Two students report rape, decline criminal action

"During a 17-day period from February 12-28 2011, two reports of rape in the third degree were filed with University Police. While the cases did not involve the same victim and occurred on separate sides of campus, one in Riggs Hall, and another in The Village, they did have one characteristic in common: both victims declined to have U.P. fully investigate.

""Sometimes on college campuses you will see that type of situation occur where a victim will report to us, but they don’t want it to go any further than that," U.P. Chief Cynthia Adam said. "They’re informational reports so they will not be reports that will be thoroughly investigated because the victims in both cases did not want a police investigation."

"Choosing to not pursue an investigation is a problem that is prevalent on college campuses, and in society as well, Adam said. There are a variety of reasons why victims choose not to pursue an investigation.

""It may be that they don’t want to come under public scrutiny, it may be that they’re concerned that their confidentiality will in some way be leaked, it could be that they’re concerned about their parents becoming involved," Adam said. "There are many reasons why a victim may not want that."

"According to the New York State Penal Law, rape in the third degree is when a person "engages in sexual intercourse with another person without such person’s consent where such lack of consent is by reason of some factor other than incapacity to consent." For example, a victim may be under the influence of alcohol when the rape occurs and unable to consent. Rape in the third degree is classified as a class E felony.

"While U.P. may want to pursue a full investigation of a sexual assault case, there is little they can do unless there is cooperation from the victim. While there are instances when they can bring a case to the district attorney’s office because of a victim’s reluctance to talk because of fear of revenge or a domestic violence issue, these occasions arerare. The most U.P. can do at times is to take a report and refer the victim to counseling and health services.

""Certainly we are willing to take both types of reports, but most certainly for public safety concerns and out of the interest of justice we would always much rather see our department have the capacity to fully investigate a situation so that we’re able to bring that person to justice," Adam said.

"A full investigation would entail collecting statements from the victim, suspect and witnesses and collecting evidence. However, for victims who do not wish to go with a full investigation, there is another option: they can file charges through the office of Judicial Affairs.

""It’s a personal decision that victims make and if they decide to report at all and then decide to file criminal or judicial charges," said Assistant Dean of Students for Judicial Affairs Lisa Evaneski in an e-mail. "We hope that victims will report so we can assist them in getting the immediate care that they need, preserve evidence in case they later decide to press charges and get resources that will help them transition through the stages of recovery."

"Sexual assault cases are processed through Judicial Affairs the same way any other case would be.

""The consequences vary.," Evaneski said. "Most commonly students would be suspended from the college for a period of time or placed on Disciplinary Probation depending on the facts of the case, [and] the judicial history of the respondent."

"Many sexual assault cases go unreported because victims may not come forward. Therefore, numbers of reported cases do not always reflect the amount of sexual assault crimes that are occurring.

""We may have had more people report, but that is a good thing because then we can provide services, medical care and talk to students about criminal and judicial options," Evaneski said.

"In order to better address sexual assault crimes and improve victim care, Adam and Evaneski are working with other members of the campus community to start a sexual assault response team which will be established Fall 2011.

""We hope to increase reporting of this crime, which is severely underreported across the U.S.," said Lifestyles Center Health Promotion Coordinator Shelly Sloan in an e-mail. "We also hope to offer support to victims. But more than anything, let victims know that there is support for them available on this campus and people care."

"The response team would cover prevention, awareness and support for victims of sexual assault.

""There are benefits to having a team of people who have specific training who can be on call and prepared to assist a victim after an assault," Evaneski said. "There are medical, emotional, and legal/judicial options to consider as well as accommodations on campus."

"The response team would also provide standardized care to victims.