Desiree Washington is the former Miss Black Rhode Island, who participated in the Miss Black America pageant during the 1991 Black Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mike Tyson was convicted by an Indiana jury of raping her at this event, for which he served three of a 10-year sentence reported the Los Angeles Times.
The case and his subsequent release from prison will be featured in the June 1 episode of ABC News’ docuseries, Mike Tyson: The Knockout.
The final part of the two-part special, “continues with Tyson’s conviction and prison sentence for raping 18-year-old Desiree Washington, reviewing the cultural conversation that ensued throughout the trial as the public grappled with ideas around victimization and the fall of a hero,” according to the episode’s official description. “Tyson’s defense attorney James Voyles and special prosecutor Greg Garrison reflect on the trial nearly 30 years later. Tyson’s release from prison and his highly anticipated and celebrated re-entry into society is examined.”
Distractify reported Tyson still denies the claims, citing a 2020 social media live with Charlie Mack. He said at the time, “I don’t think I should have been in [prison]. … I’m not above violating a woman, but I did not violate that woman.” He added, “Just keeping it real.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Washington Grew Up in Rhode Island With Three Siblings
According to a 1995 Los Angeles Times article, Washington grew up in “a cozy, ranch-style home with a swimming pool and a deck in a small town south of Providence” as the middle child of Donald and Mary Belle Silva Washington.
She has an older brother, Don Jr., and a three-year younger sister, Dorrae, who was adopted in 1984.
Washington was a graduate of Coventry High School, reported the outlet, which said she was voted “friendliest and most talkative in her senior class.” The article continued, saying she “jokingly pledged in her yearbook to bequeath ‘to my sis, all of my homework.’”
2. Washington’s Parents Split After the Case
As the Los Angeles Times checked in on Washington’s life as Tyson was being released from prison. Gone was her previous family dynamic, with her parents splitting and selling their house. The outlet wrote, “the pressure contributed to the breakup of their marriage,” as they cited irreconcilable differences on their divorce papers.
Both of her parents ended up leaving their jobs and Dorrae was being harassed, reports the paper, leading to Mary Belle taking her daughter away.
“The kids at school wouldn’t leave Dorrae alone,” the article cited Steve Bardi, a friend. “Some of them kept telling her that her sister had asked for what she got. There were others who wanted to put a Mike Tyson Punch-out Nintendo game in her mailbox with a threatening note. It was cruel.”
While Washington was in the dorm while her home was being sold, she eventually moved back in with her mother “in a cramped, upstairs apartment in a working-class neighborhood in East Providence, R.I.,” the 1995 article described. It continued, reporting she remains “secluded with her mother in the upstairs apartment in a commercial district of cheap restaurants and hardware stores.”
3. Washington Was Studying Psychology at Providence College
When the Los Angeles Times caught back up with Washington, she was a student at Providence College. At the time, she was “a senior psychology major and is expected to graduate with her class in May.”
According to the 1995 article, before the case she was expected to become an attorney or politician, even desiring to become “the first black female President.”
She has remained out of the public eye since then, so not much is known about her life and career now.
4. Washington Was Described as ‘Depressed’ Following the Attack
In 1991, Washington attended the Miss Black America pageant representing her home state of Rhode Island. After the July 19 encounter, she reported Tyson forced himself on her at the Canterbury Hotel.
“I tried to punch him, but it was like hitting a wall,” the Los Angeles Times wrote Washington testified. “I said, ‘Get off! Get off me!’ The next thing I knew, he slammed me on the bed.”
“I was begging him, ‘Please, I have a future ahead of me. . . . Please, I don’t need a baby. . . . Please, I’m going to college,” she continued in her testimony. “He said, ‘So, we have a baby,’ and jammed himself inside me. I felt like someone was ripping me apart.”
She was not the same afterward. “Dez was one of the most popular kids in school. She knew everybody and was always at the center of attention,” her childhood friend, Alyce Pagliarini, told the Los Angeles Times. “She was a joiner. A real people person. Then she came back from the pageant and just cut herself off from everybody.”
5. Washington Spoke Out in a 1992 Interview With Barbara Walters
In 1992, Washington appeared on 20/20 to share her side of events with Barbara Walters.
“I went from being such an outgoing person to someone who was just so — I was voted friendliest in high school — to just so secluded I just sat in my room and in the corner of my bed, and I just couldn’t move for — for the longest time, I couldn’t believe it,” Distractify quoted the interview. “I was just such an outgoing person, such a loving person, such a trusting person, and I miss that person. But in a way, it’s good that I’m not that person because now I won’t be hurt again like it was.”
Washington went on to say the public blamed her, saying she put herself in the way of a man with a known violent history, according to the publication. It also claimed she turned down “$1 million to drop the allegations.”
“People have judged me on and made opinions about, without knowing all the facts and without knowing me as a person and knowing why I did what I did,” the former pageant queen said in the interview. “And to take the side of a Black man over a Black woman is not equal.”