On December 23, 1999, I was raped by a Holiday Inn security guard in St. Augustine Beach, Florida.
My first awareness of the rape occurred after midnight, when I awakened in my room in the early morning hours dimly aware that something awful had happened the night before. I had stopped in the hotel bar for a nightcap following an afternoon of Christmas shopping in St. Augustine. After a couple of gin and tonics I asked the bartender for my check. Moments later, a security guard brought me a drink—“on the house,” he said. After I’d finished it, I retired to my room and went to bed. The next thing I knew, I awoke around sunrise with a throbbing headache and very little memory of going to bed. I vaguely realized that something bad had happened. It took me a while to piece the fragments together.
As bits of memory began to surface, I recalled hearing the click of a key card in my door hours earlier. My bed lamp still on, I saw the security guard from the hotel bar advance toward the bed. He removed his clothes quickly but silently, pulled up my nightgown and climbed on top of me. In less than a minute it was over. I had not moved, feeling distant and paralyzed. After he slipped out of the room, I fell back asleep.
When I came to, I felt I had to get out of that room. So I slipped into some clothes and went out to the beach. As I walked along the sand, details began coming back. I realized I’d been raped. What should I do next?
What I actually did was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I went to the hotel desk and reported the rape to the manager of the Holiday Inn. I was greeted with disbelief even though, when the manager checked the hotel’s computers, they registered an entry from the guard’s master key card the night before. As a lawyer later informed me, going to Holiday Inn management was a big mistake. I should have gone straight to the police. All I accomplished was to give the hotel advance notice and time to put a story together implicating me in alleged consensual sex.
When I finally made contact with the police the week after Christmas, I was basically told that I was a week too late. They could no longer collect evidence. A visit to the State Attorney’s office was equally unproductive. A civil case was my only recourse, I was informed, and juries seldom rule for the plaintiff when the accused perpetrator falsely claims that sex was consensual, which, of course, he did in my case.
The case eventually went to mediation, where I met with a lawyer I had hired and two lawyers from the Holiday Inn’s corporate offices. I was instructed to offer only short answers to their questions, which included: “What were you wearing to bed?”; “Is it true that you accepted a drink from the accused at the bar that evening?”; ”Why were you staying at the hotel alone?”; and “Were you attracted to the guard because he was black?” When the mediation session ended, the Holiday Inn lawyers offered me a modest settlement if I would agree to drop my complaint and keep the negotiations confidential.
Classic Holiday Inn Rapes
Apparently, such incidents are common at Holiday Inns. An internet search for “Holiday Inn rapes” yields many examples. Here are a few.
Holiday Inn, Bakersfield, CA
Lawyers representing the Holiday Inn in Bakersfield, CA, requested dismissal of a lawsuit by a rape victim who was assaulted after the desk receptionist gave the woman’s room key to a convicted rapist. Security footage showed the perpetrator first propositioning the receptionist for sex in exchange for $100, then requesting a replacement key for what he claimed was his room. The receptionist gave him the key without questioning him. The perpetrator was later caught on surveillance footage entering the room, then leaving it with his pants around his ankles. The Holiday Inn stated that it was not at fault because the rape was “unforeseeable.”
Holiday Inn Northshore, Skokie, IL
A woman who obtained a nightcap at the Holiday Inn hotel bar in Skokie IL was later raped by a security guard who entered her room without her consent and assaulted her while she was apparently under the influence of a narcotic drug. She woke up the next day with a dim recollection of events, and the security guard was implicated by a “rape kit match.” Although a suit was brought against the hotel owners and their management company, they failed to respond to subpoenas and no criminal charges were filed.
Holiday Inn, Lake Charles, LA
A guest at the Lake Charles Holiday Inn reported that she was raped by a security guard in her room during a sound sleep. She awoke in a haze during the night with a black male on top of her. Surveillance footage from the Holiday Inn showed the perpetrator entering the victim’s room several times throughout the night. The series of break-ins began when the guard used his master room key to assist with entry into the room. On one occasion during the night he used an unknown tool to get in. Although the man was arrested and a $250,000 bond assigned, there was no record of legal proceedings against the Holiday Inn.
I rest my case.