Southeast student raped on campus, assailant graduates without trial
From editors’ introduction to this special report: "To put a face to the statistics, we are sharing the first-hand accounts of real-life experiences of students who have been allegedly, sexually assaulted. These are their stories, bravely told, though not independently investigated or corroborated by Arrow reporters.”
*Names of the men involved have been changed to protect identity.
Last year Mahala Landeros made the decision to attend her first party. It was a Friday night, and final exams were just around the corner.
“It was the first party I’d ever been to, like high school, college, everything,” she said.
A sophomore at the time, Mahala attended the party with a friend named *Dave, and at the party they ran into *Tim, a friend she made during her freshman year while attending the Campus Involvement Fair.
“He was in a club that I was then going to join,” she said. “So I looked up to him a lot.”
Tim asked multiple times about the status of her relationship with a former boyfriend named *Jake. Mahala said she didn’t mind the questioning at the time because she knew Tim was drunk. She said she wasn’t concerned even when he pulled her away from the party crowd later that night.
“We were friends, he was not some random stranger in the dark,” Mahala said. “I trusted him.”
When Tim pulled her outside, he put her back to a car and started to kiss her and slip his hands inside her pants. She attempted to stop Tim, however, she was inebriated and could not overpower him.
“I was weakly stopping him,” Mahala said. “I was just so confused and out of it. It’s not like I was really able to stand my ground on anything at that moment.”
Afterwards, Mahala said she returned to the party but did not tell Dave what happened.
“The friend I was with didn’t question why I was talking with some other guy or why I kept going out of his sight with some other guy because he knew we were all friends,” she said.
She left the party and returned to her dorm. However, Tim continued to text her throughout the night.
“I didn’t even know he had my number,” she said.
Tim kept asking her to see if she was still around Dave or Jake, who also had attended the party. She returned from the party with Dave and Jake and hung out in common area of the dorm for a while. Tim said his reason for asking was because he needed to get in contact with Jake. Being in the same room with Jake she was aware Tim never attempted me make contact with Jake.
Once she went back to her room in Towers she told Tim she was alone.
“So then that’s when the conversation changed, because that's when he realized ‘Oh, finally I’m not with this guy anymore,’” she said. “So he was like, 'You're in South, come let me in.’”
She questioned his reason for wanting in the building and he texted her a list of people who live in the building he wanted to see.
“To me it all made sense, I was like, ‘Oh, he wants to be let in so he can go to his friend’s floor,’” she said.
She let Tim into the building and got into the elevator with him.
“I pressed my floor and I was like, ‘Which floor are you going to?’ And then that's when he said ‘Yours,’” Mahala said.
Tim began to kiss her and forced himself on her.
“I don’t remember getting from the elevator to my room, at all,” she said.
Once in the room, Tim started telling her what to do and removing his clothes, she said.
“This man is three times the size of me in height and girth, so I was confused as all get-out,” Mahala said. “So I just started listening to him because I knew if I fought back he would just use more force.”
During the assault he told her many times not to tell anyone, including his girlfriend, her friends and former boyfriend, Jake. She only recalls part of the assault.
“The last thing I remember about that part of the night was me laying in my own room naked and crying and he just zipped up his pants and said ‘I’ll see you later’ and left,” she said.
She called Jake and Dave right after it happened.
“I did have that ringing in my head like, ‘Don’t tell anyone, don’t tell anyone,’ as I picked up the phone to tell someone,” she said.
She was hesitant to call the Department of Public Safety because she had known her attacker and they were both drunk.
“I just second-guessed everything because I trusted him,” she said.
The next day she went to the hospital to have a rape kit performed.
“I didn’t even want to get a rape kit done,” Mahala said. “Because doing that, I step into the hospital and I acknowledge that I was raped.”
She was questioned by the nurses about if anyone had witnessed the assault, if she had bruises and why she did not have bruises.
“Those set of questions discouraged me a lot from stepping forward,” she said.
Later the following week she went to her mentor on campus and shared what had happened. Her mentor was a mandated reporter on campus, so they walked to the Office of Student Conduct and reported the rape.
The following week was final exams, so she waited until she went home to tell her parents.
“Telling my family made it really real,” she said.
Tim was a senior, and with graduation a few days away he would not be on campus anymore.
“The sole fact that he was graduating was nice because he’d be off my campus,” she said.
However, she wanted to attend graduation to see other friends graduate. Student conduct office officials told Mahala they could keep Tim from walking at graduation so she could attend.
“I reported the week of finals though, so he wasn’t graduated yet and they told me that Title IX says that they have the right to not let him walk and to hold his degree until the hearing is done,” she said.
She called the student conduct office the day before graduation and found out Tim was going to be attending and participating in the event.
“He agreed to participate in the hearing,” Mahala said. “Because he agreed to participate, they let him walk.”
She was told it would take two to three weeks before the hearing would take place. In August, she received a phone call and was informed her case would be reclassified as pending because the Office of Student Conduct could not reach Tim in order to schedule the hearing. She also was told he had received his diploma and was given an order of no trespass for the university.
“I wanted that hearing,” she said. “I wanted to give my impact statement. I wanted him to hear it.”
Over the summer, she had plans to be a camp leader at Camp Redhawk. It was at the camp where she first told her story to her campers. Now a junior, Mahala is the president of Redhawks Rising, an organization on campus bringing awareness to sexual assault.