Young college women break silence and begin quest for justice abroad
CHICAGO (Feb. 7, 2020) – Study abroad brings university students the prospect of experiencing a foreign culture, traveling to other countries, practicing new languages, and being carefree and independent while thousands of miles away from home. For many, it’s a rite of passage, a chance to be independent, and an escape from the rigor and stress of college.
But for dozens of American college students, their study abroad semester in Spain wasn’t how they imagined it would be. Now they are on a quest for justice.
The new season of Motive, an investigative podcast series from WBEZ Chicago, begins on Lauren Bajorek’s 21st birthday in Seville, Spain, where she was studying abroad during the summer of 2015. She went out to celebrate with her friends, but never came home. It was discovered she’d fallen off the balcony of her Spanish tour guide’s apartment. Bajorek’s death was deemed an accident and the case was closed.
But three years later in April 2018, Bajorek’s friends were watching a segment on The Megyn Kelly Today show on NBC, which featured, Gabrielle Vega, a young woman who claimed that her Spanish tour guide drugged and raped her while she was studying abroad in Spain. It was the same tour guide whose balcony Bajorek had fallen from in 2015.
In the days following the NBC segment, more than 30 women contacted Vega and her lawyer. They said they too were subject to sexual comments or harassment and, in some cases, to being drugged and raped by this same tour guide.
Their untold stories, along with the questions surrounding the night of Bajorek’s death, inspired WBEZ journalists Candace Mittel Kahn and Alexandra Salomon to embark on a year-long investigation for the Motive podcast. During the course of their reporting, they spoke to dozens of women, most of whom had never spoken publicly before.
“In this series, women are finally coming forward to talk about something they didn’t think they’d ever have to talk about and the impact it’s had on their lives,” said WBEZ’s Candace Mittel Kahn, the host and producer of Motive Season 2.
The reporting in Motive spans three continents, and while a criminal investigation has since been opened in Spain, no one has been arrested or prosecuted.
“Over eight episodes we explore not only the reasons why some of these women stayed silent for almost a decade, but also what’s next in Spain’s criminal investigation into these accusations now that their silence has been broken,” Mittel Kahn said.
This new season of Motive follows the podcast’s 2019 debut. The first season was based on reporting by the Chicago Sun-Times to chronicle the unforgettable saga of Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez, a wrongful conviction for murder when he was just a 13-year-old boy, and the years that followed.
“This new season of Motive once again takes listeners inside a single, real-life story to answer a broader question: ‘How could this have happened?’” said Kevin Dawson, managing director of content development for WBEZ Chicago and executive producer of the podcast. “This time our story is set in Spain to look at the tragic outcome of Lauren Bajorek’s study abroad trip, but goes further to add insights to an important and timely conversation about sexual violence against women.”
Starting February 7, new episodes of Motive will be available on Pocket Casts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever listeners get their podcasts.
Motive Season 2: WBEZ Production Credits
Host/Producer: Candace Mittel Kahn
Freelance Reporter in Spain: Carmen Ibanez Espinosa
Editor: Alexandra Salomon
Executive Producer: Kevin Dawson
About WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR news station, serves the community with fact-based, objective news and information. WBEZ’s award-winning journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change and foster understanding. In addition to its local and national news programming, WBEZ Chicago is home to a growing portfolio of popular podcasts, including the “Making” series of Making Beyoncé, Making Obama and Making Oprah; an investigative podcast series, Motive; 16 Shots: A podcast about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald; Nerdette; and Sound Opinions. WBEZ Chicago has a legacy of innovation as the birthplace of nationally acclaimed programs such as This American Life, and Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! and the ground-breaking podcast, Serial.