College student shares story of reporting sexual assault, trial, and closure
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - After a rape case went to trial this fall and a district court judge ruled the evidence didn’t show beyond a reasonable doubt the accused committed the crime, the college student who reported the events said she felt the court system failed her. In an exclusive interview with Your News Leader the Bismarck woman is now sharing her story... what it was like taking the case to trial and why she’s still glad she came forward.
When Sydney Dollinger was recruited to play soccer at Minot State, she, like any college freshman, was eager to make new friends, learn new things and become more independent.
“When [the recruiter] called me, I was a senior in high school, so I was like, ‘oh my gosh this is so exciting,” said Sydney Dollinger.
“She was so focused when she started college. She had such a particular plan lined out for herself, so I was excited to watch her reach those goals and continue to grow,” said Sydney’s mother Susan Dollinger.
Not long into her first semester she took a trip to NDSU to catch up with friends also starting their college careers.
“It was an innocent little gathering, just drinking and catching up with girlfriends,” said Sydney.
That’s when everything changed.
“I knew that just with all the pain and the bruises and the blood, and all the physical pain I was in, I had been raped,” said Sydney.
She said she told a professor, her parents, and the police. That’s what kicked off two years of legal battles.
“I was a criminal justice student, so I knew very, very vaguely what I was going to get myself into. But I was scared. I was absolutely terrified,” said Sydney.
“She was just 18, just barely 18 when she went to college. So, as an adult in the eyes of the system she had to do all of the advocacy herself,” said Susan.
“It’s absolutely excruciating to have no control. You know the only thing you want to do is protect your kids and make sure they are happy and healthy,” added Susan.
Her parents, and the attorney she got under Marsy’s Law, supported her through each hoop in the legal system as the case became complex. She said her name was published in court documents and her personal life was put on display.
“It was hard. Each time had its own battle, its own set of tears, its own screams. But every time I prevailed through it,” said Sydney.
Her family, friends, and dogs were there for other tribulations too, as she quit soccer and moved home to Bismarck.
“When something like this happens everybody asks, ‘what can we do, what can we do?’ And there isn’t anything except love her and believe her and support her,” said Susan.
If she went back in time, Sydney says, while it’s been extremely tough, she’d still make the report.
“I think wanting that justice and wanting to make sure that other women don’t have to face what I do would prevail, but it is so hard on you,” said Sydney.
As she looked back at pictures from before the ordeal, she said she’s hopeful again for the future. The outcome of the trial wasn’t what she wanted but she said it was closure.
Sydney added that her future might include a career in law enforcement to help others in similar situations.
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