Samiha Khanna and Anne Blythe, Staff Writers
The woman who says she was raped last week by three members of the Duke University lacrosse team thought she would be dancing for five men at a bachelor party, she said Friday. But when she arrived that night, she found herself surrounded by more than 40.
Just moments after she and another exotic dancer started to perform, she said, men in the house started barking racial slurs. The two women, both black, stopped dancing.
"We started to cry," she said. "We were so scared."
Forty-six members of the men's lacrosse team submitted DNA samples Thursday in the unusual case. As of late Friday, there had been no arrests. Duke officials briefed university staff Friday on the allegations, and authorities vowed to crack the team's wall of solidarity.
"We're asking someone from the lacrosse team to step forward," Durham police Cpl. David Addison said. "We will be relentless in finding out who committed this crime."
He emphasized the seriousness of the accusations -- first-degree rape, kidnapping, assault by strangulation and robbery.
Details of the accusations were made public this week in a warrant authorizing a search of the three-bedroom rental house where the attack is alleged to have taken place.
The accuser spoke Friday, struggling not to cry as she recounted the events of the early hours of March 14 at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., next to Duke's East Campus.
It is The News & Observer's policy not to identify the victims of sex crimes.
The accuser had worked for an escort company for two months, doing one-on-one dates about three times a week.
"It wasn't the greatest job," she said, her voice trailing off. But with two children, and a full class load at N.C. Central University, it paid well and fit her schedule.
This was the first time she had been hired to dance provocatively for a group, she said. There was no security to protect her, and as the men became aggressive, the two women started to leave. After some of the men apologized for the behavior, the women went back inside, according to police. That's when the woman was pulled into a bathroom and raped and sodomized, police said.
She hesitated to tell police what happened, she said Friday. She realized she had to, for her young daughter and her father.
A hurt that would last
"My father came to see me in the hospital," she said. "I knew if I didn't report it that he would have that hurt forever, knowing that someone hurt his baby and got away with it."
Jason Bissey, who was on his porch next door during the party, saw the victim that night. He said Friday that he wishes he had called police at the first sign something was wrong.
He saw at least 30 men go into the white three-bedroom house, which Duke officials say is rented by three lacrosse team captains.
Bissey saw two women arrive and, after they were in the house 20 minutes, come out. As they got into a car, men shouted, Bissey said.
"Some of them were saying things like, 'I want my money back,' " Bissey said.
He recalled the racially charged statements at least one man was yelling at the victim.
"When I was outside, one guy yelled at her, '... Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt,' " Bissey said.
After a few minutes, everything seemed to calm down, he said. One of the women headed back into the house, saying she forgot her shoes.
Days later, Bissey learned one of the young women reported being raped.
"If I had called in the beginning, maybe the cops would have gotten there before this happened," he said.
Bissey and other neighbors are accustomed to hearing loud parties at the house. It's one of many rental houses near the Duke campus where police stay busy, breaking up rowdy parties and rounding up minors suspected of underage drinking.
Last fall, residents were worried about more than drunken antics and loud music. Many complained that students disregarded their neighbors and police, and were disrespectful when confronted.
Police have been called to the house at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. four times since September, according to police records. The house is one of 15 properties the university bought in February to address neighborhood complaints. The university plans to sell the dwellings to quieter homeowners who agree not to rent them out.
After hearing about the alleged rape, residents in neighborhoods around Duke sent e-mail to one another and police, criticizing landlords for tolerating an "Animal House" atmosphere.
Residents also questioned why police waited two days to search the house after the rape was reported.
Addison, the police spokesman, said that between receiving the call and searching the house, police were interviewing the victim, residents of the house and other witnesses. He also explained that one team member was excluded from the DNA testing because he is black and therefore doesn't match the description of the suspects.
The tests are scheduled to be sent to the State Bureau of Investigation in Raleigh for testing, and Durham authorities said they are trying to have the process expedited.
All that Duke officials can do, they say, is wait for the investigation to be completed.
Art Chase, Duke sports information director, said lacrosse coach Mike Pressler and athletics department administrators had spoken with team captains about the incident. The department was not conducting an investigation of its own, Chase said.
"I think they'll let the judicial system run its course," he said.
Chase said he was not sure of the occasion for the party. Players did not return phone calls, and their parents remained mum, as did Pressler. He and the team were preparing Friday for today's home game against Georgetown University.
Paul Haagen, chairman of Duke's Academic Council, was in a faculty meeting about the incident.
'This is sad'
"There was a sense of, 'This is sad, and it's terrible,' " Haagen said. "Beyond that, people don't know what's going on."
Haagen, a law professor who specializes in sports law, said studies show that violence against women is more prevalent among male athletes than among male students in general -- and higher still among such "helmet sports" as football, hockey and lacrosse.
"These are sports of violence," he said. "This is clearly a concern."