces for understanding. But the room was silent, and I saw nothing.
Above all else, I am a writer. So when trying to make sense of what happened, I turned to what I knew best. When I started writing this piece eight months ago, I was a reporter at the Indiana Daily Student. This fall semester, I took a break from school and plan to return in January.
I knew it would be difficult to share my name, and at first I was reluctant to be photographed, but it’s worth it. By going public, I can give depth and credibility to an issue usually shrouded in anonymity.
I am not afraid to tell my story. I have nothing to hide.
My first few weeks at IU, in early fall 2013, were a blur of loneliness. I met the man two weeks into the semester at a call-out meeting for a campus group. Like me, he was a transfer student. He was 25. I was 21. We shared a sarcastic sense of humor. I welcomed his company.
The suddenness of our friendship made me question what had started. He was flirtatious at times, but I reminded him I had a long-distance boyfriend. I wasn’t looking for anything — or anyone — else.
I texted him one night to ask about his intentions.
“My goal,” he said, “is not to fuck you.”
A month or so after meeting him, I went to his apartment. It was a Sunday night after work, and he had asked me to come over. He wasn’t doing much, he said, just homework and watching “The Walking Dead.”
I was already at home. I had just showered and put on a tank top and my monkey-print pajama pants for the night. But I wanted company, so I drove over. I didn’t change my clothes because we were just going to hang out.
So we sat on his couch talking — about everything and nothing, how my job as a delivery driver was horrible, how stupid his assignments were in one of his classes. Then he changed the subject.
“You like it when people cut the bullshit and get to the point, don’t you?”
I laughed. “Yeah,” I said.
He said it again. “When people cut the bullshit and get to the point.”
The smile I’d been wearing glazed.
He stood up and leaned over me as he put his hands on either side of the couch. His arms walled me in. Suddenly he kissed me.
“What are you doing?” I asked. He looked at me.
“You knew if you came here, this would happen,” he said. He looked supremely confident.
He asked me to make out with him a little more. His week, he said, had been stressful, and he needed it. That was all I would have to do.
“OK.” I didn’t want to, but I supposed I could — if it would get me out of there. Besides, he had told me before that he had anger issues as a young adult. I didn’t want to upset him.
“Go to the bedroom,” he said.
This change of scenery seemed excessive for people who were “just going to make out for a few minutes.” But I trusted him, so I went and he followed.
For a while, everything went as he had said. There was only kissing. But after a few minutes, he paused. “Can you have sex?”
He knew I had a boyfriend. The question was a request for consent.
“I can’t have sex with you,” I told him. I said it a few more times. He remained unfazed.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “I’m going to give you a turn of oral, then you’re going to give me a turn.”
I didn’t answer. I had just said I couldn’t have sex with him. It didn’t make sense that this was still happening.
So I froze. Physically. Mentally. For a while, I couldn’t speak. I wanted to run out of the room, but I was too afraid of what would happen if I did.
He suddenly bit me during oral sex, hard enough that I yelled.
“You liked that,” he said. Later, he bit my nipple.
In return for the oral he gave me, he told me to do the same to him. But as I prepared to go down on him, he suddenly got much closer. He started going inside of me. The situation seemed out of my control. I did nothing to stop it because I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted it to end.
“This was your fault,” he announced. “You were on top of me, and I just couldn’t control myself.”
Almost immediately after he finished, I ran to my car. My hands trembled as I texted my friend David.
“What is rape?” I typed. “Like, do you have to be screaming and fighting the whole time?”
When David met me at my apartment, I began to cry. Then I laughed to keep from crying. Crying made me feel weak.
Although I was incapable of telling a coherent story, David heard enough to confirm I’d been raped. He wanted me to call the police, but I wasn’t ready.
David said he was going to step outside for a cigarette. When he came back in, we didn’t speak. Ten, maybe 15 minutes had passed when I heard steps thumping up the stairs.
The Bloomington Police Department had sent two men to my apartment.
They began asking basic questions. What happened, who was involved, what time was it?
Then one of the police officers asked me if I had ever been attracted to the man. In that moment, I didn’t know. But what did it matter?
“I don’t know, maybe,” I said. “I didn’t want to have sex with him tonight, if that’s what you mean.”
“I’m just trying to figure out if a crime was committed,” the officer said.
The two officers stepped outside to talk. I sat in a corner, my knees to my chest, thinking I could never be so humiliated again.
When the officers came back inside, they stood by the door.
“If you think you were raped, you need to go the hospital,” one said.
If you think you were raped. The words rang of disbelief.
At the hospital, I went through another round of police questioning. My patience was thinning.
“Look, I need you to communicate with me,” a new officer said. “If you don’t tell me anything else, I can’t help you.”
I chose to open an investigation, so when the uniformed officers finished questioning me, they called in a detective. It would be about 45 minutes before he arrived. In the meantime, a nurse began asking questions for the rape kit.
Each question referred to a different part of the body and a different action. For each one, the nurse said the name of the friend who had forced himself on me. I was hearing it over and over again.
Did he bite, suck or grab my breasts? Did he bite or suck my labia?
Eventually, the detective arrived.
“If I seem a little out of it, it’s because I was in bed,” he said.
He was apologizing, but I was offended.
“Sorry to have dragged you out here,” I said.
He took my story and then asked if I wanted him to pursue a criminal investigation. Theoretically, it seemed like a good idea. But now I was starting to understand how exhausting it would be.
If he was put in jail, what would he do if he got out? I imagined he would be livid. The possibility was frightening.
I told the detective I had changed my mind about pressing charges. I made excuses. The detective told me he would close the case and left. I continued with the rape kit.
I held up a paper with my name and patient information for a camera while the nurse snapped my picture. Another nurse undergoing training stood near, observing and stepping in when needed.
I peed in a cup and took a pregnancy test. The nurse asked me to swab the inside of my cheeks and gums for the man’s DNA and run a piece of plastic under my fingernails to search for traces of his skin. She told me to take off my clothes and stand on a piece of paper to catch any of the man’s DNA that fell off me.
The nurse and her trainee turned off the lights and shined a UV light over my skin. They searched every inch of my body for the glow of semen. When they found some on my legs, they took samples with cotton swabs.
When this part was over, I laid down on an exam bed for the vaginal exam. The nurse inserted a speculum into my vagina. She said she was going to press on my cervix and that it might be a little painful. She pressed harder and harder until I finally cried out.
He started to call me every day. When I didn’t pick up the phone, he texted. He wanted to see me again.
He hadn’t reached out to me so frequently before. I couldn’t understand it. I asked my counselor, a sexual assault specialist, why this was happening. She told me his behavior was typical for a rapist.
“He wants to control the information you have,” the counselor said. She suggested getting a no-contact order from the Office of Student Ethics.
I had made up my own explanations for why he was reaching out to me with such urgency. Maybe he liked me and had wanted a relationship. The thought made me feel guilty.
I wanted more than anything to pick up the phone and find out why he had done this to me. I wanted to understand why I missed him when I hoped to never see him again. But I knew talking to him wouldn’t help me make sense of anything. So I ignored him.
This was successful until I ran into him one day. I was at Baja Fresh in the Indiana Memorial Union, ordering quesadillas, when he joined the line. We spoke briefly. About what, I can’t remember. I was preoccupied with seeming normal but failed miserably. While he waited for his food, I shuffled away. He ate with another girl, and when he finished, he came over and sat in the chair across from me.
“So,” he said, without any lightness in his tone, “tell me the real reason you got all weird on me.”
I felt his anger, the heat of it, radiating from his body to mine. Eventually, I shrugged.
“I don’t ... I don’t know.”
He stood, and the chair skidded back from him. When he was gone, I fled to the Office of Student Ethics.
Later, the student ethics office issued the no-contact order against the man and began looking into the case. Because I was reporting a sexual assault by another IU student, a three-person panel would hold a sort of “trial” to determine if disciplinary action was necessary. As the complainant, it was my job to offer enough evidence to prove that my story was true.
The hearing was that December, during finals week. The two of us took our seats on either side of the divider. My skin crawled every time I heard him shift in his chair or speak aloud.
We sat across from Jason Casares, the associate dean of students, as well as two other IU staff members, both women. Everyone had copies of the information that had been gathered — my medical reports, notes taken from phone calls and in-office meetings, our written statements. My typed statement in the file was roughly two pages. His statement was in pencil, one paragraph on wide rule paper.
Amber Monroe, the investigator assigned to the case, had written a summary of her first call to the man I’d accused. Immediately after introducing herself, she said, the man had begun cursing at her. Minutes later, he apologized and said he was a veteran.
Casares explained how the hearing would unfold. I could give an opening statement. The panel would question me. Any witnesses I had would come into the room and make statements. The panel would question them. Then the accused would have his turn.
“Sexual consent,” I said, reading from my statement, “is defined as being a direct verbal confirmation — a voluntary yes — and something that can be described as active and enthusiastic.”
I had never given consent, I told the panelists. They asked why I went to his apartment. They asked how my nipple had been bitten. Had I taken off my shirt voluntarily, or did he remove it? I told them he had rolled up the shirt.
I didn’t really understand how these questions made a difference.
When we came back, David, my only witness, had arrived.
“I knew something was really wrong,” he said, describing my behavior that night. “She kept acting like ... like a cornered animal.”
The accused made his statement next.
“I thought Lyndsay was a beautiful, intelligent girl, and I saw sex as a natural progression toward a relationship,” he said.
For a moment, I almost believed him. I had the urge to rush over and hug him, to say I was sorry. But there was a catch. People don’t rape people they like.
The thought of saying sorry or hugging him vanished. In fact, the thought repulsed me.
“Why did you invite her over to begin with?” Casares said.
“I wanted to kiss her,” he said.
Casares had told me he was going to try to generate a reaction from the accused that would “break him.” Now Casares asked him if his time as an Army Ranger might sometimes make him come across as forceful or demanding.
“There was no way my words could have come across as demanding,” he said.
Casares asked him if he had noticed any hesitancy from me. At first, the man said no. He said our sex was as comfortable as “between husband and wife.” But eventually, he admitted he had noticed my reluctance. Twice.
“Everyone is hesitant when they have sex with a new person, though.”
Soon it was time for closing statements.
I told the panel, once again, that I was looking for a suspension based on IU’s standard of consent.
“Sexual consent is defined as a verbal yes. In this hearing, neither side has testified that I said yes, because I didn’t.”
Two weeks later, I was called to the ethics office to learn the panelists’ unanimous decision: “no finding.”
“I know this may not be what you wanted, but we just didn’t think there was enough evidence to determine what happened,” Casares said. “I really did try to break him, but I couldn’t.”
I appealed and was granted a second hearing during the spring semester. A new trio of panelists listened to the recording of the first hearing and read the documents.
When the office called with the ruling, I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone. A voice mail told me the news.
Another no finding.
Two months later, I stood at an X-bus stop near the Indiana Memorial Union as I waited for the ride back home. I was listening to a Fall Out Boy song when I saw my rapist.
He was unshaven and his hair was longer, so it took me a second to register who he was. He was walking up to the bus stop with a friend who’d been his witness at the hearing.
When he saw me, I froze again. I locked eyes with him and waited for him to break the gaze. He stopped speaking abruptly, then told his friend, “Keep going.”
I assumed he and his friend would wait for the next bus, because he was under a no-contact order. But to my surprise, they got on the bus. I sat in the back, and he stood up front. I stared at him. He never looked back. The whole bus ride I shook and burned with anger. He was standing there, not doing anything to me, but doing everything all over again and getting away with it.
When we came to my stop, I was one of the first out the middle door.
As the bus pulled away, we walked in opposite directions. When I turned around, he was looking at me, watching me walk home.