Skip to comments.Student Slams UW Handling of Rape Charge; D.A. Investigating
Posted on 05/06/2006 2:03:32 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
On April 4, 2004, Sara, an 18-year-old UW freshman, says she was sexually assaulted by two members of the crew team.
By her account, she was drunk, the two men took her to an apartment, removed her clothes, and one of the men briefly penetrated her, despite her pleas for him to stop. The other man put a stop to it, though Sara said he also took part in the assault up to that point.
By any conventional standard, the incident Sara described is a rape. On Wednesday, the UW Police Department referred the case to the District Attorney's Office, where prosecutors will consider criminal charges. But last month the Dean's Office closed the case, saying there was not enough evidence to impose sanctions against the student.
Dean's Office officials say that because Sara was drunk and flirting with one of the men, they can't prove that the sex wasn't consensual. They also say that because Sara took more than a year to report the case to them, there is no physical evidence or eyewitnesses to back her allegation.
"Some of the rationale included was that the decision was based on insufficient evidence, that there are no direct witnesses, that both parties were intoxicated and that our office could not determine that there was a violation of the code," Associate Dean Tonya Schmidt wrote in an e-mail to Sara Thursday.
The suspect who allegedly penetrated her remains a student, and a member of the crew team. The other man graduated last year and moved back to the East Coast.
After reporting the case to the university, Sara said, she was plunged into a system that victimizes the victim, and which sets a higher bar for academic sanctions than police do when asking for criminal prosecution.
"Nothing in this process is victim-friendly," Sara said.
Her mother, who has advocated for her every step of the way, is equally disillusioned.
"You don't send your children to a world-class university for this to happen to them," she said.
The Capital Times' policy is to not name rape victims, and "Sara" is not the former crew member's real first name. The newspaper is not naming her alleged attackers because they have not been criminally charged.
Sara's memories of the incident are sketchy, but here's what she recalls:
She was on the way to a party, but first went to a frat house to have drinks with fellow crew members. She remembers having four shots at the bar and becoming intoxicated. It was only the second time in her life she had been drunk. She believes she had about three more shots before she was cut off.
She was introduced to a member of the men's crew team, who pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniel's and took a sip. Sara, emboldened by the alcohol she had already consumed, took a large pull from the bottle.
She began flirting with the man, telling him of a running joke she had with two male friends from high school she saw earlier in the day, who jokingly asked her if she wanted to have a threesome.
"Guys don't really do that," she remembers saying. During the conversation at the bar, the other man stood nearby, never saying a word.
"They took it as a challenge," she said in retrospect. "I by no means offered to have a threesome."
They agreed to go the party together, and Sara went upstairs to get her coat.
"I was so drunk I got lost upstairs," she said.
She came down more than a half-hour later and they left to go to the party, but the men steered her in the opposite direction, one of them saying they had to go to his apartment.
She went with them.
"I knew it would be stupid for a freshman to be walking around drunk and alone," she said.
They went to the apartment in the Camp Randall area, and the man who stood silent at the party grabbed her and kissed her.
"I remember figuring out then what their intentions were," she said.
The next thing she remembers is being naked on the bed, the two men groping her while she was almost too drunk to move. She remembers them having trouble removing her bra and one of them instructing the other to put it around her neck.
The man who stood quiet at the party briefly penetrated her as she cried, "No," "Stop and get off," and "I'm not having sex."
"I was begging for (him) to stop," she said.
His companion told him to stop and he got off. She passed out.
"I remember being on the bed and waking up with a bra on my neck," she said.
When she woke up she grabbed her underwear and ran into the bathroom to vomit. The man who broke up the assault helped her by holding her hair, but also began groping her, telling her she was "hot."
She told him to stop, but he didn't. Because she couldn't stop vomiting, she compromised by telling him if he was going to touch her to do it over her clothing.
"I was scared," she said. "I couldn't breathe because I was puking so much."
She vomited for about two hours, then passed out on the bed. When she woke up the man who was in the bathroom with her was asleep behind her.
"I tried to sneak out, but I didn't know where any of my clothes were," she said. The man on the bed woke up and got her clothes for her, then told her how to get out of the building. She dressed and left.
The next day one of the men called her and offered to tell her what happened.
"I said yes," Sara said. "I'm bleeding and I don't know why."
The three met at a restaurant, and because her memory was fogged with alcohol, she didn't even remember what they looked like.
"At one point (the man who penetrated her) looked at me and said, 'I'm sorry for raping you,' and I said 'No you didn't.'"
"I just didn't want it to be true," she said.
The man who was with him, the one who broke off the assault, kept the conversation light.
"If you want to do that again, just let us know," she remembered him saying.
After the assault, Sara felt a sad mix of emotions: guilt, despair, depression. She stopped eating, her already slight frame dropping to an alarming 7 percent body fat. She suffered from insomnia. She distanced herself from her family and her church. She broke up with her boyfriend. Her grades began to fall. Sometimes she would inexplicably break out in tears. She dropped out of athletics.
"Basically, everything in my life wasn't working," she said. "I felt I was going crazy."
Sara comes from a religious family. She was a virgin and intended to remain so until she married. She excelled in academics and athletics, winning a spot on the crew team her freshman year.
The assailants began to talk about the assault and word spread. Her boyfriend, a crew team member, and another of her friends on the crew team urged her not to say or do anything about it.
"I loved him and thought by speaking out after he said no, that would end it," she said. A month later they broke up anyway.
She saw a psychiatrist and he guessed she had suffered some emotional trauma. Seven months after the fact, she told him what happened, the first time she had told anyone except for her close circle of friends.
In July 2005, 15 months after the assault, the man she says raped her approached her at a party and, in front of at least two other people, drunkenly apologized to her for what he had done, blurting out various details of the incident.
Concerned about his behavior, she sought a no-contact directive from the Dean's Office. The office urged her to report the assault to the University Police, which she did on July 19. She was told the detective who handles such cases, Carol Ann Glassmaker, was out of the office for several weeks, and the UW Police handed the case to the Madison Police Department. The Madison Police Department handed it back, and Glassmaker eventually got it.
Capt. Brian Bridges explained that the UW Police Department sometimes takes such cases, even though they happen in another jurisdiction, because of the department's connections with UW support services.
"We can try to get them some closure and some help," he said.
But what she got, she says, was blame and accusations in the Dean's Office.
On the hot seat:
During her initial call to the Dean's Office, Sara spoke with Assistant Dean Schmidt. In the system employed by the Dean's Office, there are four assistant deans who handle such matters, and Schmidt, being the first one contacted, became her official advocate. A second assistant dean, Yolanda Garza, became the investigator in the case.
In December, during finals week, Sara met with Schmidt and Garza. Sara said Garza grilled her to see if her accusations would stand up at a disciplinary hearing.
During the meeting, Sara said, Garza put Sara on the hot seat, accusing her of coming on to the two men, then having consensual sex with them.
"I was actually blamed by Yolanda," Sara said. "She made accusations."
"I think you had sex with both of them," Sara quoted Garza as saying.
At one point she said Garza asked her, "Why are you even here?"
Meanwhile, her advocate, Schmidt, didn't say a thing.
Garza called an end to the meeting when Sara broke down, saying she was not a "strong enough person" to stand up under questioning, Sara said.
The next day, Sara failed a final exam.
"I didn't even sleep that night," she said.
After the meeting, Schmidt assigned another investigator, Suzanne Jones, to the case. University officials will not provide specifics of the case, but Sara said Jones spoke with the suspect and his father, who is an attorney, before closing the case last month.
Sara complained that in the university's system for dealing with sexual assault, the cards are stacked against the victim.
She said the investigation involved little more than getting the side of her accused assailant, with no effort to contact others who may have seen or heard evidence of the alleged crime, including the other man who allegedly took part in the assault. In the end, it's a "he-said, she-said" case.
If the case had gone to a disciplinary hearing, Sara would not have been able to question the man she has accused, but he would have been able to question her. Questions about how the investigation was conducted were directed to Elton Crim, who is the supervisor of student advocacy and judicial affairs in the Dean's Office. He said that during such hearings, the university takes on the role of the accuser.
"Even though the victim feels that it's her against the student, it's really the university against the student," he explained.
"They just completely make you powerless," Sara said. "It's a trial in which I have no ability to speak for myself."
Crim said there is a point in the hearing, toward the end of the process, that the victim can make an "impact statement."
Sara said the role of her advocate was compromised because she was more beholden to her colleagues than to her. She said Schmidt's role was minimal during her dealings with the Dean's Office.
"I've decided that the advocate is there to make you not see what's going on," she said.
Kelly Anderson, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, said UW is better than most at providing support for sexual assault victims, and is alone among Wisconsin institutions of higher learning in welcoming a rape crisis center on campus. But she said universities have built-in shortcomings when dealing with sexual assault complaints, shortcomings that bring into question the university's ability to provide a safe atmosphere for women.
"You kind of want the best outcome for both (the victim and the accused), because they're both your constituents," she said of the university's position.
She also pointed out that the ability of the university to conduct an investigation is much narrower than that of court prosecutors, which can subpoena records and compel witnesses. In addition, she said, university investigators typically do not have the expertise of those in the criminal justice system.
Then there's the threat of lawsuit if a student feels wrongly sanctioned.
"There's a real hesitancy to apply these (sanctions) unless it's really clear," Anderson said.
"It ends up being a situation where instead of being a lower standard than law enforcement, it's a higher one," she said.
Crim said university investigations of sexual assault are fraught with legal concerns.
"We have to be wary of possible legal action on behalf of both parties," he said.
Crim supervises the four assistant deans who handle such investigations and he said he was surprised at Sara's complaints that she was treated unfairly.
"This is probably the first time I've ever had that issue come up, and quite frankly, I'm surprised," he said, noting the extensive experience of the assistant deans involved.
But he acknowledged that sometimes students have an adverse reaction when they are questioned by an investigator.
"We try to prepare the victims for the questions we have to ask, and I think sometimes folks have a hard time when we ask those questions," he said. "It's clear, in some instances, that some of those questions can be perceived as not very positive."
He said the job of the investigator is to discern, as close as possible, what the facts are, then to make a recommendation on possible sanctions, which range from a reprimand to suspension or expulsion. In cases involving alcohol, like Sara's, the job is more complicated because recollections are incomplete.
"We take the statement for what it is," he said. "But we also have to evaluate it objectively. And the reason we do that is because of all the legal implications surrounding the investigation."
But he added that in light of the criminal investigation that has been referred to the District Attorney's Office, he's reviewing the case again.
"If that's the case and some new information comes to light, I wouldn't necessarily close the door on the case," he said.
If he does reopen the case, he has a week to do it. The alleged perpetrator graduates next week.
Why bother? Sara said that one of her reasons for pursuing the complaint is to encourage others to do the same.
She said she has come to realize that she has many friends and acquaintances who have been sexually assaulted, and many of them haven't reported the crime. One friend, who told her she had been raped, decided to follow Sara's lead and not report the crime.
"I'm very much coming forward for them as much as I am for myself," Sara said.
Anderson, of the Rape Crisis Center, said about 10 percent of sexual assault victims ever report the crime. In the university setting, the system can dissuade reporting even more.
"If it's going to be, 'If you can't prove it in court, you can't prove it here,' then what's the point?" she said.
Crim would not offer statistics on how many sexual assault investigations his office handles each year, or how many result in sanctions.
"We don't do a whole lot of them every year. And the ones you do end up doing take a lot of time," he said.
He said many cases are reported, but never go any farther.
"We get reports of sexual assault a lot more than the cases when they want to do something about it," he said. "Many victims will not want to go forward, for whatever reason."
Sara said that after the Dean's Office failed to forward her complaint to the Athletic Department after she repeatedly had asked them to, she did it herself in early April.
Associate athletic director VinceSweeney would not comment on the case except to say, "We're reviewing the matter."
He would not say if the criminal investigation would impact the department's review of the case, or if the accusation, if verified, would result in the alleged perpetrator's suspension under the student-athlete disciplinary policy.
Regardless of the university's ultimate handling of the case, Sara said pursuing the case has become her way of dealing with it.
"By reporting it, that's my therapy, by fighting it," she said.
Get drunk, flirt and take a year to report it then whine the cops arent jumping thru hoops to sastify you...nice girl..guys sound really classy too
I think the key is to educate young women about keeping themselves out of these types of situations. Unfortunately, there is no realistic way you can convict someone for rape when they do it to someone who is highly intoxicated. Women need to protect themselves in these situations - the law just can't do it.
Yeah, that whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing sucks.
I agree completely. 90% of reported rape claims are false. The percentage that go unreported is of course indeterminable.
I doubt your stats are correct but there are certainly a percentage that are 'next day remorse' type reports. The problem is that htere is no way to get around reasonable doubt when it is just the word of someone who was extremely drunk.
I would have no problem with all women having the ability to proclaim rape with semen evidence inside of them.
Any man who can't keep his pecker in his pants until marriage should realize rape can be legitimately used against them. However, semen in a woman who is your wife shouldn't be considered a crime.
Get married or screw an animal. Oh, wait, even screwing an animal is against the law.
Speaking as someone who has taken rape reports, I don't doubt my stats.
I want to thank you for investigating every single rape complaint in our nation. You are a great American.
Semen only proves sex. There have been several high-profile rape cases in the Orlando area that were later proved to be false. It's unfortunate, but there are a number of rape cases that are flat out false - either a nutcase or someone who really regretted what they consented to while they were drunk. How do you differentiate these scenarios beyond a reasonable doubt.
I don't like the situation at all and I do worry about this happening to one of my daughters. The best thing I can do is show them these stories so they know what can happen when young women drink too much.
Honey, you should be prosecuted for harrassment.
You're welcome and I know.
And then, don't complain about it a fear after the fact.
The college Admin ought to tell her to fuggedaboutit.
BTW, wasn't some guy just released from prison after his accuser of ten years earlier admitted that she had lied because she had been bored and wanted some attention?
Daughter dearest was in control of the tap. She was also in control of taking off her clothes and pointing her tail in the air.
This dizzy bi*** doesn't belong in college. She belongs behind a counter asking folks if they 'want fries with that.'
Of course you do. May our good Lord continue to bless you in your noble quest to spread the word about those dirty, lying whores who ever prey on the flower of innocent manhood.
There's been more than a few of those. A WI businessman was convicted of raping a 19 y/o in IL. The 10 y/o picked him out of a lineup. At the time the rape occured he was having dinner with clients somewhere else. That alone should have told the cops the woman was nuts. States atty Jim Ryan (RINO) charged him anyway and got him convicted on the woman's testimony alone. He lost his wife and kids. 6 years later the woman recanted and IL let him out protesting all the way.
Three drunk people are fooling around, the girl says "stop" and they stop.
And that's still a rape?
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