A little more than three months later, Margot dressed up for her first Halloween at college. “I was super excited,” she told me last fall, smiling at the memory. Outfitted as an angel, in a white dress with delicate wings on the back, she traveled with her sorority sisters from party to party. They ended up at a familiar fraternity: Sigma Phi Epsilon. She remembers maybe having “one too many drinks.” Parts of the night are fuzzy.
At some point she began dancing with a young man—Daniel Drill-Mellum. Later that night, he raped Margot on the laundry-room floor, next to the dryer. “I remember saying, ‘NO, NO, NO!’ Then I think I reached a point where I was just like, I’m not winning this one. I’m not strong enough or coherent enough to fight him off,” she said.
Afterward, as she straightened her filthy dress and gathered up her angel wings, now detached and broken, she glanced at Drill-Mellum. He was smiling at her. He tried to take her hand and said: Let’s go back upstairs. How is he acting like this is all so normal? she wondered.
The next morning she went to the hospital, but declined a forensic exam; she worried that her parents would find out what had happened to her when they received their insurance statement. “There was a little voice in the back of my head,” Margot remembered, “saying, Well, maybe you don’t remember it right. Maybe he wasn’t as forceful as you thought.”
The following weekend, Minnesota faced off against Iowa, a notorious football rivalry. Hundreds of students celebrated the occasion in a courtyard near the university’s fraternity row. This is where Abby Honold, a junior, met Daniel Drill-Mellum. After chatting for a few minutes, he asked her to help him get more alcohol from his apartment across the street. When they arrived, the apartment was empty.
Drill-Mellum began pulling off Honold’s clothes. She panicked; she recalled hearing that if you cooperate with an assailant, he may let you go. She offered him oral sex if she could go back to the party. “And he said, ‘Okay.’ So I thought, It's going to be terrible, but I can just do this thing and then he'll let me leave,” she said. “That was the only thing I could think of in the moment that would stop me from being raped.”
It didn’t. He raped her twice and, she says, committed acts that can only be classified as torture, including choking her until she lost consciousness. Eventually she was able to escape. She ran out of the apartment building, sobbing, and as her friends gathered around her, she called 911. An ambulance came and took her to Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and Sergeant Tom Stiller from the Minneapolis Police Department arrived soon afterward. (The assault occurred off campus, outside the jurisdiction of the university.) Stiller had already interviewed Drill-Mellum. “He says it was consensual,” Honold recalled the detective informing her. “What do you have to say about that?”