September 16, 2004

IPD Investigates Alleged Labor Day Rape

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The Ithaca Police Department is investigating an alleged rape that occurred on the weekend of Sept. 3, according to Lt. Timothy Williams. A relative of the alleged victim said that the incident, allegedly perpetrated by a freshman varsity athlete, took place on University property on the 700 block of University Avenue.

“[The victim] spent the better part of the day [after the assault] at the police department that weekend,” the relative said, adding that she had filed reports with the Cornell University Police Department, the IPD and the Judicial Administrator’s office.

When asked about earlier comments from the police that no formal complaint had been filed, he replied, “They’re lying.”

There was also apparent confusion among the police departments themselves over who was investigating the case. When the departments were contacted about the incident, both informed The Sun repeatedly that the case was under the other department’s jurisdiction. During a later call, Lt. Williams said that the IPD was indeed investigating the situation, though he could not comment further due to the ongoing investigation into the incident.

Although J.A. Mary Beth Grant could not comment on the specifics of this case, she did say that her department “take[s] sexual assault cases very, very seriously. We try to make sure the complainant understands the process and the different options.”

She said that victims of sexual assault can use both the J.A. and the criminal justice system to pursue their case.

“We encourage complainants to file complaints in both places, and then it’s up to the complainant to choose whether to pursue both, one, neither of the systems,” she said. The relative, however, said he feels that the University is not as helpful in sexual assault cases as they claim.

“In my opinion, the colleges have violated the victim’s rights by … her having to move herself from campus,” he said. “As a result of this, she didn’t feel safe on campus while the perpetrator was still attending classes.”

Simeon Moss, deputy director of the Cornell News Service, said, “This is a very serious and disturbing allegation. We condemn the reported incidents, such as this, and we condemn this kind of alleged behavior.”

Moss also added, “We do everything we can to provide support where support is needed and sought.”

He said that in this particular case, “the reported victim and her family have received support services from the University.” Moss would not say what services were provided for the victim. The relative of the alleged victim disagreed with Moss’s assessment of the aid given.

“I keep just getting the party line that they’re protecting the victim, but obviously not the case. The victim has been moved off campus, and what they’re doing is insulating and protecting the perpetrator,” he said.

Grant admitted, “It’s hard to be a complainant in any time of the process.”

She pointed out, however, that victims have a right to a victim’s advocate at all J.A. proceedings and a right not to be in the same room as the accused. She also said that the advocacy center provides victims with support and counseling.

Grant also said that sexual assault cases rarely come into her office, less then five times a year on average.

“I have the sense that this is not pervasive on this campus,” she responded when asked about how frequent sexual assault cases were at the University.

Grant’s department, which she has been in charge of for six years, has come under fire before from victims who felt like their rights were not being respected.

In a 2002 Sun article, an alleged victim who took her complaints to the J.A. said, “Six or seven cases go before the J.A. every year, but no one is ever found in violation.”

One woman received a letter warning of future punishment from the J.A. after she discussed with various groups on campus her belief that she had been treated wrongfully throughout the hearing board’s proceedings.

The relative of the victim feels that the same alleged faults in the system are present today and working against the alleged victim.

“This will drag on and on and on until it becomes tiresome and it goes away [without a conviction],” the relative said.

Both Moss and Grant said that they felt the system in place works and has not changed in the past several years.

“If the question is, are people ever held accountable for sexual assault, the answer is yes,” Grant said.

That system, according to the relative, does not work.

“As long as this guy goes to school and attends … practice and is free to roam the streets, I really feel that they’ve violated the victim’s civil rights and discriminated against her by not providing a safe environment for her to study in,” he said.

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun Senior Writer