Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lawrence Journal-World: KU campus rape allegation under review by district attorney

KU campus rape allegation under review by district attorney

September 3, 2014
District Attorney Charles Branson says his office will take another look at the possibility of filing charges in an alleged Kansas University campus rape after receiving new information related to the case.
The 20-year-old victim, in a recent interview with the Journal-World, said she was raped in October 2013 in Lewis Hall, where she and her alleged attacker both lived. Then a freshman, she said she went to a party with him, drank heavily and returned to his room, where he had sex with her and continued after she asked him to stop.
The Journal-World is not naming the victim, at her request. She is now a sophomore at KU.
The victim said she filed a police report with the Kansas University Office of Public Safety — which made its way to the district attorney’s office — and also a complaint with KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, or IOA, which oversees sexual assault investigations and recommends penalties for perpetrators.
IOA investigated her complaint, but the victim said she was dissatisfied with the penalties the university imposed on her alleged attacker. She believes he is still a student.
“I wanted him to get expelled,” she said. “I don’t think it’s OK for him to still be on the campus. It just gives me so much anxiety knowing that he’s still there and I could run into him again.”
KU representatives would not confirm whether the university investigated her case, citing confidentiality required by federal law.
Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, said in a statement that KU encourages sexual assault victims to come forward and investigates thoroughly.
“KU can, and does, suspend and expel students for sexual assault,” Durham said. “The university gives survivors a voice by consulting with them regarding sanctions, and pursuing those sanctions a survivor finds most appropriate. For example, if a survivor believes the university should impose a suspension or expulsion the university did not otherwise intend to pursue, a hearing will take place to pursue such a sanction.”
The victim said she is still hopeful criminal charges will be filed against her attacker in court.
Branson said the case remains under review. The new information he learned last week involves another encounter between the victim and the same man, he said.
The victim said the same man who raped her in October also raped her several weeks earlier, in September 2013, also when she was heavily intoxicated. She reported the September incident to KU this spring, after the university completed its investigation into the October incident. KU’s investigation into the September incident is ongoing, the victim said.
She did not file a police report for the September incident, and Branson said his office was unaware of it until last week, when he met with the victim, her attorney and her mother.
“After the university’s action (the victim) made a second allegation of sex assault by the same suspect several weeks prior to this incident,” he said. “That information had never been shared with our office or law enforcement.”
Branson said Wednesday that he would consider the new information and determine whether it would make a difference in a charging decision. He declined to publicly discuss details of the alleged incident — and how those would affect the strengths and weaknesses of the case — because the victim’s family asked him not to.
The case generated buzz online and on campus Wednesday, after the Huffington Post published an interview with the victim.
Numerous Twitter users posted opinions about the story along with the hashtag#AGreatPlaceToBeUnsafe.
On Wednesday evening, KU's Student Rights Committee passed a resolution condemning the university's handling of student complaints of sexual assault.
The resolution, passed unanimously, calls on the school to create a designated victim's advocate, mandatory sexual assault training for all students and immediate reexamination of current policies and procedures.
Student body president Emma Halling spoke at the meeting, saying the lack of punishment handed down on the male student represented a "systematic failure."
"This is an issue that I've been working on for several years," Halling said after the meeting. "A lot of folks have personal experiences with this and they're not comfortable talking about it and so that inhibits the conversation, but this is an important campus dialogue."
The victim said Wednesday night that she was pleased with the attention.
“This really isn’t taken seriously, and it’s such a serious issue,” she said.
Elliot Hughes contributed to this story.