An attempted rape reported to have occurred on campus this September did not in fact happen, Cornell police announced Thursday. Police say there is “irrefutable evidence” that the allegations were false and they may pursue charges against the person who made the attempted rape report, Chief Kathy Zoner said.
On Sept. 27, a female reported to the Cornell University Police Department that a male assailant had grabbed her on the Trolley Bridge –– which connects Oak Avenue and the Engineering Quad –– and dragged her into the adjacent woods before attempting to rape her. The female told CUPD that there she struggled against her attacker before she was able to strike him in the face and flee from the scene.
But after an “exhaustive investigation,” CUPD says the attempted rape did not occur and that the case has been closed.
Zoner said that video evidence, among other sources, refuted the complainant’s claims.
“For the times in question, I have video showing the [complainant] is somewhere else,” Zoner said. “There is video and other objective evidence showing that [she was not] in the place she said she was.”
Over the course of their investigation, CUPD officers conducted interviews with a number of people, including the person who alleged the attack and her friends, potential suspects and witnesses. The information from these interviews, along with the video evidence, proved “wholly inconsistent with the account provided by the complainant,” according to CUPD.
Though the complainant has not been criminally charged, Zoner said this option is still under consideration.
“[The report] caused considerable alarm among community members and resulted in the allocation of substantial resources that could have been devoted to other incidents currently under investigation by the Cornell police,” she said.
Despite receiving a false report, Zoner stressed CUPD’s commitment to thoroughly investigating all sexual assault reports it receives.
“Just because this particular incident was proven to have not happened does not in any way, shape or form affect how we investigate every crime,” Zoner said. “We always take every fact given to us seriously. We approach everything with the belief that facts presented to us are true.”
She also said that CUPD remains concerned by the number of reports of sexual assault it has received this semester, emphasizing that the department intends to continue with increased patrols on weekend nights and sending out weekly emails to the community encouraging people to take proper safety precautions.
“[The false report] was by no means the only report of sexual assault,” Zoner said. “We want to reassure our community that we’re there for them and we are a resource. If someone has been assaulted, we want to provide … safety for them to report the crime to us. [The false report] doesn’t mean that a real report [of sexual assault] couldn’t happen.”