When a 23-year-old woman told police she was sexually assaulted in a port-a-potty at Wrigley Field last summer, security at the ballpark was increased, police issued a community warning and the incident was widely covered in the media.
It turns out the story is more complicated — and fears of a predator lurking around the stadium were unfounded.
Footage from ballpark security cameras did not match the woman’s account, according to police reports obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times through the Freedom of Information Act. When confronted, she recanted and told detectives she had agreed to meet a man in the port-a-potty for a sexual encounter, according to the reports.
The port-a-potty was in a fenced area accessible to concertgoers near Gate R at the ballpark.
Initially, the woman told police a man had groped her at a July 29, 2018, Foo Fighters concert then followed her into the port-a-potty — where she sought refuge — before she could lock the door.
After recanting that story, the woman maintained that she was indeed sexually assaulted because the sex got too rough, and the man did not stop when she told him to stop.
Sarah Laydon, director of programs and public policy at Resilience, an advocacy group for survivors of sexual assault, said there are several reasons the woman might have provided the initial account to police, none of which should take away from the part of her story that did not change: She said stop, and the man didn’t.
“It sounds like her biggest fear was: ‘If law enforcement finds out that this started out as a consensual sexual encounter, then police will discredit me altogether,’” Laydon said.
“Fear of being shamed for taking part in what started out as a consensual encounter can also be a powerful factor,” she said. “The truth of the matter is that nothing glamorous happened to this survivor for coming forward.”
According to the police reports, detectives considered arresting the woman and pursuing charges for filing a false police report, but they decided not to because “it is still possible she was sexually assaulted inside the port-a-potty in that she asked the male to stop once he became too rough, and he did not.”
A tip from the public led detectives to a man who looked similar to the one seen leaving the port-a-potty in video footage. Police placed a picture of the man in a photo lineup, but the woman dismissed him as the possible offender, according to the police report.
Detectives suspended the case — meaning they are no longer actively investigating — pending further evidence.
The Cubs left in place for the rest of the summer the additional security measures that were prompted by the woman’s startling account, even after officials within the organization learned days after the incident that her story was not completely true.
“Given this was an ongoing police investigation involving an alleged sexual assault in the ballpark we had no choice but to make sure our fans felt safe, so we maintained our security posture,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. “Our fans should never question whether their personal or family’s safety has been compromised while enjoying a baseball game or concert.”
The Cubs never publicized the fact that what was initially portrayed as a random and brazen rape at Wrigley Field was, in fact, more complicated.
“It’s not our role to provide additional context or details; that would be up to police to determine. Our role would be to support and cooperate with the investigation any way we could,” Green said.