Content Warning: This story contains information regarding sexual assault.
Gina Duong was sexually assaulted by Gilberto Jijon in her on-campus apartment at Vista del Campo (VDC) on Oct. 26, 2020. The assault occurred on the night of Duong’s 19th birthday, after a surprise party thrown by her close friends Elena Bock, Arielle Domingo, Anthony Antonyan and Jijon himself. Nine months later, it has been determined by UCI that Jijon has served a fair amount of his 12 month suspension and is fit to return to campus fall 2022.
Both second year social policy and public service majors, Duong and Jijon shared a close friend group and were housemates at the time Jijon assaulted Doung. They, along with Bock, Domingo and Antonyan became acquainted in fall 2019 through their freshman dorm, Jardin, in Mesa Court.
The New University was able to speak with Duong and three witnesses — Bock, Domingo and Antonyan — for further comment regarding the case.
“I didn’t think he would be capable of doing something like that by looking back. There are a ton of red flags that we just kind of glossed over,” Antonyan, roommate and friend to Duong, said.
During their time together, the three witnesses said that they had noticed these “red flags,” such as Jijon’s tendency to act in a sexually suggestive manner with the females within their friend group. According to witnesses, Jijon would carry out these sexually suggestive actions, such as stroking his female friend’s hair, lifting them over his shoulder without their consent and making salacious comments. Although these red flags gave Bock, Domingo, Antonyan and Duong pause, they ultimately trusted Jijon due to his friendly and non-threatening demeanor.
“I really genuinely worry about the safety of everyone on this campus because I thought he was one of my best friends,” Duong said. “If he was capable of manipulating me, and I knew him for a whole year, who is to say that other women on this campus aren’t in danger?”
On Duong’s 19th birthday, Jijon, Domingo and Antonyan, along with other neighboring friends, had a get-together at Duong’s apartment in celebration.
“We started drinking. My roommate, [Domingo], did not drink at all because she had a midterm the next day. So she was sober … She and I ended up leaving at around midnight to go out to our apartment. I was really drunk … and [Jijon] was trying to pressure me to spend the night in his bed. He was like, oh, you can crash in my room,” Bock said.
Bock said no and left the apartment with Domingo, who had stayed sober, to their shared apartment in Plaza Verde. Duong, Jijon and Antonyan remained in the VDC apartment.
Directly after the assault, Antonyan responded to cries from Duong’s room, initially unaware of what had transpired between his two roommates. Antonyan responded by creating a separation between Jijon and Duong, telling Jijon to shut his bedroom door while he went to comfort Duong. It was then that Antonyan had learned of the assault.
Domingo received a call from Duong, in which she said that Jijon had assaulted her in his bed when she was inebriated and asleep. Duong, who according to Domingo was obviously shaken, had asked her friend what to do following the assault. Domingo suggested that Duong call UCIPD, and Jijon was arrested shortly after. Jijon was released from custody the following morning.
“I feel like it could have easily been me. I feel like it was entirely circumstantial, that it just happened to be [Duong],” Bock said.
An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) was issued on Oct. 26 by UCIPD. UCIPD then notified the UCI Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (OEOD) of the assault on Oct. 27. The notification was shortly followed by Duong with a request for an official investigation to be conducted on Oct. 28.
Duong was able to receive an emergency protective order (EPO), which is equivalent to a temporary restraining order, against Jijon once it became clear that UCIPD’s involvement would not extend beyond the ongoing investigation. Antonyan and Duong were moved into a temporary apartment for two weeks following the EPO. During this time, Jijon was asked to clear out all his belongings.
Although Duong had the relief of the EPO, she described having a heightened sense of anxiety due to the prospect of Jijon being able to re-enter the apartment that they once shared to obtain his belongings. For this reason, she requested that she and Antonyan be moved into a temporary apartment away from the scene of the assault to avoid the possibility of facing Jijon again.
In accordance with the UC’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH) Policy, which was implemented on Aug. 14, 2020 in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s Title IX regulations, a grievance process was initiated on Nov. 13, 2020.
The grievance process was not completed until April 26, 2021. Duong took her experiences public in hopes of gaining the attention of UCI and convincing the school to permanently expel Jijon. She created a petition, which has garnered much support and attention via social media. The Instagram post of the petition has over 20,000 likes and over 800 comments, and the petition itself has received almost 35,000 signatures, which is more than the undergraduate population of 29,638 students at UCI.
According to Duong’s Instagram post caption, which was addressed directly to UCI, “You wasted 6 months investigating how much I drank that night — as if that would somehow justify what he did to me — instead of investigating what really mattered.”
The investigation resulted in the decision to suspend Jijon for 12 months, allowing him to return to campus in fall 2022.
“I expressed to you REPEATEDLY how concerned I was for my own safety and how concerned I was for the other femmes on this campus … You know we felt that our safety was in danger, and you have the audacity to allow him to return to campus after just one year?” Duong wrote in her Instagram caption.
According to data analyzed by the Huffington Post from 2011 to 2013, less than one-third of sexual assault cases on college campuses result in the explusion of the assaulter.
In a 2020 report by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), “[a]lmost one in four undergraduate women experienced sexual assault or misconduct at 33 of the nation’s major universities.” UCI is included in the NSVRC’s listed 33 major universities.
As reported in the UCI and UCI Health 2020 Annual Security Report, which contains 2020-2021 policy information and crime statistics from 2017 to 2019, there were 14 total rapes in 2017, 18 total rapes in 2018 and 16 total rapes in 2019, most of which occured in on-campus student housing. The report also detailed that there were two cases of fondling in 2017, 14 cases of fondling in 2018 and 14 in 2019.
According to the UCI and UCI Health 2020 Annual Security Report in the Prohibited Conduct
Section, “[c]onduct that meets the definition of both sexual assault-contact and sexual assault- penetration with be charged as sexual assault- penetration.”
Throughout the grievance process, Duong and Jijon were placed under a “No Contact Order” which specified that “[they] are not permitted to contact or communicate with [each other] … Furthermore, [they] are not to attempt to monitor, gather or share information about [each other].” While the contact order remains in place to this day, the wording was modified on June 4 to replace “monitor, gather, or share information” with the terms “monitor or gather information.”
On June 4, 2021, Duong posted a brief statement on her Instagram sent to her by UCI’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Willie L. Banks. In the letter, Banks stated that the respondent, Jijon, “accepted full responsibility for his conduct” by admitting his behavior and by complying with the consequences of his actions.
According to Banks, the “sanction the Respondent received was proportionate to the Preliminary Determination.” The charge for Jijon’s actions carries a suspension for one calendar year, disciplinary probation, along with supporting documents and meetings upon return to campus. In fall 2022, Jijon will be allowed to enroll and attend classes at UC Irvine.
“We’re angry. We want something better, a suspension for a year is not enough, and I think the cherry on top of this is the fact that they’re still allowing him to be a student here is on its own awful. But also continuing to be a public policy major here at UCI,” Antonyan said. “That’s a profession that people who have been abused, people who have been marginalized, oppressed, are going to benefit from. How is he in any way supposed to do that if he’s part of the problem? It makes no sense.”
“I will never understand why you went to the ends of the Earth to protect him, to stick by him after you’ve heard what it’s caused me and other students when you could’ve used that energy doing your job,” Duong wrote on an Instagram story post on June 8. “All my healing those 6 months after, all the therapy, the tears, the weeks at a time in bed was in the hopes that you’d do your [job].”
The New University reached out to Jijon for a statement, to which he declined to comment in keeping with the “No Contact Order” issued between himself and Duong. The VDC Housing Office, OEOD, and UCIPD declined to comment on the case. UCI Care could not be reached for comment.
Dhanika Pineda is a 2021-2022 Campus News Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sydney Charles is a 2020-2021 Campus News Editor. She can be reached at email@example.com
Tatum Larsen is a 2020-2021 Campus News Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org