éThe new waiter brought the women their fish tacos and margaritas, and the group of young mothers celebrated the final evening of their retreat to the ritzy Esperanza, a luxury five-star resort in Cabo San Lucas.
After dinner, the group brought their drinks onto the porch of the three-bedroom villa, overlooking the Pacific ocean, while one East Bay married mother of two went to bed early.
As she slept in the bedroom, about 30 to 40 feet away from her friends, the waiter sneaked into the room and sexually assaulted her as she slept, according to a lawsuit filed Oct. 30.
“I woke up. I was confused, thinking I was having a dream with somebody’s fingers inside of me,” said the woman, a doctor who wished to remain anonymous in her recounting of the Nov. 13, 2016 alleged assault. “I was very disoriented, as I was kind of coming to and he said something like: ‘It was part of the service.’ ”
The waiter pulled his hand away and reached for his belt to take off his pants, but the sound of the other women returning into the villa scared him off, the lawsuit alleges.
The alleged attack and what happened in the following days and months has left the woman in her 30s feeling helpless, depressed and thirsting for justice. Her story illustrates the frustrations many Americans have encountered when crime occurs at Mexican resorts, where staff members seem unconcerned and law enforcement unresponsive. The woman said she expected far more from an expensive resort that once hosted President Barack Obama during a G-20 summit and Jay-Z and Beyoncéé on a vacation getaway.
The East Bay woman has chosen to speak out publicly to prevent it from happening to anyone else.
“It’s important to do as a warning and as a survivor to tell my story that this can happen to anyone and anywhere,” she said. “It was pretty devastating. It was hard to pinpoint one way. It’s affected my relationship with my family, friendships, I have more anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, I’m afraid to go on vacation. It’s really affected everything in my life.”
The woman‘s suit alleges Esperanza’s parent company, Marin County-based Auberge Resorts, was negligent in its hiring of the waiter, its handling of the case and its treatment of her. The lawsuit includes screenshots of sexually suggestive Facebook posts from the waiter’s public account, including one from May 2015 where he wrote: “I love being the bad guy that everyone falls in love with, and if I admit it I have no heart, however I have perversion.”
Auberge confirmed it had been served with the complaint and intended to “defend itself appropriately.”
“The safety and welfare of our guests and staff is our highest priority,” the company said in a statement. “While we do not comment on pending litigation, we take this matter seriously and acted in accordance with our policies and procedures. We hold ourselves to the highest standards, including maintaining a zero tolerance policy for any type of harassment, with the goal of providing a safe and comfortable environment for all our guests and staff.”
Repeated phone attempts to reach investigators at the Cabo tourist police office were unsuccessful. One officer said all the employees who worked in the office when the alleged assault occurred have since transferred or left the station. Questions were also sent to Mexican authorities by mail.
It was Nov. 10, 2016, when the six girlfriends flew to Cabo for a four-night stay at the famous resort.
“We had a beautiful villa. Very luxurious. Probably more than any of us were used to,” the woman said in an hour-long interview in her East Bay living room. “For the most part, we just relaxed. It was a great sort of girl bonding.”
On their last night, the women decided to get dressed up for a final dinner inside their villa. Their normal waiter left for the day at 5 p.m., and they ate dinner around 7 p.m. The replacement waiter brought shots of tequila, even though the women did not order the drinks, the lawsuit alleges.
The women ordered s’mores around 9 p.m., after the victim had gone to her room to sleep. The waiter delivered the dessert, then sneaked into her bedroom where he assaulted her, the lawsuit alleges.
“I was kind of in shock. I didn’t really quite understand what had happened or why, so I came running out,” the woman said.
Her friends called the front desk and asked for security staff. After a knock on the door, the woman found the hotel had sent the same waiter to help them. Two of the women confronted him outside.
“(The waiter), wringing his hands and appearing nervous, admitted what he had done, saying, ‘Yes, I know. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,’ ” the lawsuit alleges.
Later, the night manager came to the villa and interviewed the woman and her friends. But he also told them police would not respond to the resort, the lawsuit alleges.
The incident echoes the many stories related in an August investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which found that American and Canadian tourists victimized in crimes at Mexican resorts received limited cooperation in any investigation.
That report found dozens of robberies, assaults and deaths at Mexican resorts, some involving apparently tainted alcohol or black-outs by the victims. That’s where the East Bay woman’s story differs. She remembers almost everything.
“Travelers who choose accommodations like those in the Auberge collection do so in part because they expect and trust they will be safe within the walls of those resorts,” the woman’s attorney, Paul Llewellyn, said. “Unfortunately, Auberge had no concern for the safety of my client, and its failure to take action following the incident raises serious questions about the safety of its future guests.”
For the Esperanza victim, her horrifying experience had only just begun. Eventually, her friends summoned the resort’s general manager, and he assured the women the incident would be investigated thoroughly and that the waiter would be fired, according to the lawsuit.
But the next morning, hotel staff told the women that if the victim did not go to the police station herself, the waiter would return to work the following day, the lawsuit alleges.
“I can’t just let him come back to work and let this happen to someone else,” she recalled thinking at the time. So, the women rode an hour away to a police station. Multiple investigators interviewed the victim, a rape kit was completed, and a psychologist gave her a mental examination, she said.
“It felt very public, and I had to go through the whole thing over and over again,” she said.
By the end, the women had missed their flights. The hotel arranged for them to stay another night and booked them a private charter flight home.
Initially, after she returned home, the woman received a couple emails from the hotel and authorities, she said, but for months since there has been no response to inquiries. The last she heard from a Cabo source was that the waiter was not charged, but she’s received nothing definitive, she said.
“It feels like there’s nothing I can do and they just sort of swept the whole thing under the rug,” the woman said. “I want justice, but I don’t feel like I can get it.”