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Former USF student who started social media movement on sex assault allegations speaks out

Local News

Courtesy of Chelsea Engel

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The former University of South Florida student at the center of a social media sexual assault allegations movement spoke to 8 On Your Side and shared her story.

Chelsea Engel, 23, said she graduated from USF in May of 2019.

It was in 2017 that Engel claims she was sexually assaulted at an apartment near campus. The man who did it, Engel said, was a USF student and a member of a USF fraternity.

“This is something that’s been going on in the Greek community for a long time, and nobody talked about it,” Engel said.

On June 23, Engel posted her story on Twitter. In the days following, her story gained traction, then other USF students, both current and former, also spoke out on the platform.

“I lost my hope,” one person wrote. “I lost a huge part of myself.”

A Twitter handle called USF Survivors was created shortly thereafter. It recounts stories of sexual assault and battery.

When speaking to 8 On Your Side, Engel shared the details of her encounter.

“He was trying to convince me that it was totally consensual,” she said of the alleged attacker. “I told him that it definitely wasn’t. He was talking to me like nothing was wrong,” she said.

Engel said she confronted the man, but he was and remains in denial.

On Thursday, when 8 On Your Side first reported the dozens of posts by USF students, the university sounded off. The USF president, dismayed by the stories, vowed to bring change and said he will gauge the climate on campus.

University leaders plan to reach out to various organizations, including fraternities and sororities, to discuss the stories and the fallout.

They will also closely examine their internal procedures, the USF president said.

“What is providing barriers to reporting? Because many of the reports that were on social media, we have never heard of,” said Danielle McDonald, Ph.D., the dean of students at USF. “So what are those barriers that are there? How do we address them? How do we remove those barriers?”

As USF begins its fact-finding mission, Engel will keep at it online, sharing her story and hoping other victims also come forward.

“Honestly, I really didn’t expect it,” she said of the outpouring of responses and similar stories. “In my post I even said I don’t know what’s gonna come of this.”

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