Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marquette in the Spotlight for Handling of Rape Cases

From yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, a longish article about the way Marquette has handled rape cases. We will excerpt key parts of it here, but you probably want to read the whole thing.
MILWAUKEE — On a chilly Sunday morning, a 19-year-old Marquette University student walked into the campus security office and tearfully reported being raped by an athlete just hours earlier.

She says two of the officers on duty that February day dismissed her claim, telling her they didn’t know whether it was a crime because she alleged the encounter began as consensual sex and ended as an assault.

No report was taken, and Milwaukee police were not notified by the university, which insists the woman said she did not want authorities involved.

The university now acknowledges that failing to notify police was a violation of state law, which requires campus security departments to report any possible crimes to local authorities. School officials also did not tell police about a sexual attack allegation involving four athletes in October.

In fact, Marquette administrators told the Tribune that they have violated their reporting obligations for the past 10 years. And in at least the two most recent cases, the lapse played a role in prosecutors declining to press charges.

The admission comes amid media inquiries into the Catholic college’s handling of those two cases and serves as a backdrop for the woman’s account of what happened after she reported being raped on Feb. 27.

Breaking her public silence, the woman described a university determined to bury her allegations and eager to insulate itself from criticism once her accusations became known. She has shared the same account with law enforcement, school officials and medical professionals, according to documents and multiple Tribune interviews.
And further:
Last week, a Tribune analysis of several major Midwestern universities found that few students who report sexual violence see their attackers arrested and almost none see them convicted.

The survey of six schools in Illinois and Indiana found that police investigated 171 reported sex crimes since fall 2005, with 12 resulting in arrests and four in convictions. Only one of the convictions stemmed from a student-on-student attack, the most common type of assault claim.

Marquette reported 16 forcible sex offenses on campus from 2001 through 2009 to the U.S. Department of Education, according to the university. The school declined to provide the Tribune with the disposition of those cases.

Fresh injuries

In repeated statements to authorities, the woman in the Feb. 27 incident described accepting an invitation to the athlete’s campus apartment that day. Though the two had a sexual relationship in the past, he suddenly had stopped calling or spending time with her, she said.

Once there, they began to have consensual sex, she said. However, the woman said, she tried to get off the bed and leave after he made disparaging comments to her and wouldn’t explain why he had stopped contacting her.

She said she told him to stop but that he refused. She said she fought back but that he was too strong for her and held her down.

The woman agreed to speak to the Tribune on the condition that her name not be used.

Neither the athlete nor his Milwaukee-based lawyer returned calls seeking comment. The athlete, whom the Tribune is not identifying because he has not been charged with a crime, has told authorities and school administrators that the sex was consensual, according to multiple sources.

After leaving the athlete’s apartment, the woman said, she returned to her dorm and tried to sleep. After a fitful few hours, she confided in a resident assistant about the previous night’s events. The RA sent her directly to the security department, where, the woman says, two on-duty officers told her they were not sure that the encounter could be classified as a crime.
So far, it looks like “he said, she said,” although it’s hard to see why she would lie about this. But there is further evidence.
Still, they promised that a security officer would call her within an hour, she said.

The woman then went to the hospital at the resident assistant’s urging. Medical reports from that visit show the woman had vaginal abrasions, in addition to fresh injuries on her face, hip, foot, knee and both thighs, according to documents obtained by the Tribune.

The following day, a security officer finally contacted her and asked her to come back to the department and give another statement, the woman said. She did, only to be told that police wouldn’t want to investigate her case and that the university’s internal discipline process would likely cause her more harm than good, she said. The officer did not take an official report, she said.
And more:
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm told the Tribune that the woman has given authorities the same account on several occasions. Once she shared the allegation with Marquette security, the officers were legally bound to call police — regardless of their interpretation of the incident, he said.

“Once they have reason to believe that a crime like a sexual assault has occurred, they have a mandatory obligation to report that to police, and that didn’t happen,” Chisholm said. “Everyone acknowledges that.”

Lt. Paul Mascari of the university’s security department disputed the woman’s account, saying officers always began their conversations with alleged victims by asking if they wanted police involved.

“I can tell you that, having talked to the officers afterward, it was never the intention of anyone in this department to discourage … victims from contacting the Milwaukee Police Department,” Mascari said.

No one, however, disputes that the university broke the law when it failed to report the woman’s allegation to city police.

Marquette’s security department has been required under Wisconsin law to report all allegations of campus sex crimes to Milwaukee police since it was licensed by the state in 2001, but university administrators acknowledge they historically have forwarded a case only at the complainant’s request. They declined to say how many cases went unreported to local law enforcement but said the majority of cases were sent to police at the women’s requests.

Marquette officials also contend they did not realize that they were in violation of the law until the woman in the October case went to police on her own.

Marquette officials first came under fire for their handling of sexual assault cases in late March, when a female student told Milwaukee police she had been sexually attacked by four athletes in a dorm room on Oct. 30. She reported the incident within hours to campus security officers, who informed the athletic department of the accusation but did not tell local law enforcement after she indicated she did not want police involved, officials said.

As reporters and television crews descended on the urban campus to cover that story, the woman in the February case received calls from Milwaukee police and school administrators inquiring about her allegation. It was the first she had heard from school officials in weeks.

The woman said she met with Quade, who encouraged her to focus on her schoolwork and mental health rather than pursuing charges, the woman said. Quade also asked if she had thought about praying about the situation, the woman said. She said she left the meeting in tears.

“I felt like they were trying to get me to be quiet and disappear,” she said. “I’ve never been made to feel so dumb, so stupid and so much like I didn’t matter.”

The woman in the October case could not be reached for comment. The Tribune is not naming the athletes because they have not been charged, and the newspaper is not disclosing their sport to avoid identifying them.

The four athletes accused in the October case were subject to team discipline, Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker said. He declined to provide further information about any punishment.

In the February case, the woman filed an official complaint with the university in March and participated in the athlete’s conduct hearing in April. She withdrew from classes shortly before the proceeding and plans to attend another college in the fall.
In an e-mail statement today, Marquette admitted to mishandling these cases.
Subject: Marquette University Message from President Robert A. Wild, S.J.
JUNE 22, 2011

Dear Marquette Faculty and Staff:

As you know, in the past month there has been much on-campus conversation and a number of media stories about two sexual assault cases on the Marquette campus involving student athletes. These are difficult, sensitive situations for all involved. We want all our students to feel cared for and supported; when that is not the case, we need to take action.

I have had blunt and very direct conversations with colleagues across the university as we work to improve our responses to these types of incidents, and I can assure you that everyone is committed to ensuring our campus culture emphasizes care and respect for each other. We have been working to address the issues raised, and I now have some substantive progress to report.

Any incident of sexual violence is reprehensible and in complete opposition to the values of Marquette University. While federal law protecting the privacy of students prohibits sharing the details of these incidents and the outcomes of any disciplinary proceedings, they were investigated by the university with action taken in accordance with our student conduct code. They were also investigated by Milwaukee law enforcement officials, and no charges were filed.

The university has publicly acknowledged that we made mistakes in dealing with these incidents. We worked quickly and proactively to correct those procedures, both to be sensitive to victims and to comply with Wisconsin state law. We now refer any reported incident of sexual assault to the Sensitive Crimes Unit of the Milwaukee Police Department. We have also added a victim advocate to the staff of our Student Health Service and have more tightly restricted who on campus has access to reports from the Department of Public Safety.

As you know, we have many resources on campus to both educate our students and to support those who are the victims of sexual violence. These include HAVEN, VOICES and the services of the Department of Public Safety, Campus Ministry, the Counseling Center and Student Health Service. In addition, we have very positive relationships with a number of community agencies. The Gender Resource Center, once operational, will also provide support in this area.

Upon hearing of the concerns involving these cases, I wanted to proactively address the issues and, thus, asked Janine Geske, distinguished professor of law and former
justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, to convene a group of campus and community representatives dealing with sexual violence. They have had conversations that have been very helpful to the university, and I am happy to report that considerable progress has been made, including:
  • As noted above, the Department of Public Safety has worked with the MPD Sensitive Crimes Unit to ensure that the reporting of any sexual assault both complies with state law and is sensitive to the needs of victims. DPS officers also participated in victim-centered training this summer.
  • The Office of Student Affairs, working with representatives from the district attorney’s office and our own law faculty, is re-writing our policies and procedures regarding sexual assault in light of what we’ve learned in these cases and the recently issued guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education. These policies and procedures will be in place for the 2011-12 academic year.
  • Marquette’s Counseling Center and Student Health Service are working with academic and other colleagues on a number of prevention and education programs. Every incoming freshman will receive sexual violence and prevention training. An online program on sexual assault awareness and prevention, Student Success, will be piloted with targeted groups of students and staff this fall. There is also training planned in Bystander Intervention, i.e., how to help ensure the safety of a friend in vulnerable situations.
Surely, there is more to be done, and this is a focus of concentration this summer. We will get this right, because we want any student who is a victim of sexual assault to be supported and to come forward so she or he can make use of the many resources the university and our community partners have to offer. You can be helpful in this regard – by encouraging any student who is a victim of sexual assault to report it, by taking the Bystander Intervention training once offered and by continuing to be a source of support and caring for our students on a daily basis.

I want you to know that student and staff safety and security have been and remain my number one concern. While I am retiring in just a few weeks, I have talked with my successor, Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., and know that he shares these concerns and will continue to move the university forward. In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact Dr. Chris Miller, vice president for student affairs.

I will continue to ask God’s abundant blessings on you and our entire Marquette community.

Sincerely,

Robert A. Wild, S.J.
President
Marquette University

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. I guess it depends on how the basketball team is doing when the rape, I mean the consentual sex act, occurs.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is another sad day for the

college women of wis.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Wild would seem to know a thing or two about covering up sexual assault from his days as the Chicago Jesuit Provinicial and his involvement with the McGuire case. I can't say this is surprising.

11:32 AM  

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