[Update: January 18, 2018] Lauren introduced a bill she co-wrote that would require Oklahoma schools to educate students on consent. Read more here.
Lauren Atkins got to the kickback at 9:30pm on Friday May 12. There were about 15 high schoolers there, drinking mostly beer and shots from a handle of Burnett’s. Everyone was wearing swimsuits, but the evening temperature had dropped so beer pong was taking precedence over the pool.
This was a party crew meeting more by design than habit. Having only two weeks of junior year left, some of the kids there thought they needed to learn how to throw parties, the kind underclassmen would want an invite to. Morgan (not her real name) was hosting because her parents were out of town, so they had the place to themselves.
Shortly after arriving, Lauren changed out of her denim skirt and striped jersey t-shirt into a hot pink two-piece with yellow flowers on the bottom. Then she got talking to a guy who had been added to their party group chat. Lauren and Adam (not his real name) had a class together in freshman year. Back then they had a “big fat crush” on one another, but nothing ever came of it. That night, while they were reminiscing, Lauren and Adam both agreed: had they told each other about their feelings, they would have dated.
At the start of the night, Adam mentioned he had never had sex. Lizzie and another friend of Lauren’s — Nicole (not her real name) — remember him bringing up his virginity multiple times. He said he wanted to lose it tonight, “no matter what.” Lauren’s friends noticed her and Adam flirting by the pool, and started egging them on by shouting “kiss, kiss, kiss” — and they did. Lauren said it was “funny, but nothing serious.” They kept flirting and made out a few more times throughout the night.Lauren (left) with two of her friends at the start of the night
The party that night was about 10 miles north of Norman, half an hour down Interstate 35 from Oklahoma City. The alcohol was cheap and none of the kids in attendance were famous. babe chose to tell this story because of how normal it is. It’s about the kind of incident tens of thousands of girls report experiencing every year. It’s not a story about powerful men in LA hotel rooms or strangers breaking in during the night but a regular high school girl who says she was taken advantage of by a friend while incapacitated from drink.
Over the course of two months, I spoke to Lauren many times over the phone before meeting her in Oklahoma. I also interviewed more than 20 other people related to the story, including kids from the party. We hear countless stories like this one. What was unusual when I spoke to Lauren was the fact she was willing to be named and photographed — and the large folder of screenshots she had on her phone.
‘What is he doing?’
Lizzie, Lauren’s best friend, had been at the party for several hours when she started throwing up. Lauren took her into Morgan’s bathroom at around 11pm. By 11:21pm, Snapchat pictures show they were back in the kitchen doing shots and dancing to the trap music that had been playing all night.
Just before midnight, roles were reversed and it was Lauren who was throwing up while Lizzie took care of her. They were back in Morgan’s bathroom — they chose it because you had to go through her bedroom to get to it, and they liked the privacy. Lauren remembers Lizzie being there with her, but only for a second before passing out. A Snapchat video Lizzie took at 11:53pm shows Lauren in Morgan’s bathroom, keeled over the toilet. The clip then cuts to Lizzie dancing goofily near the mirror. Then the video pans back to Lauren, who hasn’t moved.
A Snapchat video taken at 11:53pm that night
Soon after this was taken, Lizzie started to feel sick, so she ran to throw up in Morgan’s brother’s bathroom. While Lizzie was gone, Morgan came in briefly to check up on Lauren. She gave her a water bottle and made sure she was OK. At this point, Morgan remembers Adam sitting on the edge of her bed in the adjoining bedroom. When Morgan decided Lauren was fine, she left the bathroom and then the room. Adam was still on the bed.
Lizzie came back around five minutes later and saw Adam sitting on the edge of the bathtub next to Lauren, patting her on the back. He told Lizzie he could take care of her and that she didn’t have to worry. Lizzie says she wasn’t worried, just protective — she remembers Lauren telling her she didn’t want anything more to happen with Adam. But Lizzie started feeling sick again, so she left. She didn’t see Lauren until the next morning.
Lauren remembers being in the bathroom with Lizzie, and then waking up with her head in the toilet and the bottle of water Morgan gave her in her hand. The next thing she says she remembers is waking up. She was in the bedroom. And Adam was on top of her, having sex with her.
The room was dark, with the only light coming from the bathroom. Lauren says she was lying on the bed with her arms above her, and her head tilted to her left side, unable to move, as she felt him penetrating her. She recalls looking at him and thinking, “What is he doing?” She says she didn’t say anything or move. Her head flopped back to the side and she says she didn’t look at him again until it was over. When Lauren tells this story, she says she’s standing behind her body, watching it happen to her. She doesn’t struggle to recall it in detail, void of any emotions — she says she’s “numb to it.”
When he finished, Adam walked Lauren to the bathroom and helped her fix her swimsuit. He joked it was inside out.A photo of Lauren at the party
Messages and a note
Lauren says when Adam had sex with her she was far too drunk to know what was going on. Last year, a new statute in Oklahoma defined consent for the first time — as “the affirmative, unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in a specific sexual activity.” It is very clear on the point of extreme intoxication: “Consent cannot be given by an individual who is asleep or is mentally or physically incapacitated either through the effect of drugs or alcohol.” The term “incapacitated” is legally defined as being “unable to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions.”
Because sex generally happens between two people behind closed doors, rape is a notoriously difficult crime to investigate and convict. Rape cases often hang on the credibility of the two people, and whatever circumstantial evidence is available. In many cases, an allegation of rape is only leveled weeks or months after the alleged incident. In some high profile recent cases it has been years and decades. The evidence of her phone and interviews with her friends suggests Lauren called it straight away.
At 12:32am and then again at 12:45am she wrote messages on Snapchat to her friend Sam (not his real name), asking for help. Her messages to him are hard to make out because most of the words misspelled and jumbled, but the words “Help” and “Call me” are clearly visible. Sam just replies: “Gibberish.” From the timeline provided by other people at the party, the texts had to be sent during the incident, at times Adam was leaving the room.
Around 1am, very soon after the incident, Lauren’s friend Max (not his real name) saw her in the kitchen. Max said she seemed too drunk, too “messed up and out of it,” to have a proper conversation. But when Max went to leave, Lauren begged him not to. He stayed with her for a few more minutes before trying to say goodbye a second time. Again, Lauren asked him not to go, this time adding that she was scared. Max didn’t think it was anything more than Lauren being too drunk, so he tried putting her to bed on the couch, urging her to get some sleep. Then when he really had to go, Lauren got mad, and told him “fuck you.”
Then at 1.30am, Lauren wrote a note to herself on her phone — a kind of aide memoir. Again, some of it is incoherent. But the allegation is there: I was unconscious and I was raped. It reads: “*** nme while unconscious help duse im i coincidence *** just fucking raped me!!!! Oh my fucking god!!!! Its 1:16 and i got duckimg rape u!!! No onebeliveed uu gpt raped by *** u couldnt say no u wete so drunk ur so fucked up u got RAPED.”
‘Nothing happened between us’
Lauren woke up early the next morning, still wearing her swimsuit. She went to the living room where a few other girls who had spent the night were just waking up. Her friends say she was quiet — “out of it.” She sat down next to Lizzie on one of the three couches shaped in a U, and looked at her phone where she had a Snapchat from Adam, asking her not to say anything about what happened. He didn’t want the girl he was into to find out.
By this point, all six girls had woken up and had found themselves a spot in the living room. They started talking about last night. It was the usual morning after gossip — lots of “remember when she did this?” and “haha yeah that was so funny” while scrolling through drunken snaps. One of the girls asked Lauren if she and Adam “did anything” other than make out. “Adam had sex with me,” Lauren said to the group.
The girls were speechless, quietly looking at each other. babe has individually spoken to three of the girls in that huddle. They agree on the key details of what was said. Someone broke the silence by asking Lauren if she was OK. Lauren read the 1.30am note aloud and passed her phone around, saying “I don’t remember anything that happened.” One of the girls in the huddle told babe she found it “scary.”
Just after 9am Adam messaged again. He claimed they didn’t have sex, something that he would soon admit wasn’t true. Lauren had Lizzie take pictures of the messages using her phone, as she continued to do with subsequent messages through the day.
Lauren responded, telling Adam she hadn’t wanted to have sex with him. First Adam apologizes, saying “Fuck I fucked up I’m so sorry, you can’t hold it against me.” It isn’t clear what precisely he was apologizing for. Then he changes tack entirely and tells Lauren that he had gained consent from her, apparently referring to a conversation earlier in the night. He says: “Wait fuck no, I remember asking you while I wasn’t so drunk if you wanted to fuck and you said yes.”
Fuck I fucked up I’m so sorry, you can’t hold it against me
Wait fuck no, I remember asking you while I wasn’t so drunk if you wanted to fuck and you said yes
Adam’s apparent understanding of consent — that it could be inferred from a conversation earlier in the night — isn’t consistent with the state law, which requires the agreement to be “affirmative, unambiguous and voluntary” and specifically points out that it needs to relate to “a specific sexual activity during a sexual encounter.” If Lauren was passed out and couldn’t consent to what was about to happen to her, what she said earlier in the night would be legally irrelevant. It was the first time that Adam would give the impression he misunderstood how consent works — but wouldn’t be the last.
His next tack with Lauren is to say he didn’t remember what had happened. The following Snapchat conversation occurred between 9:19-9:40am that morning. We have illustrated the screenshots sent to babe below.
Still didn’t want her to find out about that
The condom wrapper
Lauren tries to get Adam to admit they had sex by admitting he had a condom — and that he got it from a friend. She says: “do u not remember when *** gave u a condom”. Adam doesn’t acknowledge that a condom had been involved until shortly after, in another text exchange with Morgan. The party host asked him where he put it while she was cleaning up. Morgan sent a screenshot of the text to Lauren, where she asks him “did u throw away the condom rapper (sic)? Like i can’t find the wrapper and the actual condom,” to which he responds “Oh yeah, I think I wrapped it in paper and flushed it down the toilet.”
In the following text with Lauren, Adam asks her if they can “act like this didn’t happen,” and says out out for the first time what had previously gone unsaid: Lauren was accusing him of raping her.
I remember being in the bed but not sticking it in
God I just lost my virginity the worse way possible
Wow ur really thinking about urself right now
At this point, Lauren explain how consent works — “If a girl cant say yes then that means no” — which is an accurate summation of the law in Oklahoma and many other states. The argument about consent continues, during which Adam again suggests he thinks he had the right to do things to Lauren because she said she wanted to have sex earlier in the night (something, for what it is worth she denies).
If a girl cant say yes then that means no
Holy fuck Lauren you’re actually about to do this rn
You’re acting like you didn’t tell yes earlier in the night
Is this why I got kicked out of the group chat
Lauren then mentions a detail she remembers — people walking into the room.
Lauren was right, someone did try and come in. There was gossip about what was going on behind the closed door. Nicole says she heard someone say “Lauren and Adam are hooking up.” She says she wanted to be funny and sneak up on them, so she opened the door for a split second and saw Adam on top of Lauren, or who she thought was Lauren — Lizzie said a tall lamp by Morgan’s door obstructs the view of the bed. “The only reason I saw Adam was because he was propped up a little bit on top of her,” Nicole said. She showed me the layout of the room using the back of her phone. Adam looked at her and he looked “angry,” so Nicole quickly backed away. Lauren remembers Adam stopping what he was doing and going to shut the door.
The morning Snapchat exchange ends with a note of regret from Adam — and apology.
And I’m sorry I did that to you
I was not all there, I was horny
I thought you wanted to too
But obviously you didn’t at all and I’m so so so sorry
When babe reached out to Adam, he repeatedly declined the opportunity to comment or to answer questions about the story. After multiple attempts, he said he is “tired of talking about it” and that he was sorry.
The rape report
Lauren’s story is easier to report on than many similar cases because of how many people she told and how soon after the incident she told them. babe spoke to the majority of those people and their recollections of what she said match up. By the evening she had informed her friends, her parents, her school, and the police.
Shortly after, Lauren left the house with Lizzie and Nicole to get breakfast, where the three of them scrolled through Lauren and Adam’s texts from that morning over rainbow pancakes and banana french toast at the iHop nearby. When they went to pay for their tickets 45 minutes later, the waiter told them their meal had been paid for by the couple sitting at the table next to them.
Then Lauren drove to meet another friend, Ashley, at Gray Owl — a hipster coffee shop in downtown Norman. Lauren told Ashley “I had sex with one person, but two people had sex with me.” The other person she is referring to is a guy she met up with before the party — a consensual encounter which she told Lizzie and Nicole about when she first arrived that night. Ashley says she walked around the table and hugged her when she realized what Lauren meant. Lauren started to cry and described the night in detail, explaining how she had gotten really sick and was throwing up, how Lizzie was taking care of her, and how she woke up to Adam having sex with her.
Ashley wanted to tell an adult, so they reached out to two English teachers at Norman High via Twitter direct message asking if they could meet — they didn’t tell them why. One of them, Miss Stoltenberg, agreed to meet. When she walked in, the girls could sense she knew what happened. Stoltenberg let them talk until they were done, closing her eyes during parts of the story. She told Lauren she was sorry and that it wasn’t her fault, and advised on what to do next. Legally, Stoltenberg had to inform Norman High’s administration, which she did as soon as she left Gray Owl. Stoltenberg declined to comment for this story, saying Norman High’s administration didn’t think it was a “good idea”.
Lauren drove home that afternoon. At 3.38pm she posted a photo with the caption: “About to do the scariest thing in my life.”
She is an only child. She has lived in Norman with her parents, Bill and Eva, her whole life. When I visited them last month, Lauren couldn’t wait to tell me the story of how her parents met, it’s one of her favorites. Bill is from Oklahoma, and Eva grew up in the Philippines. They’d been corresponding back and forth for over a year through a pen pal program and within a week of finally meeting, they were married. They now live in a small cookie-cutter house on the east side of town with Lauren and their three cats, in a quiet, family neighborhood.
Lauren’s confidence is surprising for a 17-year-old girl. She doesn’t apologize for who she is, even if — as she puts it — she’s still trying to figure that out. It’s one of the things that makes her likable — her friends say it’s why they look up to her. She was voted Homecoming Princess at her school last year — the purple sash is pinned to her bedroom wall next to pictures of Dave Franco.
When she was growing up, her parents talked openly about sex, and her dad spoke to her more than once about consent, once advising her to “get away from boys who disrespect you.” Lauren doesn’t shy away from the topic of sex or past sexual relationships she’s had. She’s not ashamed of having had sex with a few guys, and doesn’t think girls ever should be.
When she got home from Gray Owl the afternoon of May 13, Lauren went to see her dad in his office working on his computer when she told him she needed to talk to him about something. She told her parents how she was at the party and got really drunk, how she was passing out, how a boy was taking care of her. Bill says that’s when they knew. Lauren didn’t get to finish before her mom asked: “Were you raped?” Lauren said yes. Her mom screamed: “Who did this? Who is this boy?” Bill asked Lauren if she wanted to call the police. She did. Bill immediately made the call.
‘Obviously too drunk’
While Lauren was waiting for an officer to arrive, Adam texted her at 5:10pm that evening, this time through iMessage, repeating a lot of the same themes from their Snapchat conversation earlier that morning. But Adam was now more adamant that he obtained Lauren’s agreement to have sex in a conversation earlier in the night — and again gives the impression he regards this as sufficient consent. Screenshots of their conversation were sent to babe, they are illustrated below.
At this point, Adam mentions a highly significant detail that he hadn’t mentioned in any of the messages earlier in the day — that he asked Lauren for her consent during or immediately before sex, and she gave it. Lauren counters that Adam had only asked her consent “when I woke up” and says she didn’t say yes. Adam doesn’t disagree with her about the timing of the exchange, leaving unchallenged the disturbing implication that he only gained consent when an unconscious Lauren woke up to find him on top of her.
Then Adam leaves the detail about the mid-sex consent conversation, and goes back to his prior explanation that Lauren had consented earlier in the night, saying: “Ask Lizzie she was right there when you said yes”. To which Lauren bluntly replies: “why the fuck woild u wanna have sex with me if i was passed out drunk ruvht after i threw up anyways.” Lizzie told babe she doesn’t remember any conversation remotely close to Adam asking Lauren to have sex with her. She told him the same thing when he texted her that day.
Lauren then tells Adam she has reported it to the police.
‘I’m not saying what I did was ok’
Lauren’s case was assigned to Detective Valari Homan of the Oklahoma City Police Department, who works in the sex crimes unit. Lauren met with her on Wednesday, May 17, five days after the party, to give her full account. She also gave Detective Homan all the screenshots of her conversations with Adam the next day, and sent her the text he sent his group chat when she got it the next day. When giving her to the reporting officer the day after the party, Lauren initially said she didn’t want any of her friends to find out the police were involved, saying she “wanted it to all blow over.” But after completing a rape kit, Lauren said she “didn’t want to let this go.” She expected to be upset, but instead left the hospital room feeling empowered. “They made me feel a lot better about it. They were treating me like a powerful woman,” Lauren said. She remembers feeling excited to be working with a female detective, and was confident Homan would pursue the case after their first and only meeting.
In the days after the party, Lauren says two camps emerged at Norman High: those who believed her and those who didn’t — a familiar story. She heard whispers that she was “just being dramatic” and “is making it up.” And among the whispers came more details from that night. Max (not his real name), a senior at the time, told me he saw Adam when he first got to the party between 12:15-12:30am — Adam was throwing up in one of the bathrooms visible from the living rooms. Max saw Adam again 20 minutes later — he says he came up to Max while he was playing water pong and asked him to “smell his fingers”. Then he left implying he was going to go have sex with Lauren. Max said that at the time he didn’t think what was going on wasn’t consensual. Another person claimed he tried to high-five Adam, but that Adam said “Sorry I wouldn’t touch my hand, I just fucked Lauren.” Lauren said that when her friend texted her to tell her that, she left in the middle of choir and cried in the bathroom.
Six days after the party, on May 18, Adam sent a message explaining his side to his teammates in a group chat of less than 10 people. Screenshots of the text spread quickly, including to Lauren, who forwarded them to the police because they seem to contain an important admission: that Lauren was extremely drunk when the alleged rape took place. Adam told his team Lauren “was too drunk” to remember giving consent, and says “I’m not saying what I did was ok.”
The text sparked a wider discussion within Norman High about consent, and specifically the topic of consenting to sex while very drunk. Lizzie says a lot of the guys are scared to talk about it, because none of them have really been educated about it. In middle school, girls can sign up for “My Body… My Life…”, a program aiming to empower them through awareness and self defense. There’s also the equivalent for boys, where they teach them about online safety, the dangers of sexting, and consent. Daniel (not his real name), who is a close friend of Lauren’s, says he was one of eight boys who took the class, out of 200.
I met Daniel on the school football field. It was a charity movie night, raising money for a women’s center initiative to educate students about consent — a cause chosen by the student council (of which Lauren was a member at the time) one week after the incident. Wonder Woman was playing on the jumbotron behind me. Like others who I spoke to, he didn’t know the detail of Oklahoma’s consent law, but said he “doesn’t understand how someone couldn’t see that was wrong.”
And then he told me something which suggests he isn’t alone. Daniel told me a few of Adam’s teammates agreed with him — they were uncomfortable training with Adam when pre-season training got under way in August. This story is corroborated by another member of the team I spoke to. Daniel and three other seniors approached Adam and told him he had to apologize to the entire team. Adam told them his side, that he was drunk too, and thought he had obtained consent. Both boys I spoke to about the squad meeting said Adam was adamant that he thought Lauren was conscious and consented to sex, while also saying he — Adam — was too drunk to remember things clearly. Soon after their meeting, over a team breakfast, Adam addressed the team for the first time. He admitted he made a mistake. Daniel said the apology didn’t change the team dynamic much, but he was glad Adam had addressed it.
For the District Attorney to prosecute a rape case successfully, they need to prove the sex was not consensual, or that there was force, fear, or a threat of violence. Trial lawyer Natalie Christie, who works in Oklahoma but was not involved in this case, said that in a case like this they would have to prove Lauren was intoxicated, and then prove the defendant knew that.
On July 24, 2017, Homan told Lauren’s dad the DA had declined to prosecute. Bill says Homan offered little explanation.
I was sitting in the family living room with Bill, Eva and Lauren when he told me about that call from Homan. Oklahoma City Thunder were playing on the TV, muted, as the family cats padded around the couches. Bill was sitting at the far end of one of the couches in his plaid pajama pants and a grey sweatshirt. A mental health therapist by profession, he is in his sixties, probably around 5’3, and has lost most of his hair. His manner is restrained, and he kept on coming back to one point: that while helping his daughter to navigate her response, he wanted Lauren “to be in control.” When our conversation turned to the call from Homan closing the investigation, he took off his black metal-rimmed glasses to wipe tears from his eyes. “No one cared about what happened to my daughter,” he said.
I decided to find out more about the investigation — and why it had turned up a blank. After repeated calls to Homan, her department’s press liaison team and the DA, from late September until early November, there are strong reasons to believe the Oklahoma City Police Department did not take the investigation seriously. In fact, they didn’t speak to the suspect.
First babe learned that Detective Homan never spoke to Max, the friend who saw Lauren after the alleged rape, when she begged him not to leave her alone because she was “scared.” Then a lawyer from the DA’s office admitted the investigation had only interviewed three people in addition to Lauren — they didn’t say who. From my own interviews, I could figure out who those three were: Lizzie, Nicole, and Morgan. They say they gave her their full accounts of the night, focusing on interactions they had with Lauren and Adam. Having spoken to everyone Homan interviewed, a disturbing discrepancy emerged between what I had learned from the three girls, and what the DA’s office said Homan learned.
The DA’s office said they didn’t have any evidence from Detective Homan’s investigation to prove a lack of consent. To them, her investigation indicated that both Lauren and Adam were all over each other, that they went into a separate room and they had sex. Asked to provide more detail, a lawyer at the DA’s office told babe the people Homan had spoken to — Lizzie, Nicole, and Morgan — said they talked to Lauren when she came out of the room, that they asked her “how it was”, and that Lauren said “it was fine.” After speaking with them multiple times over the course of two months, none of the accounts Lizzie, Nicole, or Morgan gave babe included this detail, including when we checked back with Lizzie and Nicole (Morgan was not available for further interview). The DA’s account is also at odds with Lauren’s note to herself, her messages to Sam and her conversations with Max – all of which suggest things were not “fine.”
Someone did ask Lauren how it was after she left the room — it was Nicole, who had tried sneaking into the room. Nicole talked to Detective Homan about three weeks after the party. She says she told the detective she saw Lauren right after and was excited to hear how it was — Nicole emphasized that her and Lauren always give each other details of what happens with guys — but when she did, Lauren wasn’t able to respond. “She didn’t say anything, that’s when I knew there was something weird,” Nicole told me. Nicole says Lauren never told her it was “fine”. “I remember telling [the detective] Lauren didn’t want to have sex with Adam,” Nicole said.
Morgan also saw Lauren after the incident — it was before she went to bed, when Lauren asked Morgan where she could crash. Morgan told me that’s the only time she remembers seeing Lauren after she gave her a water bottle earlier in the night. Lizzie didn’t see Lauren, she hadn’t seen her since she left her in Morgan’s bathroom with Adam. She told the detective that she spent around 40 minutes outside after leaving Lauren. Lizzie said Detective Homan seemed skeptical. “She [Homan] doubted that I didn’t see what happened to Lauren.” Her and Nicole both agreed that Detective Homan “was kind of judgmental that they were drinking” and also about the fact Lauren and Adam made out prior to the incident.
On June 8, Detective Homan attempted to talk to Adam. She called him, but he exercised his right to remain silent, meaning Adam was never interviewed as part of the investigation. babe asked Homan why she decided not to bring Adam in for an interview under caution, but we didn’t get a response to that question. That same day, Detective Homan sent the case to the DA’s office. Four days later, on Monday, June 12, Lauren’s case was returned to the OCPD, with a note that said: “After review of the investigation, ADA Miller declined to pursue charges.”
When babe finally got through to Detective Homan, she said she could not discuss the case, but instead directed me to the OCPD Public Information Office where I spoke to MSgt. Gary Knight. He wasn’t familiar with the case, so when I called him the first time, he asked if he could look over it, and that it would be within the next 24 hours at most. Six minutes later he called me back. He said repeatedly: “There was no evidence there was a rape. There was no evidence to support a conviction. The rape kit showed semen, but no evidence of rape.” (A rape kit can only show evidence of a forcible rape, not a incapacitation rape where what is at issue is a woman’s ability to consent). With regards to the messages sent by Adam and submitted as evidence, he said: “Let me be clear, there wasn’t any text where he confessed to raping her.”
Then, before telling me good luck with my story, he added: “When a girl has sex with someone and then she regrets it, if she has a rape kit, there will be semen. That doesn’t prove it was a rape.” The many academics and advocates who believe incapacitated rape still isn’t taken seriously enough by law enforcement won’t relish hearing a sentence like that from an official in a major city police department, especially in a call about an alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl about which he has only just learned the basic details. Only about one fifth of rapes get reported to police, and women fearing the police won’t believe them is one of the main reasons, researchers have found. Women who are raped by people they know are much less likely to report their rape to the police, and victims of incapacitated rape are less likely to report to the authorities than victims of forcible rape.
Victims of incapacitated rape are in the doubly unlucky situation of suffering a crime that society takes less seriously than forcible rape. One study found that a big proportion of college date rapists “did not see themselves as ‘real criminals,’ because real criminals used weapons to assault strangers.” The study also found “some men may purposely get drunk when they want to act sexually aggressive, knowing that intoxication will provide them with an excuse for their socially inappropriate behavior.”
That phrase — “A girl has sex with someone and then she regrets it…” is straight out of the victim blamer’s rhetorical toolkit. I was reminded of it this week, by a controversial comment from the Editor-in-Chief of alt-right troll site Breitbart News, who said women had redefined rape to mean “any sex that the women ends up regretting.” It also brought to mind an older controversy, from 2012, when Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports wrote to his site’s army of young, male fans: “I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind…However, if a chick passes out, that’s a gray area.” It’s hard not to wonder what kind of message these kinds of comments about rape send to young men — in what ways they might sink into the teenage psyche.
‘We’re not going to let this go’
Three days after the party, Lauren posted about the incident to her finsta — her private Instagram account with a select 40 followers — for the first time. “I was so drunk i couldnt speak up or move i was jist so in shock i cpuldny do anyhing,” she wrote about the moment she woke up. “That was the most traumatizing thing to fucking happen to me and its even worse when hes lying about it to everyone including me saying he only made out with me and ate me out but its yhat much worse because i domt remember any of that, only him literally having sex with my unconscious body.” Later in the long status she writes: “This is the worst thins that has ever happened to me and i want justice.”
Lauren is very active on her finsta — she shares everything from pictures out with her friends, cringe messages she gets from guys, how she didn’t make enough tips that day — it’s like a diary. Lauren posted multiple photos from that night, including one she took with Adam. Her photos show her having fun with her friends, filling up straw hats with tortilla chips and taking selfies.
On July 24, 2017, she posted a video of herself crying to the camera. It was the moment after she found out her case was dropped, almost two and a half months after it was reported. Lauren re-watched this video in front of me for the first time since she posted it. For the last two months we’d spent hours on the phone and in person talking about the incident — Lauren always talked about it in the same tone she’d tell me about anything else in her life, making jokes about not having any emotions, and even confessing to trying to make herself cry because “it’s how she should be dealing with this, right?” But half an hour before I left Oklahoma, as she watched herself cry, I saw real feeling from her. She paused the video before it finished, gathered herself.
The video from Lauren’s finsta account
The day she posted the video, her dad had called Detective Homan — they’d been waiting for an answer for weeks, and he’d been told about the case being dropped. When Lauren got back from work, he sat her down and repeated the same to her. Holding her as she cried, he told Lauren to trust him. “We’re not going to let this go.”
Watch the video of Lauren telling her story here.
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Since we first told Lauren’s story in November, she has gone on to co-write a bill that would require Oklahoma school teachers to be trained on consent education. Read about Lauren’s Law here.
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