When Haley Lind was found alone in a stranger’s bathroom, she was naked and in a drunken stupor, barely able to stand or speak, a raucous party raging around her. She awoke in her bed hours later, her head pounding, leaves in her hair, soaked in her own urine.
“I think I got assaulted last night,” she texted a friend the morning after the annual welcome-back-to-school Block Party at the University of Virginia. “Something just feels very wrong.”
The Washington Post reconstructed the events of the night Lind says she was sexually assaulted at U-Va. — and the turmoil that followed — through a review of internal school records, witness statements and legal documents, as well as in numerous interviews, including with Lind, the freshman athlete she accused and their attorneys. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity about the events at Block Party because U-Va. officials instructed athletes, in a mass email, not to speak with reporters. According to internal U-Va. records, one coach instructed his athletes not to discuss what happened that night: “I told the team let’s just keep this in house,” the coach told U-Va., according to a transcript of a conversation with investigators obtained by The Post. “We’re just praying that that stays lidded up.”
Lind’s attorney, James Marsh, said he also believes U-Va. did a thorough job investigating the case, but he thought it would not be difficult to prove that Lind had been assaulted. The outcome shocked Marsh, who has handled dozens of cases during the past several years, including at U-Va. A final appeal in Lind’s case failed on May 23 before a three-member panel.
“Someone had to work very, very hard to reach a finding of no responsibility,” Marsh said. “Clearly, someone somewhere sees this case very differently from everyone else we’ve talked to. I’m at a loss to explain how U-Va. reached this decision. It just doesn’t make sense.”
The drawn-out investigation demoralized Lind, who has concerns about a process that found that someone as intoxicated as she was could give consent for sex to a total stranger. Prior to the university’s findings, Lind said she believed the freshman athlete should be held to account for what happened
“I’m not doubting myself for a second,” Lind said in December, months before U-Va. cleared the athlete. “He shouldn’t go on to live a normal life like he does now. He should have a consequence for it.”