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Columbia MBA Says She Was Drugged & Raped By Classmate

A friend helped Brehm into a cab and back to her apartment after the fall


She wrote the letter on her laptop while in a plane, flying from her hometown of Houston, where she visited her parents, to New York. Before Brehm landed at LaGuardia Airport late in the morning of Nov. 7, she had heard from many of the MBA students in her cluster. “I got an outpouring of responses from my classmates expressing their concern,” she says. “I heard from two additional women on the flight who believed they were drugged and another that evening. At least one other woman had sustained a concussion in a fall.”

While inflight, she also heard from Dean Crawford who had initially reached out to Brehm on Oct. 31, six days after she first reported the drugging incident to the university’s Gender Based Misconduct Office. Writing the email to her classmates, Brehm believes, was “one of the bravest things I have ever done because I admitted to my classmates that I had been sexually assaulted. I had no doubts about it. I did not accuse anyone by name then, even though I knew who had drugged and attacked me. But I wanted to gather as much information as I could before accusing him.”

The party at the trendy Jane Hotel in the West Village on Oct. 22  was meant to be a celebratory affair, a time to blow off steam after the mid-term exams for the first-year MBA class. This was an “unofficial” CBS social, meaning it was organized by the students who arranged for the private party in the boutique hotel’s first floor ballroom, something of a millennial playground with stuffed animal heads, mismatched couches, glitter balls, and potted palms. It is, as described by one writer, “like stepping into the pages of a Graham Greene novel.”


When Brehm arrived just before 11 p.m., after attending an opera at the Met, the party was in full swing. The bar that night was crowded, loud and rowdy. Two of her male classmates had already gotten into a glass-breaking fistfight. Many of her classmates had clearly been overserved. Some were dancing on the furniture in the ballroom. Bream says she saw one woman, a classmate, fall off a couch in the bar’s lounge, appearing to sustain a head injury.

When Brehm walked up to the bar, she recalls getting a hug from a male classmate she had met at a couple of earlier social gatherings. “He put his arm around me, said I looked beautiful and offered to buy me a drink,” she recalls. Brehm ordered a glass of her favorite bourbon on the rocks, engaged in some conversation with the young man around 12:30 a.m. She vividly remembers discussing a concert she had attended the previous weekend and then little else. The rest of the night was pretty much a blur.

Her departure from the hotel, however, was captured by a video camera. When the police retrieved the recording, she says, it showed her with the classmate who had earlier offered to buy her a drink. The video showed her coming out of the hotel, little more than three seconds behind him, and then standing on the sidewalk together for seven minutes, with few words being exchanged between them. Once she collapsed, he asked a classmate if he should help her and then fled the scene, leaving her unconscious on the sidewalk. Her friends came to her assistance.


“The guy who was with her didn’t do anything,” confirms a friend of Brehm who did not want to be quoted by name. “She hit her head on the pole of a street sign with her whole body weight. I ran over to Katie to see if she was okay. A security guard came over as well, and the guy she was with was gone.” Her friend would then hail a yellow cab and bring Brehm to her university-owned apartment on 113th Street shortly after 2:30 a.m.

In the cab, Brehm would tell her friend that she was happy she fell because she didn’t want to go home with the classmate and that he was “not a nice person.” At least that is what her friend would tell Brehm later when she was trying to put the puzzles pieces together over what happened to her.

When she woke up that morning around 10 a.m., she felt the base of her skull was tender and the area above her right ear was sore. “My entire body felt achy. I was nauseous and attempted to throw up. My pelvic area felt very sore. My stomach felt bloated.” Brehm also realized that she was suffering memory loss because she did not know how she sustained her head injury.


The friend who brought her home that night checked in on her to make sure she was okay, but Brehm felt she couldn’t even get out of bed that morning. “I was really surprised that she didn’t remember anything from the night before,” recalls her friend. “She didn’t even remember that I had taken her home. It seemed odd to me that she lost her entire memory of the night.”

Later that afternoon, however, she mustered up the energy to go to a Cluster A party at an apartment on 108th St. and Amsterdam. “During the party,” she recalls, “I felt difficulty regulating my emotions I experienced extreme elation and laughed to the point of crying. I do not struggle with emotional regulation, this was an unusual experience. It made me feel incredibly uncomfortable being around my classmates and friends.” A friend urged her to check in with a doctor and she promised to do so the following day.

When Brehm went to the university’s health department the next morning on Oct. 24, she met with a doctor who would ultimately diagnose her with a concussion. The doctor also scheduled Brehm for an STD test. The same day, in the afternoon, Brehm also paid a visit to the university’s Office of Disability Services. A staff member at the office told Brehm that it was odd that she would sustain memory loss or fall at a party and suggested the possiblity that she may have been drugged.


On Oct. 25, Columbia Health referred her to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital for a drug assisted sexual assault rape kit. The examining nurse would discover and photograph bruises on her inner thighs and vaginal irritation and bruising that indicated signs of forced penetration. The hospital protocol required Brehm to file a report with the NYPD’s Special Victims Squad to have the rape kit assessed. Suddenly, for the first time, Brehm says she processed the fact that she had been sexually assaulted.

The following day, she met with a case manager at the university’s Sexual Violence & Response Office and visited the police department where she was interviewed by a detective. Together, they would make phone calls to two of her friends, including the friend who came to her aid, and the man she was last seen with at the party. Though he could not be reached at the time, he would call her back later.

When they connected, Brehm says, she was “fishing for information. I told him I hit my head and asked if he saw me. He said it was a crazy night and a lot of people don’t know what happened that night. There was a lot of bro language. The next day, I sent him a text message and told him a friend saw him with me on the sidewalk. Then, he admitted he was with me on the sidewalk, but that he was with other people. He said he didn’t see me fall.”

Katie Brehm’s email to her cluster mates at Columbia Business School

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.