PHOTO COURTESY ABC | ABOVE: A woman at the center of a Spanish Fort High School rape case told her story to ABC’s “20/20” program last week.
In a newly aired ABC “20/20” special, the survivor of an alleged rape by former Spanish Fort High School football player Cameron Harrison speaks out about the night in October 2015 that would eventually become the talk of the town.
The girl, called “Savannah” by “20/20,” talks openly on camera about what she says happened to her and the effect it’s had on her life.
Back in the fall of 2015, Spanish Fort High seniors had been celebrating the birthday of a classmate at a house party in Daphne when the crime allegedly occurred. According to those at the party, upward of 40 or 50 teens were in the house, most of them drinking alcohol, with only the occasional supervision of Cathy Roberts, a grandmother of one of the students, who eventually pleaded guilty to hosting an open house party.
Savannah, who said she didn’t know Harrison well, said she drank multiple beers and did double shots with friends. She said the last thing she remembers clearly was singing “Happy Birthday” as a group.
“There’s already a good amount of people there,” she said of the party. “They’re all drinking. In an hour I consume a crazy amount of alcohol.
“The last thing that I remember is standing in the kitchen with everybody singing ‘Happy Birthday,’” Savannah said. “It’s like I wasn’t even in my body. It’s like my head was telling me like something’s not right, but I feel myself kind of fading out, like you know, from having control of myself.”
Another student, called “Jessica” in her interview, picks up the story from there.
“All of a sudden I see someone carrying her up the stairs,” Jessica said. “It was probably four people that were carrying her up the stairs, like she was a doll, basically, like they just, like, each had like a limb. And I was like, ‘What the heck, when did this happen?’”
A video was eventually released of this moment, and Savannah can clearly be seen being carried by multiple people toward a staircase, seemingly helpless to move.
“It’s like I could hear things going on but it’s like my eyes are shut, but I could just hear everything. I just didn’t feel with it,” Savannah said. “It’s like I wasn’t even in my body. It’s like my head was telling me something’s not right,” she said. “Like I could feel myself kind of fading out from [not] having control of myself.”
Witnesses, including Jessica, say Savannah was carried up the stairs to a bedroom so she could sleep. But minutes later when Jessica came back to check on Savannah, the door was locked. Jessica and another person were able to open the door, and what they saw surprised them: Cameron Harrison and Savannah, completely naked.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. What just happened?’ Savannah, like half her body’s on the bed with, like, her arms back and then, like, half her body’s, like, draped off the bed,” Jessica said. “I started yelling at Cameron. I was, like, ‘What are you doing? Like, she’s obviously not OK right now. Like, what are you — like, why would you do that?” she said. “He was, like, ‘She wanted me to.’”
Later, Savannah would tell friends — and even Harrison himself — that she felt “taken advantage of,” but not raped.
“I was thinking like brutal, like holding, tied down, like gun to your head, tight, just very violent. That’s what I thought [rape] was,” Savannah said.
Savannah and others were arguing about this — with her friends encouraging her to report what they saw as rape — when they were overheard by a teacher, who sent Savannah to the guidance counselor.
After being explained the crime’s definition, Savannah was certain: She had been raped by Cameron Harrison.
The allegation quickly rocked Spanish Fort. Daphne police, in whose jurisdiction the house party took place, arrested Harrison for first-degree rape, and the city’s high school became a battleground: Team Savannah versus Team Cameron.
Harrison, egged on by friends who told him he needed to get his story “out there,” allegedly went to Savannah’s home to tell her parents the encounter was consensual — and short.
“[He said] he only did our daughter for five minutes … only five minutes,” Savannah’s father said on the “20/20” special. While he said his gut reaction was violence, he was able to control himself. “I told him to get the f— off my property,” Savannah’s father said.
A private investigator hired by the Harrison family denies the veracity of that story.
As the “20/20” investigation points out, however, there may never be a true ending to the case. Although former Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon had committed to prosecuting the case to the fullest extent of the law, Robert Wilters, who now fills the position, made no such promise.
In April, Harrison was granted youthful offender status, which automatically seals a case — and its conclusions — from public view. While it’s unclear what punishment was finally doled out, Harrison received no jail time, and according to his Facebook page, he has signed to play football with the Gulf Coast Prep Sports Academy as part of a post-high school graduation non-degree program.
As for Savannah, who has since moved out of Spanish Fort, she told “20/20” she now blogs about her experiences, something she hopes will help herself and others.
“It helps,” she said. “I feel strong that I can put that out there. I wanted to have a voice. I wanted people to see that I’m just a normal teenage girl who’s, you know, living just a teenage life.”