Woman says that if she were white, Caltrain conductor would have been charged with sex assault

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

The woman who has filed a claim saying she was sexually assaulted by a Caltrain conductor said yesterday (July 4) that if she were white, San Mateo County prosecutors would have found enough evidence to bring criminal charges against her assailant, who is white.

Odalys Vallejo, who is Mexican, believes that were she white, or if her assailant were black or Latino, the case would have gone to court. Vallejo, 22, consented to her name being used in the paper.

“The court system is built to serve white men and many cases like mine are swept under the rug,” Vallejo told the Post yesterday. “People do not take women seriously and things like this are, like, normalized.”

Vallejo says she was on her way home to Mountain View after a night of bar-hopping with friends on April 19, 2017, when she was assaulted by a blond Caltrain conductor. After getting off of work in San Francisco, she had some beers with friends at a few bars, smoked some marijuana and took a Lyft to the Caltrain station.

Vallejo said she doesn’t really remember the time between getting to the station and waiting at her train’s platform. Since she took the train everyday, Vallejo suspects that despite being blacked-out, she went on “autopilot” and bought her train ticket.

At the platform, Vallejo said three Caltrain employees were talking. Vallejo says she knew the men were leering at her while she was waiting for the train to arrive.

Vallejo got into an empty train car, and either dozed off or passed out, she says. The next thing she remembers is hearing keys and seeing the conductor sitting in front of her and he began talking to her.

Vallejo doesn’t remember what the two talked about, but does remember that her sentences did not make sense and she was slurring her speech.

She said she felt pain after the ordeal

After talking with the conductor, Vallejo remembers being in another part of the train, and getting felt up by the conductor. She does not know if the conductor raped her, but said after the assault, she was in pain.

The next morning, Vallejo told her cousin what happened and went to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, where a rape kit showed evidence of vaginal tearing and male DNA.

Vallejo said after that, she worked with a detective for the sheriff’s office, who was very responsive and kept her up to date regarding her case.

Vallejo’s case was dropped after a prosecutor from the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the security camera footage and decided she did not appear to meet the legal standard for being too intoxicated to consent to sexual activity.

The standard for prosecution

Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti told the Post last week that a person would have to be “on the brink of passing out and cannot make decisions, can’t function, can’t take care of themselves.”

“It’s different than a person who makes decisions that they later regret because they were intoxicated,” Guidotti said. “I don’t deny that a person can still feel like a victim because she probably feels that she was exploited or taken advantage of, and she may have been. But that’s not the legal standard that we have to meet.”

If an adult isn’t unconscious, falling-down drunk or otherwise incapable of consenting, prosecutors can only charge a sexual assailant if they used force or fear to initiate sexual activity.

Vallejo takes issue with the standard — saying that a lot of the time, when people are blackout drunk, meaning they don’t remember anything, they appear to be acting normally.

While the conductor hasn’t worked for Transit America Services Inc., which operates Caltrain service under contract, since Vallejo first reported the assault, that’s a small drop in the bucket for Vallejo — who points out that many women take Caltrain while drunk.

Claim filed

After the assault, Vallejo quit her job in San Francisco and lives in San Jose now. As to whether she still takes the train — Vallejo said she hasn’t since quitting her job and doubts she will take it ever again.

Vallejo has filed a claim for damages against Caltrain, which is still pending.

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