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Alleged rape victim says University of Miami cares more about reputation than safety

Student describes system to deal with allegations of rape as dysfunctional

University of Miami student Angela Cameron, left, and UM President Donna Shalala plan to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss the procedural treatment of students alleging they were victims of rape.
University of Miami student Angela Cameron, left, and UM President Donna Shalala plan to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss the procedural treatment of students alleging they were victims of rape.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – A 21-year-old alleged rape victim's online petition for justice had about 5,260 signatures Wednesday.

University of Miami student Angela Cameron, who is also a beauty pageant queen, was getting worldwide attention. She told Local 10 News on Monday night that while she was experiencing both physical and emotional pain, she encountered a system that was not only extremely disorganized, but lacked compassion.

Cameron said she was hoping that her Tuesday afternoon meeting with UM President Donna Shalala was going to result in "a positive change." She said she wants the outgoing president to make sure that students coming forward with allegations of rape were taken more seriously and for accused attackers to be punished more severely.

"I am terrified," Cameron said about having to run into the UM student whom she claims changed her life forever April 11, 2014. She feels the panic, she said, even after having secured a temporary restraining order against him.

Dr. Katharine Westaway, a member of UM's Coalition on Sexual Violence Prevention and Education, said Monday that Cameron was not alone. Her case was  not the first and only one that had resulted in an injustice, she said.

Westaway said she finds it frustrating that when it comes to allegations of rape and sexual assault, the school is more concerned about its reputation than about protecting students. Cameron said she agrees.

"The school claims it's making positive change on the sexual assault problem through its Presidents Task Force on Sexual Violence Prevention and Education," Westaway said. "But the school never spent a dime on that task force; it was a small donation given by a donor."

'THE NIGHT I WAS RAPED'

Cameron said she has talked about her experience dozens of times now. And when she tells the story, she said, sometimes she gets "really upset," and sometimes she feels angry or numb. But it always replays in her head, she said.

Cameron said she met her attacker in a theater class. The two acted sexually explicit scenes of a play called "The Blue Room." She played a prostitute. He was a pimp. And the sexual tension led to consensual sex, she said.

On that "awful" Friday night, she accepted an invitation to help out with a film that "was pretty much a party with a bunch of cameras." And "that was the first time I was ever drunk," Cameron said.  She was 20.

She said she remembers stumbling to his place, his roommates giggling, being in the bathroom sick and taking off her top. She remembers him coming in to check up on her and telling her to clean herself up and get into bed. She took off her skirt and got in his bed, she said.

"When I woke up he was getting off me and my underwear was on the floor," she said.  "If you are too drunk you can't consent. I had been passed out." Earlier when she was awake, she remembers telling him "'No!' I blatantly said, 'No, I can't.'"

She said she experienced "acute shock" for about a week. And the physical pain followed.

Elizabeth Amore, the executive director of media relations at UM, said Wednesday in an e-mail that she could not comment on Cameron's meeting with Shalala, because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prohibits the improper disclosure of personally identifiable information derived from education records. 

UM also issued a news release titled "Update from the Coalition on Sexual Violence Prevention and Education" reminding the media that the former UM president formed a coalition that included 30 faculty members and 25 students and that UM has a 24-hour hotline.

"While we have done much over the past year, we know there is always more that can be done," the news release said.

Cameron said she was not raped on campus, but in a South Miami apartment. And while UM suspended the alleged attacker for a semester, she said he should have been expelled. She also has encountered a lot of ignorance from both police and university administrators about what the definition of rape is, she said.

"If you are too drunk you can't consent," she said. Before she "passed out," she said she remembers she "told him 'No!'

"I blatantly said, 'No, I can't.'"

The student Cameron accuses of rape said Tuesday that he has hired an attorney and that there are plenty of reasons for others to doubt her story. Cameron filed a report May 3, 2014, with the South Miami Police Department, and officers decided not to pursue the case against the student.

Cameron told South Miami police that she had been having sex with her attacker for about a month. She took off her top and skirt willingly and got in to bed with him. After he had sex without her consent during a blackout Friday night, she told police that she had consensual sex with him Saturday morning.

A Miami-Dade County sexual battery unit detective decided that she would not be meeting with Cameron, because the two students had "been having consensual sex and especially after [Cameron] wanting to have sex" even "after she didn't want to before," the police report said.

Also, rape victims are responsible for seeking medical attention to get a rape kit, a medical exam that is turned over to authorities and used as forensic evidence to deal with cases. Cameron didn't have a rape kit. 

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Police officers from UM, South Miami, Coral Gables and Miami-Dade were not allowed to discuss the documented case.

A South Miami police officer said that without a rape kit, it's "almost impossible" to file charges. A Miami-Dade police officer said that "intimate partner violence" is very common in Miami, because many migrants come from countries where marital rape in not illegal and where being raped is so shameful that victims keep it private.

POLICE REPORT: April 11, 2004 report involving UM students

Meanwhile, during the process, Cameron said that she had to see her attacker in school. She was experiencing depression, anxiety and was also suffering from a "dull" back pain that was getting worse and worse, she said.

"It got to the point that it hurt so much, I couldn't ignore it," she said. "I had an MRI. The doctor asked if I had been through a trauma. He said I had suffered an injury while being twisted violently."

Cameron said she was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event. And despite all of the suffering and obstacles, Cameron's social media activism began three months after the alleged rape.

Westaway, a professor who has become a victim advocate at UM, said she was a sexual assault victim. It took her two decades to report that she had been victimized at an athletic dorm at the University of Tennessee.

Cameron "is not your usual victim," Westaway said. "She was fast at getting her story out there. She is truly exceptional. I couldn't be more proud."

Cameron said that what prompted her to form the "Break The Silence: End Sexual Assault" community page on Facebook was that, while competing in the Miss America System, she was required to choose a "good pageant platform" and that meant that she needed to find a cause that she felt passionate about.

ACTIVISM 'TO COPE'

Cameron had a Facebook page that she had used to bring attention to animal abuse since 2013. On July 7, 2014, she changed the page's cover to a black poster with a turquoise ribbon that read, "Break The Silence."

The hash tag is often used on social media to encourage people to share their personal traumatic experiences.

In September, Cameron had a wheelchair that she said a friend covered with rhinestones. She said she sprained her ankle during a fall. This was because of issues with her balance that she said she has been having  because of injuries (her pelvis was misaligned and she developed spinal stenosis) during the alleged rape.

Cameron wore her crown and a 2014 Miami-Dade County forestry pageant sash. And she smiled as she greeted students behind a table on campus with a sign that read "September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day."

For Sept. 11, she wore a T-shirt with a U.S. flag and posted photos of cookies, doughnuts and chocolate goodies that she took to the UM Police Department. 

And later that month, she stood behind yet another table on campus with tank tops similar to the "Got Milk?" campaign. The tops, meant to raise awareness, said "Got Consent?" in white.

In December, she smiled for a group photo for the Miss University of Miami scholarship pageant, which she didn't win. And a few days later, she talked to UM's newspaper, The Miami Hurricane, about the alleged rape.

Most recently, she talked about her experience during a Women's and Gender Studies Department event April 21. Westaway talked to a Miami Herald reporter, and that same day, "UM Needs To Do More For Rape Victims" was published. The Miami New Times published a link to the petition Friday.

When The International Business Time took notice of her story Monday, the petition had 4,300 signatures. There were about 5,120 signatures when a local TV station aired an interview with her Tuesday, and Wednesday the Daily Mail also reported her story.

Westaway and a group of UM students who also want change said they were doing everything in their power to support Cameron.

Friends of the student who is being accused of rape said he is planning on moving to Los Angeles after his graduation in May. They added that the aspiring actor and film director said Cameron was lying for attention. UM found him responsible of rape/sexual assault and intimate partner violence, Westaway said.

"There are a lot of other things I could do to get attention," Cameron said. "Nobody wants this kind of attention. Nobody wants to be known as a girl that was raped. I know it's my word against his, but I was raised to do the right thing and I just want UM to do the right thing."

SOCIAL MEDIA:  Have you have been a victim of criminal sexual conduct on campus? Send an e-mail to Share@Local10.com

Follow Local10.com reporter Andrea Torres on Twitter @MiamiCrime

Local 10 News' Call Christina investigative team's intern Carlee Rasner contributed to this story.  She is a UM student.