Rape culture continues to flourish on American college campuses. In the most recent account, four women who reported that they had been raped by the same man were ignored by the Utah State University’s Title IX office, and by the police detectives investigating the complaints in Logan, Utah.
Reporter Alex Stuckey of the Salt Lake Tribune conducted an in-depth investigation of a pattern of alleged rapes committed by an unnamed assailant. The first assault was reported in January of 2015; the fourth in November. The male student continued remained on campus until spring of 2016, when he graduated.
The four women did not know one another, and they all filed separate reports. Three of the women were Utah State students and reported the assaults to their school. Title IX, the federal statute passed in 1972 that mandates equal treatment of the sexes in education, requires that “schools must take action if there is a potential continuing threat to students.”
In stories that echo the disturbing details recounted in Jon Krakauer’s book, Missoula, which documented a spate of rapes in the Montana college town, police seemed more interested in helping preserve the reputation of the alleged rapist than in helping the women prosecute the man who had hurt them.
The women all spoke to Stuckey using pseudonyms. Catherine was the first woman to be assaulted.
She gave this statement:
They were watching TV at his apartment when, she said, he started pulling off her clothes. She fought, but she is 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds, she said, so it wasn’t difficult for the 6-foot-2 man to overpower her.
She kept telling him no, she said, and that she didn’t want to have sex. He told her to be quiet and let him finish, she told police.
She recalled him afterward twice saying: “You aren’t the kind of girl that would report rape [are you]? Because that would ruin my career.”
She viewed it as a threat and as a sign he knew what he did was wrong.
Catherine immediately reported the rape to her residence hall advisor, who sent her to the campus sexual assault counseling office. The office advised her to contact the police. The detective investigating the incident contacted the accused, who denied that Catherine had ever said “no.” Detective Olsen told the student that because he had been contacted by the campus sexual assault office, and not the student, that “it makes me believe that it is not something really to worry about. It’s not that she’s accusing you of straight up rape.”
Catherine dropped out of school on February 1, 2015.
In a second incident, it was the accused rapist who contacted Logan police, telling Detective Olsen that he feared that a misunderstanding would lead to a second rape allegation.
Mary, the second victim, had called police, and Detective Olsen was listening on the phone when she confronted the accused. “I would really appreciate it if we talked in person instead of going this route because honestly I can’t deal with that. I have a career and I have a life and a family. I don’t want my life to be ruined.” He then swore to her that he would “never do this to anyone else again.”
The accused then called Olsen to tell the detective that he feared that a second complaint was brewing.
In the third complaint, which surfaced in November, but which related to an incident that had occurred in June of 2015, Anna reported the following;
A few days after Mary walked Olsen through the details of her alleged sexual assault, Anna sat on the department’s couch. As her dog slept beside her, she described being raped by the same man months before, in June 2015.
The two had met on the dating app Tindr, she said, and she didn’t feel like she could stop him when he called days later at 2 a.m. to say he was coming over.
Detective Olsen asked Anna what she was wearing when the student arrived. He asked if she would do a photo lineup to make sure “someone else wasn’t posing as” the student. Anna said the questions still infuriate her more than half a year later.
“I almost left when he asked me” those questions, she told The Tribune.
She said she knew exactly who had followed her into her bedroom, kissing and grabbing her, telling her she was “pretty” and trying to take her pants off. She repeatedly told him no. That’s when, she said, he shoved her to the floor, pinning her there as he ripped off her leggings.
She begged him to stop. She told him it hurt. He raped her anyway, she said.
Debbie, who was not a student, reported that the suspect raped her after the two had been drinking together.
After the Tribune broke the story, university officials tweeted that it was “looking closely at our policies and support services and will make changes that will ensure the well-being of our students.”
It also issued a statement, reproduced on the Tribune’s site, that it was taking these charges seriously, but that Title IX also required it to “protect the privacy of victims.”
The prosecutor said that she was aware that there were four cases. She has requested all four of them, but only two of them are being re-examined, according to Stuckey.