Sexual assault allegation prompts response from students, Butler administration

The past Butler student reported the male student who sexually assaulted her was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha. The fraternity was suspended the following semester in January 2017. Collegian file photo.

ALEXIS PRICE | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | adprice1@butler.edu

On Jan. 29, the Indianapolis Star published an article in which a past Butler University student came forward about an incident of sexual assault on campus in the fall of 2016.

According to the article, “the young woman and her family say they are outraged by Butler’s reaction in 2016, after the then 18-year-old woman said she was forcibly raped by a man twice her size.”

In the article, originally published around 9 a.m., the woman said she filed a civil rights complaint, stating the university did not inform her of her options as required by federal law. Because of this, she said evidence was destroyed that would allow her to “effectively seek criminal charges against her alleged attacker.”

Later that day, President James Danko released a statement on the Butler Newsroom website concerning sexual assault and violence on college campuses.

In it, Danko states, “The safety and well-being of our students is, and always has been, our top priority. We work tirelessly to create an environment where our campus community is confident that reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence will be handled with professionalism, expediency, and sensitivity; an environment that acknowledges the magnitude of a personal decision to report sexual violence and be committed to removing any barriers to reporting. If we have failed one person in these efforts, we have failed our entire community.”

At 8:05 p.m. that night, Frank Ross, Butler’s vice president of student affairs posted a video on his Twitter.

“It breaks my heart that we are not immune from this on our own campus,”he said.

He then mentioned how Butler has a new Title IX coordinator, and a new policy in process.

“We continue to look at the programs that we offer to educate students on this important topic,” Ross said. “I know that you love Butler and that, like me, you would do whatever it takes to make this place better– including our response to sexual harassment and sexual violence. I know this isn’t an easy conversation, but this is something we as a community must talk about.”

The policy, effective June 9, 2017, states that “Students are encouraged to report violations of this policy within 9 months of the date of harassment. A student may file a complaint as long as the student making the allegation and the person responding to the allegation are members of the University community or Third Parties. The University recognizes, however, that extenuating circumstances may prevent prompt reporting.”

The IndyStar reported that one of Butler’s employees reported the assault to the Butler University Police Department the day after it occurred — “for statistical purposes, not for investigative purposes.”

The victim said she did meet with Stacie Colston Patterson, the Title IX coordinator at the time. However, this was after the 72-hour window for collecting forensic evidence of rape.

The response from Butler administration, in conjunction with the article, sparked mixed responses from the community.

Sarah Barnes Diaz, Butler’s associate director of health education and outreach programs, replied to Ross’ video, stating in a tweet, “Thanks for acknowledging that there will always be ways to improve efforts [in] this area. This is leadership.”

Some Butler students responded to the Indy Star article with few, but direct words. Student Carly Butler tweeted the article and captioned it, “Do better @butleru.”

“We are aware that we can always better ourselves,” Danko said in his statement. “In no area is this more important than sexual harassment and sexual violence. This is an ever-changing area that impacts so much of our campus community, and as a result, we must always look to improve. One way of doing this is by listening to feedback from our campus community, as well as examining what other institutions are doing to address sexual violence on campus.”

According to Butler’s 2016 Annual Security Report, there were 12 reported cases of rape — 11 on campus, one off campus. This is an increase from the reported five in 2015, and six in 2014.

Butler has more than 4,000 students. Valparaiso University — who has similar enrollment numbers — had three reported cases of rape in 2016.

Indiana University in Bloomington, with a student population of almost 50,000, reported 21 rapes in 2016. In comparison, that would be an estimated one reported case of rape per 2,380 students. Butler, though a smaller university, would have one reported case of rape per 333 students.

In a letter sent to the Butler Collegian, parents of the victim reiterated these same statistics, with the addition of Notre Dame.

“At this moment in our national life, much attention is properly focused on ensuring that all women may work and study in an environment of respect, equality and safety,” the parents wrote in the letter. “We hope that the University’s Board of Trustees and the entire Butler community will join in this national discussion and take the concrete steps needed to ensure that no other Butler student will be the victim of a campus rape and that no other family will endure the same experience with the University’s leadership and administration that we have.”

The Collegian has not reached out to the university for a response. We will continue to investigate and report on this incident, along with others related to sexual assault over the coming months.

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