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Behind closed doors: Students forced to live with an accused rapist

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[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” parallax=”content-moving” css=”.vc_custom_1463944486506{background-image: url(http://depauliaonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/doors2.jpg?id=22813) !important;background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_row_inner css=”.vc_custom_1463944469697{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_empty_space height=”750px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Behind closed doors” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:150|text_align:center|color:%23ffffff” google_fonts=”font_family:Lora%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_empty_space height=”100px”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” css=”.vc_custom_1460315748604{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column offset=”vc_hidden-lg” css=”.vc_custom_1463763229174{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_single_image image=”22813″ img_size=”1800×1000″ alignment=”center” css=”.vc_custom_1463768410848{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The story of two students forced to live with an accused rapist

By Rachel Hinton

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[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ost students have heard roommate horror stories before they move into their dorm rooms. Some have to deal with roommates who steal, others with the acrid smell of weed, others with rowdy parties as they adjust to the “quintessential” parts of the college experience.

At the extreme end of that spectrum, Eric never expected he’d have to share a room with someone who was accused of sexual assault.

He never expected the whirlwind that would follow, or the university’s response, which has started a new campus movement for transparency and another close look by students at what some university officials say is a facet of the Sexual Conduct Hearing Process.

He never had a choice.

Eric, who preferred to remain anonymous and didn’t feel comfortable giving his real name, lives in a triple-suite in Sheffield Square. He moved in with Devin Keenen and another friend, but knew that one of his roommates would study abroad in the Fall and Spring quarters. This would create an empty space, and he and Keenen had no idea who would fill it. The apartment Eric lived in would soon be inhabited by a stranger. Eric and his roommate received an email shortly after the school year started that they should expect a roommate, but it was a false alarm.

The second email they received in January was not.

Eric said that the day before they got the email, Public Safety issued a notice of a sexual assault in Sanctuary Hall. He didn’t think much of it.

A week later — on a Thursday, Eric remembers — he came home to find the new roommate and his parents settling in. It wasn’t long after seeing him that Eric noticed he wore an ankle bracelet. His new roommate — with whom he’d be sharing four walls and airspace — was on house arrest.

“I got this really horrible vibe from him,” Eric said, shaking his head. “He had no respect for boundaries and he dominated the common areas. (Keenen and I) weren’t pleased. It was so stressful having him there.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″ offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_empty_space height=”300px”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”22866″ img_size=”medium” onclick=””][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” parallax=”content-moving” css=”.vc_custom_1463858059772{background-image: url(http://depauliaonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/door1.jpg?id=22805) !important;background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”550px”][vc_custom_heading text=”“The drinking and the drugs were bad, but his attitude and behavior made it plausible to me (that he assaulted someone) and also made (living with him) more irritating,”” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:50|text_align:center|color:%23ffffff” google_fonts=”font_family:Lora%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_empty_space height=”200px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″ offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_empty_space height=”300px”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

Sexual assaults in 2014, as reported in DePaul's 2015 Safety and Security Information Report.

Sexual assaults in 2014, as reported in DePaul’s 2015 Safety and Security Information Report.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t wasn’t long after the roommate moved in that Eric began to piece together what happened.

“That first week, the cops came to talk to him about (the assault),” Eric said.

The new roommate told him he had been falsely accused of rape. Keenen said the new roommate said he and a woman in his former dorm, Sanctuary Hall, had consensual sex, but she had a fiance and she was trying to “cover her ass.”

After learning what his new roommate was accused of and the reason behind his house arrest and ankle bracelet, Eric and Keenen did their best to avoid him as much as possible, Eric said. Eric would spend as much time as he could out of the house: at his girlfriend’s, the library or other places around campus.

It was a horrible living situation, he said.

The day after he moved in, Keenen said, he had friends over and they drank and did drugs.

“The drinking and the drugs were bad, but his attitude and behavior made it plausible to me (that he assaulted someone) and also made (living with him) more irritating,” Eric said.

Eric started contacting administrators at housing services the Monday after the roommate moved in.

“I was told that if they could do something they would,” Eric said. “I talked to the Residential Director (RD), who tried to set up a meeting, but he made it seem like there was nothing he could do. He passed it off to an RA who wanted to do a roommate agreement. It felt patronizing. It didn’t seem like they were taking it seriously.”

Roommate agreements are one of the ways roommates can mediate disagreements. The meeting, usually done with an RA present, offers both parties a chance to lay ground rules for their apartments or dorm rooms.

The university said it couldn’t legally notify students of potential violations of the student conduct code, in this case sexual assault, because of limitations related to the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Karen Tamburro, the Title IX coordinator, deals closely with cases of sexual assault and even with moving accused parties to different dorms. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination across all colleges and campuses.

Eric said he felt that Tamburro cared more than others he’d talked to, and said she “seemed like she was actually trying to do something about it.”

Eric didn’t have to get used to the accused for long, though. As suddenly as he’d moved in and upended Eric’s life with his drinking, drug use and house arrest, he disappeared. But his things remained in the room for weeks after.

At the time, Eric had no idea why.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” full_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving” css=”.vc_custom_1463945589347{background-image: url(http://depauliaonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/doors3.jpg?id=22817) !important;background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”550px”][vc_custom_heading text=”“(Moving students) makes the problem out of sight, out of mind. The school’s goal is to not constantly watch us. There is clear evidence that this is happening and it’s clearly a problem.”” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:50|text_align:center|color:%23ffffff” google_fonts=”font_family:Lora%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_empty_space height=”200px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen sexual assaults happen on DePaul’s campus, the course of action can be multi-pronged.

Students can choose to go through the Student Conduct Hearing Process, which may lead to expulsion if the accused party is found to be in violation of the code. Judicial action can be taken by the Department of Residential Education or the Dean of Students, according to the 2014-2015 “Guide to Student Housing.” They can go to the police, but only three in 100 accused rapists, or 3 percent, receive jail time, according to the Know Your Title IX site. DePaul’s key facts website highlights that there are 11 dorms or living accommodations available to nearly 2,300 students. To put the previous statistic into perspective, if all of those people were to be accused of sexual assault, only 69 of them would be in jail. Because of the stigma surrounding sexual assault and the low prison rate, many choose the final option: silence.

According to DePaul’s 2015 Safety and Security Information Report and Fire Safety Report, there were nine sexual assaults across DePaul’s residential facilities. Of the nine, eight of them happened in residential facilities on the Lincoln Park Campus. So far this school year, 11 sexual assaults have been reported, six of them in residence halls in Lincoln Park.

When assaults occur on campus, DePaul can remove students from residence halls and place them elsewhere, but the options for placement are limited. Dorms are overcrowded. Single-occupancy rooms are in high demand and are some of the most difficult rooms to come by this late in the school year. So the school does the best it can and removes the accused party and places them elsewhere, Tamburro said.

Sexual assaults during the 2015-16 academic year. 

This creates new problems, however.

Because student records are protected by FERPA, outside parties — meaning those who live with the accused — do not have the right, legally, to know who they’re living with. Ira Lowy, president of Feminist Front, disagrees with the process and has called for consensual housing, or for roommates to know who they are living with before the roommate moves in.

“When moving a student, they obviously can’t live in the dorm (where the assault happened) because they pose a significant threat,” Lowy said. “(Moving students) makes the problem out of sight, out of mind. The school’s goal is to not constantly watch us. There is clear evidence that this is happening and it’s clearly a problem.”

Lowy had a similar experience when he was a freshman. After meeting at a party, Lowy said he dated someone who was accused of sexual assault in Clifton-Fullerton Hall, and as a result, was moved to Belden-Racine Hall. Lowy, who lived in Munroe Hall, said others warned him about the accused, but at the time, he brushed it off and assumed the accused was just aggressive sexually. He didn’t report any of the bruises and bite marks inflicted on him. Lowy shouldn’t have been put at risk to be assaulted, however. Lowy, seeing the problems that were in his past relationship, said that he and Feminist Front are committed to consensual housing and safety for survivors.

In a press release from April, Feminist Front said “We call on DePaul University Housing Services to adopt an accountable and consensual room assignment process.

We believe that students must be informed of allegations against potential roommates and that they must consent to these room assignments before they are fulfilled.

We demand that DePaul respect the wishes of students who are not willing to risk their safety.”

The group’s annual Take Back the Night focused on taking back the dorms this year, though its usual theme is centered on fighting sexual assaults. This year’s theme,

Lowy and the group felt, was especially prescient given the concerns brought to them by students.

The event challenged the idea that the school is doing enough to care for students, but Tamburro, Dean of Students Ashley Knight and Director of Housing Rick Moreci are trying to create a better atmosphere at DePaul for survivors and those who have to live with accused parties.

“Each case is unique,” Tamburro said through email, referencing the letter to the editor she wrote in The DePaulia’s May 2 issue. “An immediate interim suspension can take place under certain circumstances until the student conduct process is complete. Moreover, if a student is found responsible for violating university policy, a determination of sanctions would include consideration of previous policy violations.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” full_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving” css=”.vc_custom_1463945583783{background-image: url(http://depauliaonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/doors-4.jpg?id=22816) !important;background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”550px”][vc_custom_heading text=”“There was no notification beforehand. If you can’t give a warning or people don’t have a say so (in who they live with), then they probably shouldn’t be moved to a different dorm.”” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:50|text_align:center|color:%23ffffff” google_fonts=”font_family:Lora%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_empty_space height=”200px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hough the issue has ignited conversations of right-to-know for students who live in the dorms, the problem isn’t just at the institutional level.

FERPA, established in 1974, protects the confidentiality of students’ educational records. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the act applies to any public or private elementary, secondary or postsecondary school and any state or local education agency that receives federal funds. All public schools and virtually all private schools are covered by FERPA because they receive some sort of federal funding.

The act gives students the right to inspect their own educational records — which would include any violations of the Code of Student Conduct — and it prohibits schools from disclosing any information about those records and from discussing or disclosing “personally identifiable information in education records” without the written consent of the student.

If a school violates FERPA, they could lose federal funding.

There are several universities that do not accept federal funding, including Patrick Henry College in Virginia, Hillsdale College in Michigan and Grove City College in Pennsylvania. All are largely religious, which is the basis for their refusal of federal funding, but for other schools that rely on federal dollars to remain open, the risk — even to tell students that those they’re living with are accused of sexual assault — is not one that many are willing to take, especially when school funding from the government is already decreasing.

FERPA protects students, but it can also, as in the case of Eric and Keenen, cause unnecessary stress. University administrators are often forced to choose between protecting a student’s right to privacy while potentially putting other students at risk.

“As tempting as it is to entertain the ‘what if’ question, as the law currently stands, educational institutions are prohibited from disclosing certain private education record information under circumstances such as this,” Tamburro said when asked if the school would inform students of their potential roommates if the burden of FERPA were removed from the decision-making process. “Depending on the circumstances, such information includes, but is not limited to, disciplinary charges, disciplinary findings, mental health information and records, transcripts and information about a student’s disability status and gender identity. The protections afforded by FERPA and other laws are afforded to all — erosion (of) those privacy protections has long lasting impact on the entire community.”

Though students are told FERPA is being used for good, some schools’ policies may be a way for them to hide facts from the student population, according to Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

“The Department of Education has said that one of the expectations is to separate students for safety reasons. Separating doesn’t violate confidentiality,” LoMonte said. “The problem comes if you tell the public about that. Colleges shouldn’t interpret FERPA in a nonsensical manner.”

LoMonte said that in the 42-year history of the act, no penalties have been brought against a school. He also said that if an institution said they were worried for the safety of others, it would be difficult for the federal government to penalize them.

[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Title IX, part of education amendments enacted in 1972, prohibits educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on their gender. Initially aimed at women’s athletics, Title IX has evolved to ensure that discrimination based on sexual identity and expression doesn’t happen.

Title IX also gives universities the ability to handle cases of sexual assault and violence through the Student Code of Conduct. According to Know Your IX, if a student files a complaint, the school must begin a prompt investigation. Since each case is unique, the school’s response varies, but Tamburro said “a range of sanctions can be imposed short of dismissal or expulsion, including suspension for a certain period of time.”

For those forced to live with the accused, the problem they face — a violation of space and a helplessness in regards to remedying the situation — Title IX and FERPA provide little reprieve or consolation. Eric and Keenen had to endure a situation that disrupted and disquieted their lives. The issue of safety, though important at institutions of higher learning, is one that at times seems to be sacrificed because of other rules. Eric and Keenen received no warning signs before their new roommate showed up, and after trying to remove himself from a stressful situation, Eric found the system uncoordinated.

“There was no notification beforehand,” Eric said. “If you can’t give a warning or people don’t have a say so (in who they live with), then they probably shouldn’t be moved to a different dorm.”

The accused was also moved just across the alley from his old dorm.

“You’d figure DePaul could have at least sent him farther across campus or removed him from student housing,” Keenen said. “I think the school should take offenses like that with a lot harsher punishment to discourage it. DePaul doesn’t take it seriously enough. Especially with the number of sexual assaults occurring around campus and in the res halls.”

Back to an empty room, Eric, now slightly relieved, renewed his efforts to get the accused moved out. Weeks passed, but the accused’s possessions still dominated his side of the room and only added to the stress that Eric felt. Tamburro reached out and followed up. The process, he said, was very slow-going.

Then, he said, he received an email telling him the roommate would be moved out. Through investigation and parents who were frantically trying to figure out what they could do to help their son, he said he found out that his roommate had been expelled.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″ css=”.vc_custom_1463958655499{border-radius: 3px !important;}” offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_column_text]

FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, which applies to any institution that receives federal funding under a Department of Education program. Generally, schools need permission to release this information, except in certain circumstances like a court order or if a student is transferring.

Title IX

Prevents discrimination on the basis of sex under any education program receiving federal funding.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” full_height=”yes” parallax=”content-moving” css=”.vc_custom_1463945569733{background-image: url(http://depauliaonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/sheffield-sq-.jpg?id=22921) !important;background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”550px”][vc_custom_heading text=”“It takes incredible strength and courage for a survivor to come forward. Rapists should not be allowed on campus.“” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:50|text_align:center|color:%23ffffff” google_fonts=”font_family:Lora%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_empty_space height=”200px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]ePaul’s predicament — keeping survivors safe while also dealing with accused parties — isn’t unique to the school.

At Columbia University, the struggle between the rights of the survivor and the rights of the accused came to a head when the school allowed the accused rapist of Emma Sulkowicz, who was a student at Columbia at the time, to remain on campus. She started the endurance art performance “Carry That Weight,” where she carried a mattress around campus. Though it was a visible reminder for those around her of what she had to go through, it was also a metaphor for the unseen.

Many survivors at DePaul and at other schools nationally face a similar ordeal. Lily Griswold, DePaul sophomore and medical advocate for Rape Victim Advocates, said that this problem, and what students who have been raped — or even those who have to live with an accused party— go through is partly the reason why rape culture on campuses such as DePaul persists.

“I think the biggest thing is that survivors have reported their assaults to DePaul, and DePaul has perpetuated rape culture by doing things such as not suspending the perpetrator and allowing them to stay on campus,” Griswold said. “It takes incredible strength and courage for a survivor to come forward. Rapists should not be allowed on campus. This harms the survivor’s recovery process and puts other students at risk.”

For Eric and Keenen, who were unwittingly put into the fray, the issues that arise when FERPA and Title IX enter the conversation now affect them, too. Consensual housing would have been beneficial to Eric and Keenen, though it may not have reduced the problems that arose or removed them from that living arrangement.

Keenen suggested that, in addition to consensual housing, institutions should consider other punishments like preventing accused parties from using the Student Center or “kicking them out of the school completely.” Student rights and needs — or “whatever is being overlooked,” he said — should be weighed over the image of the university.

“DePaul may need to do a better job of informing students of the efforts that it takes to ensure the safety of the community,” Tamburro said, but added that there is a safety and monitoring program in place “so that the survivor does not come in contact with the accused individual, as well as to help keep the campus community safe.”

Now that they’re back to a less stressful living situation, Eric hopes that changes can begin so that all students can feel safe on campus and in their dorms.

“I don’t see anyone as to blame because it’s not clear who was making the decisions and who was deciding to move people, but I do think it’s a policy issue,” Eric said.

“Something about it needs to change because it’s not responsible; it’s not safe. If you look at it from a Vincentian angle — doing right by other people — why do we have staff that treat this issue callously?”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″ offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_empty_space height=”300px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces”][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1463947336846{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: contain !important;}”]


Credits

Story by Rachel Hinton, Nation & World Editor

Interactives by Mariah Woelfel, Multimedia Editor

Illustrations by Michelle Krichevskaya, Asst. Design Editor

Photos by Josh Leff

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1 Comment

One Response to “Behind closed doors: Students forced to live with an accused rapist”

  1. The Grand Sky Wizard on June 1st, 2016 1:33 am

    Why would Depaul suspend someone that is accused of something? Oh wait, I almost forgot that we need to listen and believe. Suspend all students that are accused of any wrong doing, regardless of what the legal system decides, as that is the only way true (social) justice will prevail!

    [Reply]

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