SPECIAL REPORT: Student rape victim says University of Toledo mishandled her case

University of Toledo now listed in an official complaint
University of Toledo now listed in an official complaint
University of Toledo student feels her rape case was mishandled.
University of Toledo student feels her rape case was mishandled.

(Toledo News Now) - The University of Toledo is under fire over its handling of a sex assault case. The victim at the center of the case in question is speaking to WTOL Investigator Ashley James about her harrowing ordeal. We hid her identity for the purpose of this story and are referring to her as "Amy."

Back in September of 2013, the high risk time for sexual assault against college freshman known as the "red zone," Amy and a friend, a fellow student at UT, were hanging out and drinking.

Of that night she says, "I was with a friend in his apartment. We had been friends for 3 years. There was drinking...we were talking...I drank like 4 beers."

That's when everything went wrong - when she says her friend turned into a rapist.

"He basically just snatches my hip and it all just happens... he rapes me."

She describes the ordeal - what she had to do to protect herself from being harmed even further: "I was fighting throughout the whole process," she says, "until I realized he wasn't going to stop. So then I just chose to endure it because if I fight more, it hurts more."

Amy is not alone. According to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of sexual assault during her academic career.  According to RAINN, The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

Most of those will go unreported.

Statistics on Sexual Assault: Cleveland Rape Crisis Center & RAINN

It took Amy months to finally feel ready to talk about what happened. When her GPA dropped from a 3.0 to a 1.8, she realized she couldn't focus. "I had constant panic attacks and anxiety attacks," she says. "I was actually let go of a position because of the changes."

It was January, about 4 months after the attack, when her advisor called her into her office.

"That's when I finally said the word 'rape.' "

After that, Amy reported the rape to Toledo Police and to the University of Toledo. From that point she says she went through the University's student code of conduct process, which includes an investigation.

Amy describes the process: "When you report a sexual assault at the University of Toledo, they basically have you sit with the student conduct officer, dean of students, and advocate

and explain what happened. Then you make a decision whether you want to go through a hearing or not. I made a decision to go through the hearing. They send an email out that includes you and the people involved and they say the accuser is accusing you of this and we're going to meet."

Going through the hearing means a panel, including 2 faculty members and 3 students, listening to both sides. Amy says a decision was made in just about 15 minutes.

His charge? Sexual misconduct, a charge for incidents ranging from unwanted advances to violent sex acts. He was found responsible, but not for "rape."

"The university called it a non-consensual sex act," says Amy. "Non-consensual sex act is rape. Why are you minimizing it with that statement? I think that's what hurt me the most."

According to the University of Toledo, he was given sanctions including:
  • 1 year of disciplinary probation
  • No contact with the victim
  • An education project including 10 hours of sex assault education via workshops
  • 1 on 1 meetings and follow up sessions with a trained sex assault advocate
  • A $25 dollar fee

"They gave him very light sanctions," says Amy, "compared to what rape is. So he basically got to stay on campus."

"Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn't," - New York Times piece on campus handling of sex assault report

Ashley James sat down with Mary Martinez, student conduct officer for the university, to learn more about the sanctions and find out why the fine was so low for the person found responsible for the so-called "non-consensual sex."

While Martinez continued to say she could not go into specifics of the case, she did say the top 3 most severe sanctions would be dismissal from the university, suspension, and degree revocation.

While the accused student was found responsible for sexual misconduct, none of those serious sanctions were handed down.

"I always say it has to be reasonable," says Martinez. "We wouldn't give every sanction possible to someone. The hearing officer of the hearing board would look at the entirety of the situation to look at sanctions to best educate that student."

She said the $25 is part of the administrative hearing fee.

Martinez says the student code of conduct process is meant to be educational and progressive - and that the legal process is another route available to students if they so choose.

"The conduct process is educational. Students are here to get an education. The conduct process can go on concurrently with the legal process. There's also that avenue if a survivor wants to go the legal route with charges with the local police."

In comparison, Bowling Green State University Tuesday found a student responsible for sexual contact without permission, and suspended him for two years.

As of August 2011, WTOL 11 found out there have been 4 cases involving sexual assaults that have gone through the UT student conduct process. Of those, this is the only one where the accused was found responsible.

Amy says, "I think the most upsetting thing about it is ... if they find you guilty of plagiarism they kick you off campus or your major but if they find you guilty of rape...they keep you."

Martinez says the University takes allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously, and goes on to say no process is perfect and there is always a way to improve if something hasn't gone well for a student.

Toledo Police say detectives have made attempts to contact Amy so the investigation can move forward, but that she has refused to meet.

But Amy says that's not the case. She claims that she would call TPD, only to be told to contact them when she was back in Toledo.

She says that TPD called her advocate and told her that Amy should close the case because she was moving and they didn't want to subpoena her back. "Nor did I want to be subpoenaed back," she adds.
"There's no help for victims," she told us.

The case, as of now, is inactive.

Some of the alleged violations involving the University of Toledo include:

Unequal opportunities for the alleged victims and alleged assailants to present.

Failure to provide an adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation. 

Inadequate sanctions foster a hostile environment.
Administrative deliberate indifference.

The complaint, filed on behalf of student victims by a Berkeley-based advocacy group - is extensive. The part regarding the University of Toledo alone is 83 pages long. 

If the University is found in violation, they could face serious penalties. 

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