Student: My two rapists allowed to walk on campus
Monday, April 17, 2017
From editors’ introduction to this special report: "To put a face to the statistics, we are sharing the first-hand accounts of real-life experiences of students who have been allegedly, sexually assaulted. These are their stories, bravely told, though not independently investigated or corroborated by Arrow reporters.”
Two days before move-in day of her freshman year, Grace Whiteside said she was sexually assaulted by a former boyfriend who also was moving on campus.
On move-in day her former boyfriend tried to say “hi” and Grace ignored him. He texted her asking why she would not speak to him. She told her resident assistant what was happening, and together they reached out to Counseling and Disability Services.
No investigation was launched due to the alleged assault happening off campus, however, Grace’s former boyfriend was moved out of Vandiver, given an order of no trespass to the Vandiver dorm and received a letter of no contact.
“So, that was kind of hard to see him around campus,” Grace said. “Nothing else really happened, because I didn’t report it when it happened because he was an ex.”
Grace said she tried to move on from her assault by attending campus events. She made new friends and was learning more about campus when she went to Carpe Diem.
When the event was over she went back to a high school friend’s room to watch a movie.
“I know this person; it can’t be too bad to go back with them, so I went,” she said.
Her friend’s roommate offered his bed so she could see the TV. Her friend from high school left before the movie ended to go see his girlfriend.
“His roommate kept begging me to stay and watch the rest of the movie and he seemed like a nice enough person,” Grace said. “Since I grew up in a small town I was raised to just trust everybody.”
After her high school friend left his roommate started to kiss her.
“I said ‘No’ a bunch of times,” she said. “He just kept kissing me and slid his hand under my dress I was wearing and slid my underwear to the side and started to finger me.”
She kept asking him to stop.
“I told him, ‘No, stop, I have a boyfriend,’” Grace said. “’Cause in our society men respect other men more than they do women.”
Grace said he had her arms pinned so she couldn’t move. She cried and begged him to stop.
“He had me cornered with my arms trapped under his body and I was just crying and telling him no,” she said. “He just kept going ’til he was done.”
After he had sexually assaulted her, he offered to walk her back to her dorm, she said.
“I let him, because I figured that it was safer to walk across campus, not alone, even though the person that just attacked me was walking with me,” Grace said.
On the walk, he continued to ask Grace if she was OK and if they could still be friends, she said.
“Because I’ve been assaulted before, I just shut down and I was like, ‘I guess this is just what happens to me; I guess that I just get raped and that’s just what happens,’” she said. “So, I just kind of emotionally shut down.”
Because Grace did not have a cellphone at the time, her stepmom had not heard from her all night and was worried.
Her boyfriend urged her to report after hearing about the assault. She went to her resident assistant to report, and counselors came to take her to the emergency room.
“I was just kind of numb at that point,” Grace said. “I don’t remember much, but I remember the nurses looking at me like, ‘Oh, poor you, I’m so sorry this happened to you.’ So I immediately felt like a victim.”
She had tests done and waited for the results.
“I remember the doctor telling me they found semen inside of me,” she said. “That was so scary to me, because I don’t want to have my rapist’s child.”
After spending seven hours in the emergency room she told her stepmom what had happened to her and her stepmom told her dad and mom. The next day she was interviewed by Beacon Health.
She continued to contact the police and the people involved in the campus investigation herself to find out what was going on with her case.
“Eventually, [the county police] told me they were dropping my case,” she said. “They had no explanation for it. I tend to think it was because he was an international student and that would make it harder to press charges on him because he’s not a citizen. I still have no explanation to why they dropped it. No one has ever told me why.”
Her attack happened in October, and the Office of Student Conduct hearing was held the following January. Grace was given the option to be at the hearing or listen by phone.
“I waited up until the day to decide what I was going to do because I was so conflicted about what to do,” she said. “Because even seeing him on campus, there was a letter of no contact in place so he was not supposed to look at me, text me, call me, find me on social media, any of that. But every time he saw me, he would stare me down and make me feel so completely uncomfortable. I would have a panic attack and just shut down.”
She decided not to attend the hearing. She listened by phone with Donna St. Sauver, coordinator of the Campus Violence Prevention Program, and her roommate.
“He just kept lying over and over again and kept changing his story,” Grace said.
Her attacker was found in violation of four different sections of the Code of Student Conduct. His sentence included a suspension held in abeyance for one year, mandatory on-campus counseling, 15 hours of community service, a $50 fine, a letter of no contact and a notice against trespass order, which restricted him from entering Vandiver, Merick and Henderson halls.
Her friends reacted in different ways to the punishments.
“All the girls were really happy that anything happened to him, and all the guys wanted more justice,” she said.
Afterward, it was hard for Grace to live on campus and go certain places.
“I can’t go in the rec center because that’s where I met him,” she said. “I can’t go anywhere near LaFerla without having a panic attack.”
Grace later learned that he violated his suspension and was expelled from the university. The reasons behind his expulsion were not released to Grace due to student privacy concerns.
She feels the university should have done more to make her feel safe.
“I shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to class because I’d see my rapist on the walk,” Grace said. “I completely changed my route to class so I won’t have to see him.”
This fall Grace is transferring schools to feel safer and for other personal reasons.
“I’m transferring because I don’t feel safe on certain parts of this campus,” Grace said.
Grace said counseling has helped her, and she is now sharing her story in the hope that others will get help if they need it.
“This guilt isn’t mine, and I don't have to feel guilty because I didn’t do this to me and I didn’t ask for this,” she said. “I specifically asked not for it and I don't have to be ashamed of what happened to me.”