By Bria Freeman
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
The 18-year-old rape victim has been trying to get on with her life, though things are not as she had planned before she headed to Howard University as a freshman in the fall of 2012. Then, she had high hopes. She enjoyed attending classes and working part time. She was having a good time making new friends. Life was good.
All that changed when a man with evil intentions made his way into her dorm last fall. He raped her, leaving her in physical and emotional pain such that she no longer felt safe on the campus, or even in the world. She moved off campus because she was concerned about security. She had to increase her work hours to pay for the expense of an apartment. Then her grades dropped and she ended up having trouble completing the school year.
A co-worker at a local fast food restaurant became a friend, then a confidante, then a boyfriend, a walking, talking security blanket—someone to make her feel safe.
The 18-year-old girl was trying to rebuild her life when she heard about the rape of another young woman, who is also 18, on Howard’s campus on July 22. A sense of déjà vu befell her. All the bad memories came flooding back.
It was Nov. 5, 2012 and she was in her room in a Howard University dormitory, the Bethune Annex, when she turned around to see a stranger facing her.
“I was standing in the middle of my room and he was in the doorway and there was a shock moment,” she recalled in an interview with the AFRO.
The Bethune Annex has locked doors that can only be opened by a card provided to students. There are people who check student’s IDs to make sure that the people who are entering the building belong there, officials said. That particular day, the perpetrator was able to avoid detection before heading to her room and catching her off guard. He raped her after wielding a weapon with a sharp blade, according to court document in the case.
She reported the attack and he was later apprehended. To add insult to injury, he claimed the two had a consensual encounter.
“No matter what language you speak, ‘No’ is still ‘No,’ and there is no changing of that word,” she told the AFRO, her voice rising in anger. “It was never ‘Yes’ then I changed my mind. It was ‘No! Who the hell are you!!!’”
According to authorities, it was DeMarco Myles, 19, who was in the custody of the District’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), who made his way into the victim’s room and attacked her.
He is also accused of assaulting another woman exactly one week earlier, on Oct. 26, at her home in the 2300 block of Washington Place NE. He was tied to the case after investigators traced him to the area through video surveillance footage at a local store where he had shopped for a Halloween mask about the same time the attack occurred, the court record shows. He referenced Halloween when talking to the victim.
The Howard student told the AFRO the rapist left the victim a note with his phone number on it. During the attack, she had pleaded with him to leave her alone because she had never met him. He left the number, he told her, “because you said you didn’t know me.”
As police investigated the case, the victim, humiliated, took two weeks off from school and went home to her family in Atlanta. When she returned, she refused to live in the dorm. She and her dorm roommate moved into an off-campus apartment.
Living off campus made it harder to get to her classes. She wasn’t as energetic as she had been. She was fearful to even be there.
“Since the attack I have been very paranoid,” she said.
As the new school year has started, everything is different for her now. She is negotiating with Howard University officials after taking legal action in the case. She is awaiting Myles’ trial, where she is likely to have to testify. He is currently held in the D.C. jail. pending trial.
She had a baby with her boyfriend. She said in an interview in July that she planned to return to school.
After her rape, university officials said security had been increased. In a statement, university spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton said, “overall crime has been reduced as a result of our security enhancements and a robust crime prevention education program. We have implemented a number of safety initiatives including 24/7 security in the residence halls as well as provided an enhanced shuttle and escort service. Keeping our community safe is [the] University’s number one priority.”
The university hired 15 new police officers during the summer and has plans to add five more during the Fall 2013 semester; has stepped up “Campus Police uniform patrol visibility around all residence halls and campus and community ‘hot spots,’” with the support of D.C. police; has checked security and monitoring equipment to make sure everything is in working order; instituted round-the-clock “security staffing within the residence halls” and taken other steps, Hamilton’s statement said.
“Tell that to the girl who was raped after she was grabbed on campus and dragged into a classroom on July 22,” the victim said.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18 print edition.