UA Sexual Assault Survivor Transformed Trauma Into Advocacy Work

By Caitlin Schmidt The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 23% of undergraduate women experience sexual assault on college campuses. Jacquelyn Hinek is an assault survivor who is sharing her story and working on behalf of other survivors to empower all women.

Tuscon

Jacquelyn Hinek said her chance at a traditional college experience imploded eight months after she arrived on the University of Arizona campus.

On April 19, 2013, Hinek -- a freshman -- went to a party attended by multiple UA football players, some of whom she knew from her job as a student equipment manager for the team.

Hinek later told police that she had a few drinks while talking to a friend. Eventually, she saw some people she knew go into one of the apartment's bedrooms and followed them.

Hinek sat down on the bed and, she said, everything went dark. She later told police she must have passed out. She woke up sometime later, unable to move her body.

Hinek said she slipped in and out of consciousness over the next several hours as she was sexually assaulted and beaten by five men associated with the football program -- one of whom was Hinek's supervisor. She said at least three other men watched the attack. Someone recorded the incident on a cell phone, later sharing the video with other students.

Ultimately, three of the men involved in her assault were disciplined by the school.

While the experience itself was horrific, Hinek said it got worse once she decided to report the incident to police and the UA.

She said the lack of services available on campus left her isolated and pushed her to the brink.

In the years following her assault, Hinek has learned that what happened to her is more common than she realized at the time: 23% of undergraduate women experience sexual assault on college campuses, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

The Star reported on Hinek's assault in January, along with six other incidents involving football players accused of sexual assault, harassment or domestic violence.

Some of the incidents took place while Hinek still was a student. She told the Star that her experience would have been different had she known there were other victims on campus.

"I really didn't know. I feel like there must have been such a community of us without even knowing it," Hinek told the Star in March, speaking publicly about her assault for the first time. "If I had known someone else, that would have changed a lot for me, because I wouldn't have felt so alone and I would have had other people to lean on instead of myself."

Hinek graduated from the UA and channeled her experience into a career. She now runs a Southern California emergency shelter for victims of sexual assault and intimate partner abuse, and also heads up a countywide emergency hotline to connect victims with services.

She acknowledges that had she not been assaulted, she may not be working in her field now.

"It feels really sad, but my college experience ended in April 2013," Hinek said. "From then until two years later, it was just an absolute nightmare. I lost so much, but a big piece of it was losing my ability to just be a college student. I didn't sign up for that. (The UA) owed me more than that."

Hinek wasn't interested in a career in sports when she took the scholarship position with the football team.

"It was really just a job that seemed probably cooler than working at the cafeteria," she said. "It sounded interesting and I thought I can make money and do something that's a little more fun."

She continued working with the football program for about six months after her assault, but she said pervasive sexual harassment eventually led her to quit.

In talking about her assault, Hinek says that she can break the aftermath into two distinct parts: before she reported, and after she reported.

"In the direct aftermath ... I was really just trying to kind of keep going," she said.

She was also confused about what had happened to her, saying she didn't know a lot about sexual assault and people that she talked to for the most part told her the experience didn't amount to rape.

"Me now, knowing as much as I do and being older and wiser, I'm like, 'Hell no, that was so messed up. That was sexual assault,'" she said. "At the time, I was getting a lot of input from other people that caused me to question what happened to me, so I kind of just said, 'This happened, and I'm going to move on.'"

Hinek initially decided to move on without reporting, which she said was hard. She was having nightmares, and she said players and other students were telling her to keep quiet about the incident.

Then she took an internship with the UA group Students Promoting Empowerment and Consent (SPEAC) and ended up working at Campus Health's Oasis Sexual Assault and Trauma Services. While there, she connected with a woman who became her support system. Hinek decided to report.

Hinek told officers that she wanted to be able to one day tell her kids she did the right thing.

She first reported the assault to campus police, even though it had happened at an apartment off campus. She called her encounter with the University of Arizona Police Department terrible, saying that the officer who took her report told her she was the type of person he told his daughter not to become. She ended up filing a complaint with the school about him.

Her experience with the Tucson Police Department was completely different.

"I mean, it was hard. No matter how great they are, it's a difficult experience, but the detectives I worked with were supportive and caring," she said.

TPD's investigation lasted for several months, but none of the men involved in the assault were charged with a crime.

Prosecutors said they couldn't prove that the sex wasn't consensual.

Hinek still wasn't sure if she wanted to alert school officials. Then Susan Wilson in the UA's Title IX office reached out to Hinek to interview her regarding the sexual assault of a student Hinek knew. That student's situation also involved members of the football team.

"I just felt like, 'this is meant to be.' I'd been considering it, and for her to reach out, it kind of felt like a bridge and a connection," Hinek said. "I also thought this happening to someone else in the athletic department was ridiculous. It's easier when you think it doesn't affect anyone else. I could live with that. But when I was realizing that it was happening to other people, I just felt sick about that and I felt like the school needed to know."

Hinek calls the subsequent Title IX investigation, which took roughly six months, the worst experience of her life.

"I think about it a lot and I regret that I didn't fight harder. I'll always look back and wonder, could I have done more?" she said.

"But I'm proud of myself, because while I kind of lost that fight a bit, I was up against (the UA). It was just me, by myself, completely alone against them."

Hinek said she didn't think the investigation would be as lengthy or arduous as it turned out to be.

"I think for a while I really believed in them and felt like (the investigation) may be going somewhere," Hinek said. "They were asking questions and wanted to know about my experience, but when I look at the results, it's just this realization that they never intended to help me."

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