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Woman Sues After Bar Employees Allegedly Watched as Sexual Assault Took Place

Sexual assault workplace harassment form

A woman has filed a lawsuit against a Chicago bar after employees stood by and watched as she was allegedly sexually assaulted. A surveillance camera captured 40 minutes of video footage that shows a woman, currently identified as Jane Doe in court documents, being forced out the back door of the El Hefe bar as a man grabs her neck and leads her down the alleyway. According to The Washington Post, several minutes elapse between the time of the alleged assault and when employees eventually approach the woman.

Two men believed to be bar staff members can be seen in the video footage. They remain by the door, conversing and smoking cigarettes as the woman is led farther down the alley by the man. The men casually glance down the alley several times in the direction of where the man and woman can be seen in the distance. As the man and woman appear to argue near a group of trash bins, the two employees continue looking back and forth, but never intervene. As the alleged assault is reportedly taking place, the employees are joined by a third staff member.

An unidentified individual reportedly called paramedics, and the unconscious woman was eventually taken to a local hospital. Doctors determined she had been sexually assaulted.

The assault victim is suing the El Hefe business, alleging that the bar’s staff failed to protect her. Attorney Brian Monico, who is representing the woman, believes she may have been drugged. He stated publicly she “deteriorated very quickly” after arriving at the bar on October 18th. Monico also stated that a man allegedly made sexual advances towards the victim after she became separated from a friend. The man is reported to have continued to pursue the woman aggressively throughout the night, even after she had vomited. 

PINews reached out to a former sex crimes prosecutor, Samuel Dordulian, of the Dordulian Law Group in Glendale, CA, to get a perspective on what sort of charges the perpetrator as well as the bar employees could be facing. Calling the incident “Another tragic story of sexual assault,” Dordulian added, “The perpetrator absolutely should be prosecuted…As a former Deputy District Attorney with the Los Angeles County DA’s office, I have prosecuted many similar situations. I recall a very similar case where a survivor was drugged and carried out of a Los Angeles-area bar. The club’s bouncer even opened the door for the assailant, who carried the victim to his car and eventually raped her.”  

Concerning the bar employees, Dordulian said, “As awful and despicable as it was to have this bar’s employees simply watch as this woman was sexually assaulted, it is unlikely they would face criminal charges. In order to have any criminal liability, they would have had to aid and abet in the crime. Standing guard or being a lookout while such a crime took place would qualify. But if they weren’t assisting the perpetrator in this case by acting as lookouts, they would not have any criminal liability (at least not in California).”

Dordulian stressed, however, that the bar employees, and certainly the business itself, could be open to civil lawsuits. He stated, “…from the civil prospective, it’s different. As a guest and patron of a bar, we each have a reasonable expectation that we will be protected from harm by the bar staff. That clearly was not done in this case. In fact, in the face of a clear danger, these employees chose to do nothing. For that, the bar should be held liable for the negligent conduct of their employees, and for the clear failure of the bar to properly train and supervise their staff. The survivor in this case would then be entitled to both economic damages (out of pocket expenses, like medical bills) and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.” Dordulian also added, “For survivors of sexual assault, unfortunately, the pain and memory can last a lifetime.”  

From his time as Deputy District Attorney for LA County, working as a sex crimes prosecutor, to currently representing plaintiffs in such cases, Dordulian stated that if he were handling the case, he would be confident in obtaining justice in the form of a settlement on behalf of the unnamed victim. He noted, “I believe in this current age of awareness, juries are able to understand why these bar employees (and the bar) need to be held accountable. Gone are the days where we could just look the other way, as they seem to have done in this case. Our society today, thankfully, demands more from individuals and businesses to protect people from sexual assault and abuse, especially when it’s so open and obvious.”

Chicago Police are investigating the sexual assault allegations. A suspect has yet to be identified, although the woman’s lawyers believe the suspect is either employed by the bar, or is known to someone employed there. 

If you have been affected by sexual violence, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.