A recent Cal Poly graduate has gone public with an allegation that she was sexually assaulted in an on-campus apartment. She is voicing anger with the university for ruling that her alleged assailant was more credible than her.
On Sept. 28, Melissa Giddens posted a letter on Facebook she authored addressing the alleged assailant and Cal Poly’s Title IX office, which investigated her case. Giddens wrote that the alleged assailant took advantage of her after someone slipped something “extra” in her drink, and the university demonstrated hypocrisy by showing that it does not actually care about sexual consent, despite preaching the necessity of it.
“To the coward who couldn’t own up to his mistake and the office that protected him:
“Not only did you fail me, but you failed anyone who has experienced a traumatic event such as this,” Giddens wrote. “You made me feel weak and dirty, as if I asked for something like this to happen to me. You made me doubt my self worth and place in this society. You stuck a knife into an already open wound and dug it in even further, with no care as to how I would recover.
“To the Title IX office that protected him:
“You are even worse. You preach inclusivity and equality but it does not seem to be one of your actual priorities. You say that you protect those who have been treated disrespectfully or unfairly, but I felt so much worse after being involved with your office. It felt like the only thing you were protecting was the school’s reputation and my aggressor,” Giddens wrote.
The Tribune obtained a copy of Cal Poly’s investigative report on the alleged sexual assault, which never resulted in an arrest or charges being filed. The incident occurred in Oct 2014, but Giddens did not report it to university officials until January 2017.
According to the university Title IX office report, on Oct. 10, 2014, Giddens went to a party with a group of friends, which included the alleged assailant. Giddens ended up separated from her friends, and asked for a cup of water. A man handed her a cup provided by another man who said, “This one’s special.” Giddens said the water tasted weird and salty.
Giddens went into the living room of the home where the party was being held to speak with her friends, and that was the last thing she remembered from the night.
The next morning Giddens woke up in bed at her Poly Canyon Village apartment. The alleged assailant was lying next to her with his hand down her shorts, according to Giddens’ account of the story. She was partially undressed, she said.
“Do you like this?” Giddens told officials the man asked her. She froze out of fear, and he stopped what he was doing.
Giddens said she thought at that point the man realized what he was doing was wrong.
The alleged assailant then left for work, Giddens said. Later that day, Giddens vomited blood, she said. She also said that a doctor told her that vomiting blood may have been a sign she had been drugged.
In the aftermath of the incident, Giddens experienced a variety of mental and physical symptoms, which her doctor said came from “internalizing trauma and anxiety.”
Giddens later met with the alleged assailant and attempted to get him to acknowledge and take responsibility for what happened, but he refused, she said.
A friend of Giddens told her not to report the incident to authorities. For two years she followed that advice, but the incident continued to affect her daily life, she said.
After Giddens reported the incident to Cal Poly, a university investigator interviewed the alleged assailant and nine other students.
The alleged assailant said Giddens gave off “a flirtatious vibe” at the party and that the two danced together and kissed.
Two of Giddens’ friends said she was acting out of character at the party. One of the friends said Giddens generally is not into public displays of affection, even when sober.
Additionally, two witnesses said they saw Giddens vomiting during the party. Other said they could not recall whether Giddens was vomiting.
The alleged assailant said he was asked to walk Giddens to her door and was then invited inside the apartment and that they slept fully clothed. He said no sexual activity took place, and he walked her to work the following morning.
However, witnesses said the alleged assailant tried to take Giddens to his apartment, then volunteered to walk her home, according to the Cal Poly report. None of Giddens’ roommates saw the alleged assailant.
None of the witnesses saw Giddens showing signs of intoxication. The report also states that it was inconclusive whether or not Giddens vomited.
The Cal Poly investigator said she assigned more weight to the alleged assailant’s story because he admitted to dancing with Giddens and kissing her. Kissing without consent can be construed as a form of sexual violence, according to California State University policy.
Giddens appealed Cal Poly’s ruling to the CSU Chancellor’s Office, which upheld the university’s findings.
In June, Giddens graduated from Cal Poly. She currently lives in Santa Maria and is attempting to gain admission into a Cal Poly master’s program.
According to statistics released by Cal Poly’s Title IX office, over the last two years, the university investigated 44 Title IX sexual misconduct, domestic violence and stalking complaints. Nineteen of the investigations resulted in punitive measures, while in the other 25 cases, investigators found insufficient evidence. There were an additional 95 complaints for which the university did not launch investigations.