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As MLB suspends Trevor Bauer, a new accuser speaks out

The Dodgers' Trevor Bauer hasn't pitched since last summer, when a California woman accused him of assault. Bauer has denied her claims. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
17 min

The first time Trevor Bauer choked her unconscious without her consent — in 2013, a woman in Columbus, Ohio, said — all she remembered afterward was waking up on his bathroom floor.

Months later, she said, she was having sex with Bauer, then a minor league pitcher for Cleveland’s Major League Baseball franchise, when she again passed out with his hands around her neck. She said she awoke to a frantic Bauer explaining that she had been convulsing on their hotel room bed.

As their years-long sexual relationship continued, the woman said, they agreed he would stop choking her before she passed out. But he frequently ignored her warnings, she said. He also slapped her without her consent and anally penetrated her while she was unconscious, she said.

In interviews with The Washington Post, the Columbus woman said she decided to share her story after Bauer denied similar allegations made by two other women and accused them of lying for potential financial gain. The Columbus woman asked not to be named, and The Post typically does not name alleged victims of domestic violence unless they ask to be identified.

The Columbus woman shared photos and screenshots of text messages documenting that she had a relationship with Bauer. One screenshot shows a text message bearing Bauer’s name in which he allegedly wrote, “I want to f--- you while you’re completely unconscious.”

MLB suspended Bauer for two years on Friday, the longest suspension in the history of the league’s domestic abuse and sexual assault policy. Bauer immediately proclaimed his innocence and vowed to appeal. MLB cited an “extensive investigation” but did not disclose its findings because of the policy’s terms of confidentiality, and said “it will not issue any further statements.”

The Columbus woman and her lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said she shared her allegations with MLB. She said she is willing to testify in the arbitration hearing that would result from Bauer appealing. MLB declined to comment for this story.

Bauer declined through his attorney and agent, Jon Fetterolf, to be interviewed. A statement issued by Bauer’s representatives did not deny that the Columbus woman had a relationship with Bauer but said the pitcher “unequivocally denies” her “false and defamatory” allegations.

“Any neutral reader of the scores of text messages, compromising photos and sexually explicit videos this woman sent of herself to Mr. Bauer over the last three years demanding the very sex acts that she now claims were problematic — without any prior complaint — would strongly question the veracity of her allegations,” the statement read.

Bauer’s representatives would not provide any of that alleged correspondence to The Post. The woman told The Post that she previously lost all of her text messages with Bauer, except for those she took screenshots of, when she switched phones. But she said any intimate messages she sent to Bauer did not excuse his alleged actions without her consent during sex. She said she felt “slut-shamed” by Bauer’s representatives citing those texts as a defense.

She made clear that she did consent to sex with Bauer. “But during sex,” she said, “things happened outside of my consent.”

After the publication of this story, Bauer responded on Twitter, explicitly denying some of the woman’s allegations and accusing her of attempting to extort him. “The incidents she detailed to the Washington Post — and specifically the one that involved non-consensual choking in which she claims to have convulsed and woken up on a hotel floor — absolutely never occurred, in any capacity," Bauer wrote. "Additionally, at no point during sex or otherwise did I ever hit her.”

Before being suspended, Bauer had been on paid administrative leave since last summer, when a woman in California sought a restraining order against him, alleging that he choked her to unconsciousness and punched and anally penetrated her without her consent during sex, leading to her hospitalization. The Dodgers were obligated to continue paying his three-year, $102 million contract while he was sidelined.

Bauer has denied the California woman’s allegations, too, claiming that they had consensual rough sex. A judge denied his California accuser’s petition for a restraining order in August, finding that she wasn’t clear enough about her boundaries during sex.

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The Post also reported last summer that a different woman in Ohio sought a restraining order against Bauer in 2020, during his Cy Young Award-winning season with the Cincinnati Reds. That woman also accused Bauer of choking and striking her without her consent during sex and sending her threatening messages. She cooperated with MLB investigators, too, her lawyer said.

Bauer also has denied that woman’s allegations, and the woman withdrew her request for the restraining order after Bauer’s lawyer threatened legal action against her, court records and legal correspondence show.

The emergence of a new accuser is the latest chapter in MLB’s nearly year-long effort to gain control of a scandal like none it previously faced.

In every previous case in the history of MLB’s seven-year-old domestic violence policy, the accused players and their representatives negotiated the lengths of suspension. But with Bauer, MLB officials were tasked with determining the punishment of an unapologetic figure buoyed by favorable legal decisions related to his case.

When the judge denied the restraining order against him last summer, she found that elements of the woman’s court petition were “materially misleading.” In February, Los Angeles prosecutors declined to charge Bauer, saying they were “unable to prove the relevant charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Bauer filed defamation lawsuits against two media outlets, Deadspin and the Athletic, that have covered his case. (Both outlets have denied his claims.) And Monday, Bauer sued his California accuser and one of her attorneys. Bauer claimed that the woman’s pursuit of a restraining order was part of a scheme to “lure Mr. Bauer into having a rougher sexual experience” and “lay the groundwork for a financial settlement.”

During the restraining order hearing, Bauer declined to testify, exercising his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. But after learning that he would not face charges, he explicitly denied that he punched the California woman during sex or sodomized her without her consent, acts that would be potential grounds for MLB punishment under its abuse policy.

Bauer’s denials appear to have motivated the Columbus woman, who said she decided to speak up to support the women he has attempted to publicly brand as liars.

“My hope is that people will see that these girls aren’t making this up,” she said. “I have no reason to come forward other than to back up what they’re saying and to say that, like, this happened to me years ago, before he was anybody.”

‘A very gentle person’

The Columbus woman provided a screenshot of what she says was her first text conversation with Bauer, upon meeting him on a dating app in April 2013. They were in their early 20s; he told her he was in “player development” for the minor league Columbus Clippers. Only after he left her tickets to a game, she said, did she learn he was actually a starting pitcher.

He made four spot starts for Cleveland’s big league club that year. After one game in Cleveland, the woman said, he drove immediately back to Columbus so they could watch a DVD from Redbox. “That’s the kind of person that he was back then,” she said. “He was very sweet, very thoughtful — like a very gentle person. From then on, we were never, like, officially together, but we were together all of the time.”

The Columbus woman provided photos depicting moments from their relationship, including of them lying in bed together and one of him eating cereal with apple juice. It was his minor league custom, she said, to not buy milk that would spoil while he was on the road.

The woman said she was in an unhealthy mind-set at the time, including suffering from a severe eating disorder, which she now believes led her to rationalize Bauer’s alleged abuse during sex. She liked his company otherwise, she said.

“I think that he enjoyed pushing the limits where he could because he knew that I wasn’t able to stand up to him or that I wasn’t going to, despite the fact that he knew that wasn’t okay,” the woman said.

The Columbus woman said Bauer began choking her unconscious during sex without them ever speaking of it first. She said she then told him that she was okay with him choking her “to a certain point,” which was when she looked as though she was about to pass out. After he then allegedly choked her to the point of convulsions in January 2014, when they were in a Cleveland hotel after Tribe Fest, the team’s fan festival, she said he was apologetic in response to her anger that he had violated what they agreed upon.

But then, she said, he continued to choke her to unconsciousness in ensuing sexual encounters. “He’d kind of push it, and kind of push it, and kind of push it,” she said of the choking, “and I’m like, ‘Dude, you got to f---ing listen.’ ”

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She said that when Bauer choked her during sex, he would only let go if she “got pissed and was like desperate about it” — or if she passed out, which she said happened dozens of times. The woman said Bauer often recorded their sex, with a GoPro camera mounted on a tripod or sometimes worn on his head. She is in possession of a video, she said, that shows him choking her during sex as she struggled to escape.

The woman’s lawyer, Tacopina, said he has viewed the video. “She’s clearly struggling to breathe and tapping his arm to let go, and you see her skin color darkening,” Tacopina said. They declined to share the video with The Post and said they also have not shared it with MLB, out of fear of it being circulated more widely.

The Columbus woman claimed that at times when she regained consciousness, she found that Bauer was anally penetrating her without consent. She claimed he was referencing such conduct when he texted her July 22, 2014, that he wanted to have sex with her while she was “completely unconscious.” The screenshot she shared with The Post does not show what, if anything, she wrote back.

The woman also claimed that after an argument at the movies, they had “hate sex,” during which he repeatedly slapped her in the face out of evident anger — one of multiple times she claimed he struck her without her consent.

She said that after sex, she often had an aching throat from being choked or pain in her collarbone caused by the strength of his arm. “We would be having sex and I would just be like in the pillow crying because this isn’t fun, I don’t enjoy this,” the woman said.

Bauer’s representatives did not respond on the record to repeated requests for comment on the alleged video and text message, or whether Bauer ever saw the Columbus woman crying during sex.

Like the other women who have publicly accused Bauer of abuse, the Columbus woman’s allegations stemmed from his actions during sexual encounters that were initially consensual. She said that only in recent years, as the public discussion of such matters has become more common, did she come to believe that his alleged actions with her violated the rules of consent.

Natalie Nanasi, an associate professor of law specializing in domestic violence at the SMU Dedman School of Law in Texas, said the difficulty of proving a lack of consent “is why you rarely see prosecutions” stemming from allegations of violence during rough sex. She said questions of consent are also complicated by abusers seeking out or creating relationships featuring an imbalance of power: “They pick victims who they see as vulnerable in one way or another.”

Nanasi said strangulation — which she said was the accurate term for the activity colloquially known as choking — is an act that can be consensual during sex. But she said that in the case of a man allegedly strangling a sex partner to unconsciousness and then performing sex acts while she is passed out, “that certainly seems like not something she consented to.”

MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy, adopted in 2015, gives it wide latitude to determine discipline even in those cases where there have been no criminal charges.

The policy defines sexual assault as a “nonconsensual sex act” and states that lack of consent is “inferred” when the victim is “asleep, incapacitated, unconscious or legally incapable of consent.” The policy also defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any intimate relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” A player can appeal any discipline from MLB to an independent arbitrator.

The Columbus woman said she expects people may not understand why she continued to stay with Bauer as the alleged abuse continued. “I was probably naive back then, but I was like: ‘Maybe he doesn’t mean to be doing it. This person that I care about, that claims to care about me, too, he wouldn’t be purposefully hurting me,’ ” the woman said. “But now I’m kind of like: ‘Yeah, yeah, he was. He knew what he was doing.’ ”

A major shift

After Bauer was promoted for good to the majors during the 2014 season, the Columbus woman said, their relationship became more casual, usually consisting of her driving to visit him in Cleveland. And she said his personality shifted as he had more success.

They clashed, she said, after he sent a video of another woman performing oral sex on him. With his profile rising, on the field and online, he started to find sexual partners on social media, which is how he met the other two women who have publicly accused him.

The Columbus woman said that in 2019, after Bauer had been traded to the Cincinnati Reds, he invited her to see him there but suggested that she could return to Columbus the same night.

The woman said that, by then, she was tired of actions that she now felt were demeaning, such as leaving baseball tickets for her under the name “Dog on Leash.” (Bauer’s representatives did not comment on whether he had ever done that.) And she said she had also begun to realize that she was in “an incredibly toxic and incredibly unhealthy situation” with Bauer. She balked at the idea of having to “drive two hours to have sex I’m going to end up not enjoying,” the woman said. They argued over text messages, she said, and she never saw him in person again.

The woman said that after changing cellphones, the only messages with Bauer she still has are those she had made screenshots of over the years, consisting of both good memories and bad.

She acknowledged that in some messages with Bauer that she no longer has access to, she may have referred favorably to being choked. “That doesn’t negate the fact that he pushed boundaries I don’t want pushed,” the woman said, arguing that such messages are irrelevant to sex acts, including choking her unconscious, that she claims occurred without her consent.

Bauer’s representatives said in the statement denying the woman’s allegations that she had sent “scores” of intimate texts, photos and videos “over the last three years.” But the woman said she had little correspondence with him following the argument in the fall of 2019.

She said she texted Bauer on his birthday in 2020, but he didn’t respond. The following year, she said, she read about the restraining order against Bauer in California and spent that workday in a “fog,” reeling from allegations similar to those she claimed to have experienced, too.

‘These girls aren’t lying’

Within two weeks of the restraining order being filed against Bauer in Los Angeles Superior Court, records and interviews show, MLB’s attorneys and investigators were chasing down leads concerning other women believed to have similar allegations.

But those who have gone public with allegations against Bauer have faced financial exposure and public humiliation. In August, after The Post revealed the existence of a previous order of protection filed against Bauer in Ohio, Bauer claimed her allegations were part of an extortion attempt and released hundreds of her text messages on Twitter. (That woman and her lawyer have denied any financial motive in seeking her order of protection.)

Also that month, during a four-day hearing in the California woman’s efforts to secure a restraining order, Bauer’s attorneys questioned that woman about past sex partners and introduced text messages they claimed were evidence of her alleged plot to extract a financial settlement, which she has denied.

As she followed the coverage of the restraining order hearing, the Columbus woman began to feel an obligation to share her story. “I feel like I didn’t speak out when it was happening in the past; I kept it really quiet,” she said of Bauer’s alleged abuse. “And so I feel like I could have prevented it from happening to other people if I spoke out then and I didn’t.”

After the judge denied the California accuser’s petition for a restraining order, the Columbus woman sent her a private Instagram message saying that she believed her — because the same things had happened to her.

Shortly afterward, she said, she had a phone conversation with MLB attorneys in which she shared her allegations. She also decided to tell her story publicly in The Post.

“You can only call so many women crazy before people are like, ‘But, hey, what’s the common theme here?’ ” she said of Bauer. “And it’s you.”

She’s scared of what comes next, the woman said, especially after Bauer’s lawsuit this week against his accuser in California. She fears that Bauer will publicly release intimate text messages from her. But the woman said such tactics won’t deter her.

“Now I feel that I need to speak out and back up what they’re saying because my experience with him goes back so far,” the Columbus woman said of the other accusers. “And it kind of just proves, like: ‘Hey, these girls aren’t lying. They’re not looking for something. They’re telling the truth.’ ”

This story has been updated.