Indiana Daily Student Logo

Sexual assault at IU: Day 2

This is the concluding installment of the Indiana Daily Student’s investigative series delving into sexual assault at IU. The first part of this series brought you into the gray zone — exploring the vast complexities when it comes to reporting these events and the experience of one woman as she attempted to bring her case through the legal system. In these final stories, we take you through the system at the University meant to protect its students. But is it working?  

01kimtaegyunstory11082014_1

Chapter 1

"I am not afraid to tell my story"

When Lyndsay Jones reported she was raped, she turned to IU for justice. But cases like hers aren't that simple.

Fairness. Dignity. Integrity.

I stared at the words printed on the wall in front of me. I was in the hearing room in the Office of Student Ethics. To my left sat the first friend I’d made since moving to Bloomington that fall — the man who, several weeks after I met him, raped me.

This hearing would determine whether IU would hold him responsible. I wanted him suspended or expelled. We sat at the same table but were separated by a divider that prevented us from seeing each other. Three panelists who would decide the case sat across from us.

He was there to make the case that the sex between us was consensual. I was there because it wasn’t.

I read my statement.

“I am here because I was involved in sexual activity against my will. I am here because I have been greatly wronged, and I live with the consequences of that every day. But I should not be the only one burdened with the consequences of such actions.”

I looked across the table at the panelists and searched their faces for understanding. But the room was silent, and I saw nothing.

***

Above all else, I am a writer. So when trying to make sense of what happened, I turned to what I knew best. When I started writing this piece eight months ago, I was a reporter at the Indiana Daily Student. This fall semester, I took a break from school and plan to return in January.

I knew it would be difficult to share my name, and at first I was reluctant to be photographed, but it’s worth it. By going public, I can give depth and credibility to an issue usually shrouded in anonymity.

I am not afraid to tell my story. I have nothing to hide.

My first few weeks at IU, in early fall 2013, were a blur of loneliness. I met the man two weeks into the semester at a call-out meeting for a campus group. Like me, he was a transfer student. He was 25. I was 21. We shared a sarcastic sense of humor. I welcomed his company.

The suddenness of our friendship made me question what had started. He was flirtatious at times, but I reminded him I had a long-distance boyfriend. I wasn’t looking for anything — or anyone — else.

I texted him one night to ask about his intentions.

“My goal,” he said, “is not to fuck you.”

A month or so after meeting him, I went to his apartment. It was a Sunday night after work, and he had asked me to come over. He wasn’t doing much, he said, just homework and watching “The Walking Dead.”

I was already at home. I had just showered and put on a tank top and my monkey-print pajama pants for the night. But I wanted company, so I drove over. I didn’t change my clothes because we were just going to hang out.

So we sat on his couch talking — about everything and nothing, how my job as a delivery driver was horrible, how stupid his assignments were in one of his classes. Then he changed the subject.

“You like it when people cut the bullshit and get to the point, don’t you?”

I laughed. “Yeah,” I said.

He said it again. “When people cut the bullshit and get to the point.”

The smile I’d been wearing glazed.

He stood up and leaned over me as he put his hands on either side of the couch. His arms walled me in. Suddenly he kissed me.

“What are you doing?” I asked. He looked at me.

“You knew if you came here, this would happen,” he said. He looked supremely confident.

He asked me to make out with him a little more. His week, he said, had been stressful, and he needed it. That was all I would have to do.

“OK.” I didn’t want to, but I supposed I could — if it would get me out of there. Besides, he had told me before that he had anger issues as a young adult. I didn’t want to upset him.

“Go to the bedroom,” he said.

This change of scenery seemed excessive for people who were “just going to make out for a few minutes.” But I trusted him, so I went and he followed.

For a while, everything went as he had said. There was only kissing. But after a few minutes, he paused. “Can you have sex?”

He knew I had a boyfriend. The question was a request for consent.

“I can’t have sex with you,” I told him. I said it a few more times. He remained unfazed.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “I’m going to give you a turn of oral, then you’re going to give me a turn.”

I didn’t answer. I had just said I couldn’t have sex with him. It didn’t make sense that this was still happening.

So I froze. Physically. Mentally. For a while, I couldn’t speak. I wanted to run out of the room, but I was too afraid of what would happen if I did.

He suddenly bit me during oral sex, hard enough that I yelled.

“You liked that,” he said. Later, he bit my nipple.

In return for the oral he gave me, he told me to do the same to him. But as I prepared to go down on him, he suddenly got much closer. He started going inside of me. The situation seemed out of my control. I did nothing to stop it because I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted it to end.

“This was your fault,” he announced. “You were on top of me, and I just couldn’t control myself.”

09kimtaegyunstory11082014

Chapter 2

Almost immediately after he finished, I ran to my car. My hands trembled as I texted my friend David.

“What is rape?” I typed. “Like, do you have to be screaming and fighting the whole time?”

When David met me at my apartment, I began to cry. Then I laughed to keep from crying. Crying made me feel weak.

Although I was incapable of telling a coherent story, David heard enough to confirm I’d been raped. He wanted me to call the police, but I wasn’t ready.

David said he was going to step outside for a cigarette. When he came back in, we didn’t speak. Ten, maybe 15 minutes had passed when I heard steps thumping up the stairs.

The Bloomington Police Department had sent two men to my apartment.

They began asking basic questions. What happened, who was involved, what time was it?

Then one of the police officers asked me if I had ever been attracted to the man. In that moment, I didn’t know. But what did it matter?

“I don’t know, maybe,” I said. “I didn’t want to have sex with him tonight, if that’s what you mean.”

“I’m just trying to figure out if a crime was committed,” the officer said.

The two officers stepped outside to talk. I sat in a corner, my knees to my chest, thinking I could never be so humiliated again.

When the officers came back inside, they stood by the door.

“If you think you were raped, you need to go the hospital,” one said.

If you think you were raped. The words rang of disbelief.

***

At the hospital, I went through another round of police questioning. My patience was thinning.

“Look, I need you to communicate with me,” a new officer said. “If you don’t tell me anything else, I can’t help you.”

I chose to open an investigation, so when the uniformed officers finished questioning me, they called in a detective. It would be about 45 minutes before he arrived. In the meantime, a nurse began asking questions for the rape kit.

Each question referred to a different part of the body and a different action. For each one, the nurse said the name of the friend who had forced himself on me. I was hearing it over and over again.

Did he bite, suck or grab my breasts? Did he bite or suck my labia?

Eventually, the detective arrived.

“If I seem a little out of it, it’s because I was in bed,” he said.

He was apologizing, but I was offended.

“Sorry to have dragged you out here,” I said.

He took my story and then asked if I wanted him to pursue a criminal investigation. Theoretically, it seemed like a good idea. But now I was starting to understand how exhausting it would be.

If he was put in jail, what would he do if he got out? I imagined he would be livid. The possibility was frightening.

I told the detective I had changed my mind about pressing charges. I made excuses. The detective told me he would close the case and left. I continued with the rape kit.

I held up a paper with my name and patient information for a camera while the nurse snapped my picture. Another nurse undergoing training stood near, observing and stepping in when needed.

I peed in a cup and took a pregnancy test. The nurse asked me to swab the inside of my cheeks and gums for the man’s DNA and run a piece of plastic under my fingernails to search for traces of his skin. She told me to take off my clothes and stand on a piece of paper to catch any of the man’s DNA that fell off me.

The nurse and her trainee turned off the lights and shined a UV light over my skin. They searched every inch of my body for the glow of semen. When they found some on my legs, they took samples with cotton swabs.

When this part was over, I laid down on an exam bed for the vaginal exam. The nurse inserted a speculum into my vagina. She said she was going to press on my cervix and that it might be a little painful. She pressed harder and harder until I finally cried out.

***

He started to call me every day. When I didn’t pick up the phone, he texted. He wanted to see me again.

He hadn’t reached out to me so frequently before. I couldn’t understand it. I asked my counselor, a sexual assault specialist, why this was happening. She told me his behavior was typical for a rapist.

“He wants to control the information you have,” the counselor said. She suggested getting a no-contact order from the Office of Student Ethics.

I had made up my own explanations for why he was reaching out to me with such urgency. Maybe he liked me and had wanted a relationship. The thought made me feel guilty.

I wanted more than anything to pick up the phone and find out why he had done this to me. I wanted to understand why I missed him when I hoped to never see him again. But I knew talking to him wouldn’t help me make sense of anything. So I ignored him.

This was successful until I ran into him one day. I was at Baja Fresh in the Indiana Memorial Union, ordering quesadillas, when he joined the line. We spoke briefly. About what, I can’t remember. I was preoccupied with seeming normal but failed miserably. While he waited for his food, I shuffled away. He ate with another girl, and when he finished, he came over and sat in the chair across from me.

“So,” he said, without any lightness in his tone, “tell me the real reason you got all weird on me.”

I felt his anger, the heat of it, radiating from his body to mine. Eventually, I shrugged.

“I don’t ... I don’t know.”

He stood, and the chair skidded back from him. When he was gone, I fled to the Office of Student Ethics.

Later, the student ethics office issued the no-contact order against the man and began looking into the case. Because I was reporting a sexual assault by another IU student, a three-person panel would hold a sort of “trial” to determine if disciplinary action was necessary. As the complainant, it was my job to offer enough evidence to prove that my story was true.

04kimtaegyunstory11082014_1

Chapter 3

The hearing was that December, during finals week. The two of us took our seats on either side of the divider. My skin crawled every time I heard him shift in his chair or speak aloud.

We sat across from Jason Casares, the associate dean of students, as well as two other IU staff members, both women. Everyone had copies of the information that had been gathered — my medical reports, notes taken from phone calls and in-office meetings, our written statements. My typed statement in the file was roughly two pages. His statement was in pencil, one paragraph on wide rule paper.

Amber Monroe, the investigator assigned to the case, had written a summary of her first call to the man I’d accused. Immediately after introducing herself, she said, the man had begun cursing at her. Minutes later, he apologized and said he was a veteran.

Casares explained how the hearing would unfold. I could give an opening statement. The panel would question me. Any witnesses I had would come into the room and make statements. The panel would question them. Then the accused would have his turn.

“Sexual consent,” I said, reading from my statement, “is defined as being a direct verbal confirmation — a voluntary yes — and something that can be described as active and enthusiastic.”

I had never given consent, I told the panelists. They asked why I went to his apartment. They asked how my nipple had been bitten. Had I taken off my shirt voluntarily, or did he remove it? I told them he had rolled up the shirt.

I didn’t really understand how these questions made a difference.

When we came back, David, my only witness, had arrived.

“I knew something was really wrong,” he said, describing my behavior that night. “She kept acting like ... like a cornered animal.”

The accused made his statement next.

“I thought Lyndsay was a beautiful, intelligent girl, and I saw sex as a natural progression toward a relationship,” he said.

For a moment, I almost believed him. I had the urge to rush over and hug him, to say I was sorry. But there was a catch. People don’t rape people they like.

The thought of saying sorry or hugging him vanished. In fact, the thought repulsed me.

“Why did you invite her over to begin with?” Casares said.

“I wanted to kiss her,” he said.

Casares had told me he was going to try to generate a reaction from the accused that would “break him.” Now Casares asked him if his time as an Army Ranger might sometimes make him come across as forceful or demanding.

“There was no way my words could have come across as demanding,” he said.

Casares asked him if he had noticed any hesitancy from me. At first, the man said no. He said our sex was as comfortable as “between husband and wife.” But eventually, he admitted he had noticed my reluctance. Twice.

“Everyone is hesitant when they have sex with a new person, though.”

Soon it was time for closing statements.

I told the panel, once again, that I was looking for a suspension based on IU’s standard of consent.

“Sexual consent is defined as a verbal yes. In this hearing, neither side has testified that I said yes, because I didn’t.”

Two weeks later, I was called to the ethics office to learn the panelists’ unanimous decision: “no finding.”

“I know this may not be what you wanted, but we just didn’t think there was enough evidence to determine what happened,” Casares said. “I really did try to break him, but I couldn’t.”

I appealed and was granted a second hearing during the spring semester. A new trio of panelists listened to the recording of the first hearing and read the documents.

When the office called with the ruling, I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone. A voice mail told me the news.

Another no finding.

Two months later, I stood at an X-bus stop near the Indiana Memorial Union as I waited for the ride back home. I was listening to a Fall Out Boy song when I saw my rapist.

He was unshaven and his hair was longer, so it took me a second to register who he was. He was walking up to the bus stop with a friend who’d been his witness at the hearing.

When he saw me, I froze again. I locked eyes with him and waited for him to break the gaze. He stopped speaking abruptly, then told his friend, “Keep going.”

I assumed he and his friend would wait for the next bus, because he was under a no-contact order. But to my surprise, they got on the bus. I sat in the back, and he stood up front. I stared at him. He never looked back. The whole bus ride I shook and burned with anger. He was standing there, not doing anything to me, but doing everything all over again and getting away with it.

When we came to my stop, I was one of the first out the middle door.

As the bus pulled away, we walked in opposite directions. When I turned around, he was looking at me, watching me walk home.

11kimtaegyunstory11172014

Jason Casares, associate dean of students, opens a divider in the Office of Student Ethics' conference room that, during hearings, acts to separate complainants from respondents. Neither side can see the other, but they can hear each other’s voice during hearing. Lyndsay first gave her account of the night of the assault to a panel of three people and then the man she accused of the assault gave his account on Dec. 16, 2013.

Tae-Gyun Kim Buy Photos
17kimtaegyunstory11172014

Larger issues revealed by IU sexual assault case

Amid a federal review of IU's handling of sexual assault, Lyndsay's account raises questions about University procedures

Lyndsay Jones’ first-person account is striking because of her willingness to share her story on the record with her name and photo. By talking openly about a subject that is normally cloaked in anonymity, she shines a light on difficult issues of sexual assault that are common across college campuses.

Midway through her first semester on the Bloomington campus, she trusted a male friend — another student — who she says raped her in his apartment. After reporting the incident to the Bloomington Police Department, Lyndsay became so disillusioned with the attitude of the officers and detectives that she withdrew her complaint.

When Lyndsay reported the sexual assault to the Office of Student Ethics, she wanted justice, she said. She was devastated when the hearing panel reached a decision of no finding, choosing not to discipline her alleged perpetrator.

The man Lyndsay accuses of raping her is still an undergraduate student at IU.

The issues raised by Lyndsay’s account are especially relevant now, when the U.S. Department of Education is investigating IU for its handling of sexual assault complaints.

How is consent defined, by the University and by students? How qualified are the staff members who sit in judgment on these cases? How fair are IU’s ethics hearings and investigations, both to the accuser and the accused? Can the University provide the justice that Lyndsay and others seek?

The questions at the heart of Lyndsay’s account cannot be ignored.

***

It is an especially important time to analyze the way IU handles sexual assaults. In May 2014, IU was revealed as one of more than 50 schools under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for possible violations of Title IX, a federal law that in part dictates how universities should handle sexual misconduct complaints. Emily Springston, chief student welfare and Title IX officer, said IU was chosen randomly for the review, and there was not a specific complaint that led to the investigation.

“My guess would be they’re trying to do a good cross section of different types of schools,” Springston said.

However, a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Education said these reviews are not random. While he did not share what specifically led to IU’s review, a spokesperson said these investigations can be initiated based on statistical data on sexual assaults, individual allegations and prior complaints filed to a university.

Sexual assault is a complicated crime that is often under-reported. According to a White House Task Force report, one in five women will be sexually assaulted while on a college campus. If that projection is true at IU-Bloomington, with a female population of over 18,000, over 3,700 of those women will be a victim of sexual assault on IU’s campus.

The University insists it takes the cases that reach them seriously. According to Office of Student Ethics records obtained by the Indiana Daily Student between July 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2013, 195 sexual misconduct cases were reported to the Office of Student Ethics, and 53 of those cases led to a hearing. Two cases resulted in deferred suspension of the accused, 20 ended in expulsion and 22 led to suspension.

Nine cases, including Lyndsay’s, resulted in no finding against the accused.

When making decisions on cases, the Office of Student Ethics rules based on a preponderance of the evidence presented. If 50.01 percent of the evidence shows the respondent is responsible, serious sanctions can be imposed on the student, said Jason Casares, assistant dean of students and director, deputy Title IX coordinator. However, when a student is not found responsible, like in Lyndsay’s case, no sanctions are imposed.

“We’re not saying that nothing happened,” Casares said. “We just didn’t have enough information to meet the burden of proof.”

Intensive interview processes are held with the respondent, the complainant and any witnesses. Panel members volunteer from different campus departments serve on hearing panels. Currently, 23 staff members from the Bloomington campus serve as panel members, more than half of whom work for Residential Programs and Services. The rest come from the Student Union, the Kelley School of Business, Student Life and Learning and Emergency Management and Continuity, as well as the Office of Student Ethics.

In order to serve on these hearing panels, staff members must complete more than 50 hours of training, including reading material on sexual assault research and attending in-person seminars taught by professionals who work with sexual assault victims.

This training is more comprehensive than the two-hour training mandated before 2011. That same year, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague letter to college administrations across the country, stating universities’ obligations in responding to sexual violence.

Debbie Melloan, a licensed clinical social worker for IU Counseling and Psychological Services, has taught seminars at these training sessions. She said while training is important, human nature can still play a role in the decision-making process. If panel members have never been in situations where they have felt a loss of control, they could reach inaccurate conclusions, she said.

“People tend to just react out of their own life experiences,” Melloan said.

The University defines consent as an “agreement or permission expressed through affirmative, voluntary words or actions that are mutually understandable to all parties involved.” This means that a verbal “yes” clearly understood by both parties signifies consent. In cases lacking a verbal “yes,” Casares said there are some actions that could also express consent. He said panel members analyze these actions on a case-by-case basis.

Melloan said she sees a great deal of miscommunication in these cases.

“One person might assume that person is interested in them sexually without it ever being discussed,” she said.

Melloan said it is typical for victims to freeze in the moment of their assault, as Lyndsay did. She said this frozen mentality usually comes when a victim is being assaulted in a situation where they thought they were safe, such as when the perpetrator is a friend.

“They could be intimidated or too impaired to be able to speak up,” Melloan said. “That could stop them from saying ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

Problems with communication are not limited to consent. When Lyndsay initially reported a sexual assault, the police instructed her to respond casually to her alleged perpetrator if he ever reached out to her after the incident. The detective wanted to see if she could get him to admit any remorse for that night or indicate that he knew the sex was not consensual.

While she continued talking to him, Lyndsay remembers almost longing for the friendship they had before the incident. This response is not uncommon, said Rene Henry, assistant director of the Student Advocates program. The trauma of a rape, Henry explains, can affect victims in unusual ways, and victims might feel like reaching out to their rapists to help them make sense of their assault.

“Every person has their unique responses to what happens,” Henry said. “They’re all normal reactions to abnormal situations.”

***

Since the announcement of the Title IX investigation, IU has made strides to improve its platform on sexual assault awareness and prevention. But the University’s hearing process draws mixed reactions from people who work with victims.

Toby Strout, executive director of Middle Way House, works with victims of sexual and domestic violence in the Bloomington community. Strout said many students she works with are unhappy with IU’s process. She often sees them leaving the campus system feeling tarnished.

“They feel that they’re going to go through a long period of recovery, and that they end up carrying a burden from somebody else’s criminal intent,” she said.

Jawn Bauer has worked on and off as a volunteer attorney for Middle Way House for nearly 25 years, providing legal consultation and representation for victims of sexual and domestic abuse. Bauer has found it is important to remain patient with clients to help them become comfortable enough to speak openly.

“This is a person that has been traumatized, and you have to empathize with that,” Bauer said. “You have to understand that it may cause them problems in communication.”

Strout said she does not believe the University should be hearing these cases. But she understands the University may have no choice.

“The University operates more like a business,” she said. “It’s not in its best interest to make it clear how much sexual assault there is on campus. For that reason, they should take people out of the process for whom that’s going to be paramount.”

20kimtaegyunstory11172014

Limits of the law

Sexual assault survivors say restrictive campus and legal policies meant to protect privacy cost them closure and may re-open emotional wounds

In a private room within the Office of Student Ethics, Rachel relived the moments when she was raped in a campus fraternity house.

Across a study table from her, an investigator sat and monitored Rachel while she read the contents of a disciplinary file that included a personal statement about the encounter from her rapist.

She could only get through one sentence of the man’s account before closing the file and pushing it back across the table, too angry to finish.

Rachel, now an IU junior, was sexually assaulted her freshman year and decided to pursue a sexual misconduct hearing through the IU Office of Student Ethics. She spoke to the IDS and asked that she only be identified by her first name because her rapist returned to campus this year after being suspended.

Several times before the hearing, she reviewed materials in a judicial file that collected all the information from the investigation. Rachel wanted a chance to read the personal statements in the comfort of her home, without supervision. She wanted to discuss the information openly during a phone call to her sister for advice.

“I just honestly didn’t want to read it there,” Rachel said. “It was just super uncomfortable for me, and that’s something I would’ve rather read in private.”

But the office staff couldn’t let her take a copy home with her. An IU policy prohibits students — including those who report or are accused of sexual assault — from obtaining copies or taking photos of disciplinary files that include identifying information about other students. Rachel could only look at the judicial file for her own case during certain hours of the day and under supervision in the Office of Student Ethics.

IU’s policy is in line with that of other universities and follows federal law on the curation of student records, but some sexual assault victims say the policy works against them.

Students such as Rachel and Jen Miller, a 33-year-old IU student who was sexually assaulted three and a half years ago, said restricted file access costs them closure and could re-traumatize some victims by only allowing them to work through the information under supervision.

Though this policy is meant to protect students’ privacy, it means victims no longer have control over their own information. Once a sexual assault is reported to the Office of Student Ethics, that information effectively belongs to IU, not the student who submitted the complaint, Associate Dean of Students Jason Casares said.

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), federally funded universities such as IU are required to allow students access to their education records — including disciplinary records — to inspect and correct errors in the materials.

“Under FERPA, a school must provide an eligible student with an opportunity to inspect and review his or her education records within 45 days following its receipt of a request,” according to the most updated FERPA guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

“A school is required to provide a student with copies of education records, or to make other arrangements, if a failure to do so would effectively prevent the student from obtaining access to the records. A case in point would be a situation in which the student does not live within commuting distance of the school,” the guidance states.

Aimee Burkert Oestreich, assistant general counsel at IU, said the University would not mail a copy of the student records but would opt to make other arrangements. She said she could not give an example for privacy reasons.

“The University would evaluate what other arrangements may be appropriate on a case-by-case basis as such arrangements would be case-specific,” Burkert Oestreich said in an email. “Accordingly, we cannot effectively speculate about an example.”

For misconduct complaints, the IU Office of Student Ethics keeps a centralized judicial file, which includes all information generated from the original complaint to the final decision at a campus judicial hearing. A judicial file might include the original complaint of misconduct, personal statements from the complainant and defendant and sometimes police reports, if the alleged victim reported their assault to law enforcement, as well. If a victim had a rape kit done, hospital and medical records may be included, then removed after the campus judicial hearing — again, to protect student privacy.

Rachel’s file included statements from her attacker and the witnesses he called for the hearing. When she read through her file in the office room, she would skim through any new information and hand it back so the staff member supervising her could leave.

“They say take as much time as you want to read your stuff, but with everyone sitting in there, you feel bad taking up their time,” she said. “I would feel them standing near me, eager for me to be done.”

The day before the hearing, a nervous Rachel called her sister about the investigation. But without her file with her at home, she would forget details included in the materials, which left her feeling less prepared for the hearing.

During the hearing, Rachel felt as though she was hearing the information for the first time. She felt blindsided and frustrated, she said.

Both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator, referred to as the complainant and respondent, respectively, can review the judicial file related to their case as the misconduct investigation progresses, Casares said.

They can take notes and are allowed to inspect the file with an advocate, but they can’t make copies or take photos. Office staff are assigned to supervise each student to make sure no one removes or copies parts of the file.

“IU has a responsibility to protect the privacy of all those involved in a student judicial proceeding, not just the individual who has filed the complaint,” IU spokesperson Mark Land said in an email.

IU’s policy means a limited number of people can access private information related to the judicial proceedings, Land said, and those people can’t make copies.

Casares said the two students involved have equal opportunities to inspect their files.

“Everybody has the same access to the same information,” Casares said.

IU isn’t the only university to have this policy. Ohio State University only allows files outside its Office of Student Conduct if the files are subpoenaed — a policy that is legal under FERPA. Even then, information that could identify students outside the scope of that investigation is redacted by OSU’s legal team. Ball State University does the same.

One exception is the University of Michigan, which allows students to take copies out of the office at any time, spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an email.

The Bloomington Police Department has procedures similar to IU. Investigatory records are not available for public access in Indiana, and BPD considers sexual assault victims as members of the general public under this rule. They are not able to see their full case file during or after the investigation, said Joan Manning, BPD Records Division Supervisor.

Manning said BPD generally evaluates requests on a case-by-case basis. Victims can sit down with an officer and look at a file, but they can’t remove files or request copies of full case reports.

This is an institutionalized policy that has become common for the way sexual assault investigations are carried out in university and criminal settings.

Jen Miller, who was involved with an IU sexual assault support group for more than a year, agreed with Rachel that privacy is important when victims of sexual assault review their information.

She said allowing victims to look at investigation materials on their own time could be better for their peace of mind.

“Someone who has recently been through the trauma of an assault may not be in the mindset to sit down and copy by hand the relevant information in the files,” Miller said. “If she could obtain an electronic copy, that would be far less re-traumatizing than having to read every word and write it down.”

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told the IDS there’s legally no difference between allowing a student to inspect their judicial file on-site and allowing them to take a copy home.

“The Department of Education has been asked whether a student can make copies even if there is no obstacle to the student reviewing the records on-site, and the Department’s answer was yes, a student has that right,” LoMonte said.

Miller said not allowing victims access to copies of the paperwork creates barriers to self-advocacy and defense.

“Not only does this prevent a victim from actively participating in her hearing at IU, if she decides later to pursue criminal charges outside of the university, she is less prepared to do so,” Miller said.

Margaux Janda, a former IU student whose complaint against the University over the short disciplinary sanction for her rapist made national news in 2010, tried to request her file at the IDS’ request but did not receive a reply from the Office of Student Ethics after three calls.

Casares has previously said students who aren’t in commuting distance of the university, such as Janda, would not be able to receive a personal copy of their case file. Instead they would have to make other arrangements to review their file. Distance is not an exception to the University policy.

Janda said she sees the policy as a restriction on complainants and respondents so the University can avoid litigation. After the results of her hearing and subsequent appeals, for which her rapist was sanctioned with one year’s suspension, she and her parents filed a request with the federal Office of Civil Rights to investigate IU for a possible Title IX violation.

“The more victims with their judicial files, the more opportunities for lawyers, litigators and advocates to review those files, judgments and injustices,” she said in an email. “The more documents out there ... the more opportunities for victims, parents and even attorneys to find legal standing against the university.”

Though her complaint went to a campus judicial hearing in 2006, before Casares or Land worked at IU, the same policies regarding student record access were in place.

“Honestly, I believe both claimants and respondents, regardless of guilt, should be furnished with a copy of their files without even asking,” Janda said. “It should be standard procedure. That way if a defendant is in fact innocent, they are then afforded the same opportunity to review the facts, correct the record ... or seek legal counsel.”

Though she has problems with IU’s policy, Rachel said office staff were helpful and tried to make her more comfortable. She acknowledges it’s hard to balance protecting student privacy and a victim’s comfort.

“It’s a sticky situation,” she said. “There’s no easy way to do that.”

After Rachel was assaulted, she wrote letters to her attacker. She never sent them, she said — her therapist suggested writing them to help her cope with her feelings.

When she re-read them recently, two years after she was assaulted, Rachel realized she forgot how traumatized she was at the time. She said sometimes she thinks she made too much of the incident, that her attacker was really a nice guy.

“Now I remember he ruined my freshman year,” she said.

A copy of her file, Rachel said, could give her a sense of closure just like the letters did.

“If I had those files, maybe I could remember what I would feel like,” she said. “Even though it’s not something I want to remember ... you should remember how it affected you.”

Photo Galleries