Her Name Is Kathryn
The Woman Who Accuses Ronaldo of Rape
She was supposed to be invisible, damned to silence. Forever. Nobody was to ever learn about that night in Las Vegas back in 2009, especially not her version of events.
She even signed a settlement deal and received a payoff ensuring that she would never give voice to the accusations.
She signed, she says, out of fear for herself and her family. And out of impotence, the inability to stand up to him. And out of the hope that she could finally put the incident behind her. But, says Kathryn Mayorga, she was never able to close that chapter.
The American is a slender 34-year-old with long, dark hair and green eyes. Until recently, she worked at an elementary school. But she quit, she says, "because I need all my strength now."
She needs the strength to stand up to the man who she accuses of having raped her nine years ago -- accusations that he denies.
The man isn't just anybody. It is Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best soccer player in the world, with vast amounts of success, money and adoration from the fans. An anonymous woman versus Ronaldo -- the discrepancy could hardly be greater.
They met on June 12, 2009 in a Las Vegas nightclub. Ronaldo was there on vacation with his brother-in-law and cousin. It was the summer when the star, then 24, would transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid for a then-record sum of 94 million euros.
Kathryn Mayorga, 25 at the time, was a budding model and one of her jobs was to hang out with other young, beautiful women in front of bars to lure in guests.
On that Friday in June, the paths of the model and the multimillionaire crossed in the VIP section of Rain, a nightclub belonging to Palms Casino Resort. Paparazzi photos show Mayorga standing close to Ronaldo and talking. He is wearing a white shirt with a narrow black tie and she is in a light gray dress with gold jewelry. He plays it cool while she beams at him. Within hours, the gossip pages around the world would be busying themselves with trying to figure out who this "mysterious brunette" is at Ronaldo's side. The party continued in the early morning hours in Ronaldo's penthouse in the nearby Hotel Palms Place. And only two people know what happened in the bedroom there: Kathryn Mayorga and Cristiano Ronaldo.
What is clear is that the soccer star paid Mayorga $375,000 a few months later as part of an out-of-court settlement. In exchange, Mayorga signed an agreement to never talk about her accusations that Cristiano Ronaldo had raped her.
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A Perfidious Accusation
DER SPIEGEL reported on the non-disclosure agreement for the first time in spring 2017. The documents pertaining to the agreement were made available to the newsmagazine by the whistleblowing platform Football Leaks. In the reporting for that article, DER SPIEGEL contacted Mayorga, who appears in the story under the pseudonym Susan K. "No comment," was her response. When journalists encountered her in front of her home, she ran away.
When the first article appeared, Ronaldo's agency Gestifute released a statement saying, "the article is nothing but a piece of journalistic fiction." The statement continued: "The newspaper has based their entire narrative on documents which are unsigned and where the parties are not identified."
That portrayal is incorrect.
Numerous documents in DER SPIEGEL's possession prove as much, including some which have been signed by Ronaldo himself. The existence of those documents could help explain why he has not, in the last year-and-a-half, followed up on his threats to take DER SPIEGEL to court. In its public statement, Gestifute also discredited the alleged victim, saying she "refuses to come forward and confirm the veracity of the accusation."
It is a perfidious accusation. After all, the key element of the out-of-court settlement was that Mayorga was not allowed to comment on the incident. Should she do so, according to the deal, she would have to pay the money back to Ronaldo and possibly damages as well.
Now, though, she has decided to talk anyway, telling her story in detail for the first time. Why? What made her change her mind?
Essentially, there are three reasons. First, she has a new lawyer, one who is both experienced and unflinching. He believes the non-disclosure agreement is not legally binding and he has filed a civil complaint against Ronaldo in Kathryn Mayorga's name. That complaint is supported by a 27-page document that could have far-reaching consequences for the football star. The document contains a version of how Ronaldo experienced that night, including the following quote: "She said no and stop several times."
Second, the world has changed for women who claim to have been the victim of sexual assault. One year ago, accusations against the American movie producer Harvey Weinstein were made public. According to those claims, he spent decades harassing, molesting or even raping women. Weinstein denies the accusations.
Money, Power and Fame
Once the scandal went public, the American actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women who have experienced sexual harassment to go public under the hashtag #MeToo.
Tens of thousands of women did so, changing the societal climate in the process. It has since become much more difficult for politicians, lawyers and the general public to ignore and play down sexual violence against women, particularly in cases where the suspected perpetrator possesses money, power and fame.
The #MeToo movement has also given many victims more courage and self-confidence. Mayorga is one of them. She says she has spent many hours in front of her computer reading the stories of other women.
The third reason is that she sees it as the only chance to learn whether there are other women out there who say they were sexually abused by Ronaldo. "It's something I've always wondered about," she says.
It's a few weeks ago in Las Vegas and Kathryn Mayorga is sitting at a long, dark conference table in the offices of her lawyer together with her mother Cheryl Mayorga and her therapist.
Kathryn is wearing black overalls and long, turquoise earrings. She has made herself up carefully, but the makeup can't completely disguise the tiredness in her eyes. For the last week, she says, she has been having trouble sleeping.
She seems exhausted, but she is also extremely nervous. Her eyes bounce around the room as she repeatedly brushes back her hair.
Mayorga takes a deep breath. First, she wants to talk about her fears as she takes this next step and the words begin pouring out of her. "It's a pretty famous guy. So I'm terrified. I'm scared." She is worried that someone might do something to her, that the media and Ronaldo's fans won't leave her alone. "The reason why I signed the contract in the first place (was) because I didn't want my name out there."
She starts to cry, her breaths coming in shallow bursts. She rolls back in her heavy leather chair and buries her face in her hands. Her therapist is concerned, and they withdraw to a neighboring room for half an hour.
Her mother Cheryl, 66, remains behind, a diminutive woman with dark hair pulled up in a bun. She chooses her words carefully. "It's never left her. Every day, she lives it," she says. "There were times when she would call me and his -- he would be on a billboard or whatever, and she would just completely disintegrate. Having to walk into a store to get a pint of milk, and you've got his picture everywhere. (...) He's the soccer god that everybody thinks is just perfect and flawless. (...) And she can't even get out of bed some days." Cheryl Mayorga shakes her head. "It's just wrong. We're behind her 100 percent."
'Just Simple People'
By "we," she means the entire Mayorga family. Kathryn's father Larry, 64, and her brother Jason, 37, describe how that night nine years ago changed Kathryn.
She was born and raised in Las Vegas. Her father, who is now retired, worked as a fireman for 32 years while her mother spent most of her time taking care of the children. "We're just simple people," says Cheryl.
Kathryn played softball and soccer and was a member of the Girl Scouts. But, her mother says, she suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and has a learning disability. Her daughter has trouble concentrating and keeping her thoughts straight, Cheryl says, which is one reason she sometimes speaks so quickly.
The door opens and Kathryn Mayorga comes back into the conference room. She appears to have regained her composure. Her mother provides a quick recap of what she said in the interim. "I did struggle a lot growing up," Kathryn says. "It's hard for me to learn in a classroom experience. I have documented disabilities (...) and was given extra time," she adds: "I busted my ass at school and wanted to prove something." She got her degree in journalism at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
She talks about growing up in one of the entertainment capitals of the United States. "We had so much fun. We'd go to hotel parties, we'd go out and do things. (...) We would literally go, have a few drinks, dance all night, and leave." She adds: "I like control."
Shortly after her graduation in 2008, she married her boyfriend, a bartender from an Albanian family who also got the odd job repairing computers, including those belonging to her parents. "At that age, I'd graduated college, I need to be married, I had that pressure," she says. "And at first, I was on board with it."
But it wasn't meant to be. Around a year after their wedding, the couple split up and Mayorga moved back in with her parents, whose home is in one of the better neighborhoods of Las Vegas, complete with a well-tended yard, a large garage, a beautiful pool and a nice view over the city.
"I was really enjoying myself," says Mayorga. "I was working out every day, eating vegan ... doing a lot of good stuff with modelling." She says she also travelled a lot during that period, something made possible by her job hanging out in front of bars.
The Night that Changed Her Life
Mayorga leans forward in her chair, a resolute look on her face. "They tried to discredit me," she says, referring to Ronaldo's legal team. "They tried to say: 'Well, the job you have is not a "good girl" job,'" she says, adding that it was a normal job. "They liked us to hold a drink like we're out and mingling with our friends. So you get a water, you need something in your hand like you're actually engaging with your friends. You're on a night out with the girls."
Exhausted, she leans back to collect herself. Then she begins to tell the story of that night -- the night that she says destroyed her life. The night that she describes as though a video of it was playing in her mind's eye, even though it was so long ago.
She was working that night too, and later went partying with her friends. There was champagne on offer, but, she says: "I had a little, but I was on a strict diet."
Then she got a message from her girlfriend Jordan, whose name has been changed for this story. They met in Rain and went into the VIP area. "Jordan's very into the nightclub scene, she knows a lot of people," she says. "He just came up to me ... grabbed my arm, and he was like: 'You! Come with me!' I was like, are you joking?"
She knew who he was and that he was partying in the club that night. "Jordan told me he was there. I figured she knew that from her soccer boyfriend," she says. "People were talking about him: 'Oh, he's here. He's famous.' And I was like, 'I think I've looked him up before.'"
Ronaldo laughed at her, she says, because she didn't immediately want to join him. Then he got her a drink, she says, and introduced her to his entourage. "'This is like my brother,' and he introduces me to some guy and people we were with. And 'this is like family,' this guy and this guy."
They chatted for a bit and then she says he asked for her telephone number. "I gave him my number and he just left.... And I was like, 'OK, cool.'"
Mayorga says that she then went looking for Jordan and found her outside with a couple of friends. At that moment, she says, a text message from Ronaldo appeared on her phone that read something like: "Hey, bring your friends. Come up to this party." She and Jordan decided to take up the invitation at the Palms Place, the hotel next door. Ronaldo and his entourage, Mayorga says, were waiting in the lobby, where they told the girls that the party had already ended.
"He's like, 'we're going to do our own party.' I pull Jordan aside and I think I said to her: 'Let's just take a picture and then let's go.' There's actually a really nice view."
In Walks Ronaldo
In 2009, the Palms Casino Resort was the place to be in Las Vegas. Ronaldo had apartment 57306, one of the penthouses, where a night goes today for around $1,000.
The apartment includes a kitchen, a large living room and two bedrooms, each with a luxurious bathroom attached. On the balcony is a Jacuzzi with a view out over the city.
Once they arrived in the suite, Kathryn recalls, everyone suddenly jumped into the whirlpool and Jordan sat down at the edge. "We were like, 'these guys are cute.' But still, it's late. And I had a photoshoot that morning." She adds: "I didn't want to get in the water to ruin my dress."
Ronaldo, Mayorga says, offered her something to wear in the Jacuzzi. "Jordan was having fun and she was in town and I wanted her to have fun, so I said: 'You know, I'm going to go put these clothes on.'"
She says she then went to the bathroom to change, one of the ones attached to a bedroom. Just as she was standing there only in her panties, she says, Ronaldo suddenly walked in, his penis hanging out of his shorts.
As she tells her story, Mayorga pauses briefly and opens her eyes so wide that the whites of her eyes became visible around her pupils. "Basically he ... he begged me to touch his penis for 30 seconds."
She shakes her head. "When I wouldn't touch it, he begged me to suck it. Like, what an idiot! (...) I was laughing at him because I thought, 'Is this a joke?' This guy that is so famous and so hot ... he's a frickin' loser and a creep." But Ronaldo wouldn't be put off. "He was like, 'I'll let you go if you give me a kiss.' I said, 'OK, I'll kiss you but I'm not going to touch your nasty penis.'" Mayorga swears that she only kissed him and didn't otherwise touch him.
The kiss, though, she says, only turned him on more. "He starts to come on to me very strong. And he starts to do stuff to me and touch me and grab me and go down on me. I pushed him away and kept saying 'No.'"
At that moment, she says, one of his friends came in and asked: What are you doing? "I immediately grabbed my dress and put it on. And I said: 'We're leaving right now.' And I looked at him. He said: 'Yeah, yeah. We'll leave.'"
Mayorga sits quietly for a moment before continuing. "I thought everything was over." But it wasn't, she claims. "He pulls me into the room. I still wasn't afraid at all. I was just like, 'Man, this guy's adamant.' The most adamant I've ever dealt with. I explain to him: 'Listen dude, this is not going to happen.'"
'No, No, No'
But Ronaldo allegedly didn't give up. "I turned away. He tried to take my underwear off. I turned away from him and curled up into a ball. And I was holding my vagina. And that's when he jumped on me." She says she said "no, no, no, no."
Ronaldo, Kathryn Mayorga claims, raped her anally. Without a condom. Without lubricant.
"After he assaulted me, he wouldn't let me leave again. He wouldn't let me leave. And he was calling me 'baby, baby.' He gave me this look, this guilty look. Almost like he felt bad. I don't remember but I'm pretty sure he said 'sorry' or 'Are you hurt?' And by this time, he's (...) on his knees. He says the 99 percent thing." He insisted, she says, that he was "a good guy" except for the "one percent."
That was the moment, she says, that she first understood what had happened to her. "It happened so quick. I didn't really know what happened. (...) I felt like I was actually floating almost. It felt like I wasn't there. It was out-of-body. I really can't describe it in words." Next, she says, "I thought I had some disease. I thought he had fucking AIDS. So I was like: 'You have to tell me if I have a disease. Do I have a disease?' And he's like: 'No, no. I'm a professional athlete and I get tested every three months. I couldn't play my game with a disease.'"
For a moment, it is completely still in the conference room in Las Vegas. Kathryn Mayorga stares at the table in front of her. Her father, Larry, has joined us in the lawyer's conference room, quietly taking a seat. He is wearing a black T-shirt and a black baseball cap. He is a man who likes to laugh, but the longer he listens to his daughter, the more anger and helplessness are reflected in his face. His daughter, he would later say, had never before opened up so much.
Then Kathryn Mayorga begins to speak again. "I said: 'No one's going to know about this.' He might have asked me to be cool when I walked out. I don't remember though."
There is one person who says she still remembers seeing Mayorga come out of the room: her friend Jordan. "Kathryn looked totally disheveled. Her hair was messed up, her make-up smeared," Jordan says. She says she kept asking Ronaldo "What did you do to my friend?"
Mayorga recalls the scene similarly. In response to Jordan's question, both women say, Ronaldo only answered: Everything's fine. We're friends.
"I was in a trance," Mayorga says. They sat down at the edge of the Jacuzzi. "At first, he sat next to me, and I moved away because I didn't want to be near him." She continues: "Jordan said I was staring at the water (but) I don't remember staring at the water. (...) Then it got quiet and awkward. He finally got up and he left. As soon as he left, all I remember is falling into the Jacuzzi."