The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a dreadful story today about 19-year-old Abby Honold, whose rape case was dropped on the basis that Honold misheard a question about whether the sex she had with her rapist was consensual.
Honold was a junior at the University of Minnesota when she was introduced to Daniel Drill-Mellum at a tailgate party. Her cup having run empty, she went with Drill-Mellum back to his apartment across the street for a refill. Shortly after the two went in, Drill-Mellum raped Honold:
She begged him to let her go back to the tailgate party. He threw her down and violently raped her.
She tried to get away, told him how badly she wanted to get back to her friends. But he grabbed her and raped her again.
She remembers his calm, detached demeanor during the rape. He got angry only when he saw her crying. After about 40 minutes, he let her go.
Honold immediately called the police and went to the hospital, where a nurse assigned to examine her concluded that Honold’s injuries were some of the worst she’d ever seen. Drill-Mellum, for his part, told police that Honold had consented to having sex with him.
The next day, one of Drill-Mellum’s frat brothers messaged Honold on Facebook, asking her to talk. Honold agreed, and a misunderstanding in that recorded conversation turned Honold’s life upside down.
In the tape (which Honold wasn’t aware was being made), Honold was asked whether she’d had consensual sex with Drill-Mellum (You can listen to the full thing here):
“OK,” he said. “And then he, now, did you guys have consensual sex?”
“Yeah,” she told him.
“You did?” he asked
“Yeah,” she said.
Honold had also detailed the violence of the encounter, and it’s clear that the incident she’s describing is a rape. But it was this isolated statement that got Drill-Mellum released from jail just a few short days after he’d been arrested.
The news that her rapist was out of jail shook Honold to her core.
Back at school, Honold heard other students gossiping about the crazy girl who cried rape. Panic attacks forced her to drop out. The prospect of running into Drill-Mellum paralyzed her with fear. She would cry any time she needed to leave her apartment by herself. She couldn’t stop thinking about killing herself. She checked herself into a psychiatric hospital, where she was diagnosed with PTSD.
In March 2015, the U cut a deal with Drill-Mellum: Instead of going through with the hearing, he agreed to a suspension and ban from campus until 2025. Honold hoped she wouldn’t have to see him again.
It was only after Amy Isenor, a lawyer for Civil Society, a non-profit that provides free legal advocacy for rape victims, looked deeper into the case that Honold ever experienced justice at all.
The entire story is deeply nuanced and well worth a read, though in the end, Drill-Mellum was only arrested after two other victims whom he’d also raped agreed to go on the record. He remained free for nearly a year, having moved to Australia and finding himself confronted with jail time only after flying back to the States for his sister’s wedding.
Had several people—including Isenor, multiple victims and one very diligent cop—not worked tirelessly to see Drill-Mellum prosecuted, he might never have been. Honold’s story has a good ending—insofar as such a nightmarish, scarring ordeal can ever end well. But what she wrote in a blog post following Drill-Mellum’s initial release still rings true: “Do not trust the police if your rapist is a rich white boy who can afford an expensive lawyer.”