But the woman was left in tears after meeting Conaway at the pole barn where he lived on his parents’ property, according to a summary of the allegations included in a judge’s written decision. In phone calls with friends, she said she thought she’d been raped. She had kissed Conaway willingly as they watched a movie, she said — and then he’d forced her into sex. He had ignored her anxiety attack and her objections, telling her that “it was fine, they were just messing around.”
Now, Conaway is standing trial on rape charges stemming from the June 2018 incident, the first of a potential six cases involving six different women police say he sexually assaulted. And attorneys for the now-former student athlete are attempting to use the 20-year-old woman’s enthusiastic text messages — and her presence on Bumble — to help prove the encounter was consensual.
“She knew he was on Bumble to hook up,” lawyer Natalie Woloshin said during opening statements Monday at the Sussex County courthouse, according to the News-Journal. “She knew he wasn’t looking for a relationship. And with all this, she willingly drove over to Clay Conaway’s house.”
In testimony Wednesday, the woman said she had joined the dating app after a breakup because that’s how her generation meets new people. She said she made it clear to Conaway that she “was not a hookup kind of girl,” the News-Journal reported.
The woman reported the alleged assault soon after it happened. When Conaway was arrested in August 2018, other women starting coming forward, telling police that they, too, were victims of his. His arrest also brought to light that the University of Delaware had expelled him last fall after the school concluded that he had “more likely than not” raped and choked a woman in November 2017, according to university documents obtained by the News-Journal. Conaway, through his attorneys, has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged in the incident, according to the newspaper.
Criminal charges against the 23-year-old man date back to 2013, when he was a star baseball player at Sussex Central High School and was accused of sexually assaulting a sleeping classmate at a New Year’s Eve party, according to the summary of allegations. He allegedly stopped only after someone else in the room intervened by saying, “You are basically raping her.”
The cases are being tried separately at the defense’s request. In a July ruling, Judge Richard F. Stokes wrote that trying them together might cause the jury to combine evidence from various crimes and find guilt when it otherwise wouldn’t.
Prosecutors had argued for trying them simultaneously to show Conaway’s state of mind and because of their similarities, including how he met the alleged victims. In four of the cases, it was through Bumble and Tinder — a fact that could play into multiple cases. In an interview with the News-Journal, one of Conaway’s lawyers said the women were there “to hook up.”
“I am not an apologist for rape,” attorney Joe Hurley said. “No means no. Red light means red light. They were on a [website] to hook up. … What a confused world we have.”
During opening statements Monday, Woloshin highlighted a lauded Bumble feature: Women are the ones who make the first move. The app touts this nuance as “shifting old-fashioned power dynamics and encouraging equality from the start.” Woloshin pointed to it as an indication that the encounter may have been consensual.
She read through text messages in which the accuser told friends of her loneliness after a recent breakup. “I need me a mans and I need me a sex life,” read one of the messages. She said Conaway had sent nude photos of himself to the accuser, and that she and her friends discussed his body.
Prosecutors argued that the woman, who was on her period, set boundaries before going over to Conaway’s house. After he removed her clothes and her tampon and climbed on top of her, she grew so frightened that she froze, prosecutor Casey Ewart said.
“She told the defendant multiple times to stop,” the News-Journal quoted Ewart as saying. “He ignored her and kept going.”
Woloshin and the district attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Conaway could face up to 25 years in prison on each charge. But for now, he’s out on bail after his parents put up four properties worth $300,000 as collateral. His release came with a condition: that he not be left alone with any women who are not family.