By: Samantha DiBona
In March 2011, a 14-year-old girl went to her local shopping mall with her best friend. They soon met up with a boy she had met at the outpatient mental health program she had begun attending. He led her away from her friend, into the parking lot and grounds area of the mall, where he physically assaulted and raped her for 45-60 minutes. She continually screamed and cried out for help throughout the attack, but no mall or security personnel discovered or reacted to the danger. None attempted to warn others, stop the attack, intervene, assist or protect her from being harmed.
Adding on to this tragedy, this mall already had prior issues with this exact perpetrator, banning him from the premises entirely. However, they failed to provide an adequate number of security cameras, surveillance measures, or security personnel to actually enforce such a ban, thereby placing every shopper at risk.
In fact, in April of 2011, just one month later, another 14-year-old girl would be victimized by the same boy, also on the mall’s property. This girl hardly knew him, was simply waiting for her mother to pick her up from the mall after her friend had been picked up by her own mother moments prior. She didn’t want to be alone, so she walked with him to pass the time as her mother was on her way. The boy lured her out to the parking lot and grounds area, where he shoved her to the ground and raped her as she cried and yelled for help, kicking him and trying to push him off of her. She returned to the mall after the assault, crying and visibly disheveled. Mall personnel who interacted with her still did not intervene or inquire about the situation.
A few years later, mental health professionals, through therapy, discovered that she had this traumatic experience and reported it to police. Much like his prior victim, she suffered lacerations, bruising, and physical trauma from the incident, alongside long-term issues such as PTSD, major depressive disorder, anxiety-related symptoms such as POTS syndrome, self esteem issues, suicidal ideations, recurring nightmares from the attack, and intense distress at the thought of public places and crowds. Both victims underwent medical attention and care, expended significant sums of money to treat issues resulting from or exacerbated by their attacks, and severely lost earnings as they had difficulty obtaining and maintaining employment in the years afterward.
Combined, these two cases against the mall and their security company resulted in a $3.8 Million settlement. As a condition of the settlement, the mall was required to put up additional security cameras and strengthen their security presence. All customers– children and adults alike– should be able to feel safe when they go to the mall. For this reason, the mall and its security company had to be held accountable alongside the physical perpetrator of the crime. These girls deserved justice, and hopefully the retelling of their stories and the settlement against the mall will prevent any such tragedy from occurring there again.