That reaction is not unusual, experts say
The woman police said was raped while unconscious by four Vanderbilt University football players in June told police she didn't think she had been assaulted and couldn't conceive that Brandon Vandenburg could have been involved, according to a Metro police report.
"(The victim) advised she trusted Vandenburg and he would not let anything happen to her," Metro police Sgt. Mike Shreeve wrote in an investigative report, which was recently shown to The Tennessean by a source who asked not to be identified.
The Metro police report, dated June 29 and confirmed as authentic by a second source familiar with the case on Monday, provides new details about what happened six days earlier in Gillette House on Vanderbilt's campus.
It paints a picture of a confused or reluctant victim who initially said she didn't think she had been sexually assaulted and declined to undergo a rape kit test until counseled by a police victim's advocate. And it shows she continued to date Vandenburg, one of the four former players accused of rape, for at least a few days after the June 23 attack — though it's not clear she knew in those initial days what Vanderburg and the three others are now accused of doing to her.
The report also sheds some new light on others who may have helped move the unconscious woman from the dorm room to a hallway and back to the dorm room after police said she had been attacked — and, just as importantly, who may not have been there.
The Tennessean does not identify people police say have been victims of sex crimes. The woman has declined to speak to The Tennessean, worried that speaking out could harm the prosecution of the four players.
One of Vandenburg's attorneys, John Herbison, declined to comment on the substance of the police report Monday.
"I would think that report speaks for itself," he said.
It's not unusual for victims to deny being attacked, even days after such an incident, said Tracy Cox, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania-based National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
"Everybody responds to trauma differently. Being sexually assaulted is a completely traumatic event. In some cases, a victim may not be able to piece it together in sequential (order). Or in other cases, they may just block it out," she said. "It's not uncommon because of the traumatic experience, or when alcohol is involved — that can impair memory."
All free on bond
Vandenburg, 20, from Indio, Calif.; Cory Batey, 19, of Nashville; Brandon Eric Banks, 19, from Brandywine, Md.; and Jaborian McKenzie, 19, from Woodville, Miss., are each charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Vandenburg also is charged with one count of unlawful photography and tampering with evidence.
All four have pleaded not guilty and are free on bonds ranging from $50,000 to $350,000. The university kicked them off the team and banned them from campus before they were indicted Aug. 9.
Also named in the original indictment as witnesses were Vanderbilt's starting quarterback, Austyn Carta-Samuels and tight end Dillon Van der Wal. A text message read in court by Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman earlier this year stated that Van der Wal and Carta-Samuels had helped move the unconscious woman after the attack. But Thurman has since said that Carta-Samuels had been named in error in the text.
The Metro police report casts more doubt about Carta-Samuels' presence, as the woman identified only Vandenburg and Van der Wal from stills taken from surveillance video.
Vanderbilt University officials declined to comment on the police report but confirmed that Van der Wal remains on the football roster. Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs Beth Fortune did note that he had been mentioned in previous accounts of the incident.
On Monday night, Vanderbilt administrators had a forum to discuss sexual assault on campus, but reporters — other than student media — were not allowed in. A panel of administrators and staff were scheduled to discuss sexual misconduct policies, victim support services and how the university responds to assaults, according to an invite emailed to students.
Evidence against 4
Shreeve's report is only one piece of multiple volumes of evidence that are expected to be used against the four in trial. Shreeve wrote that he was contacted by Vanderbilt police the day after university officials noticed football players carrying a partially-clad woman in the hallway of the dorm.
The report said that three black men and one white man — who are not identified — can be seen carrying the woman through the hallway, onto an elevator and toward Room 213 in Gillette House. Shreeve wrote that the woman was wearing a short, black skirt and that her "private area was sometimes exposed."
Once the woman was identified, she told police she and some friends had gone to the Tin Roof bar to meet with Vandenburg. She told them that she had been dating him for about two weeks.
She also told police she didn't think she had been raped.
She said she had gotten drunk and that Vandenburg tried to take her back to her apartment. Once there, they were unable to get her electronic key pass to work, so they went to his dorm room in Gillette House. After that, her recollection fails her.
"[The victim] advised she had been drinking heavily and has very little/no memory of events that took place," the report said. "Advised she does not think she was sexually assaulted' did not 'feel' like she had sex."
According to the report, she told police that she had been in contact with Vandenburg after June 23 and had had "consensual sex with him within a few days following this incident."
Detectives tried to get her to consent to a rape examination, but she initially refused. She relented only after speaking to a victim's advocate, the report said. Police also collected the clothes she wore during the attack.
Prosecutors last week said they expect to turn DNA evidence over to defense attorneys in the next week or so.