Tuesday, December 7, 2010

UD police: sex assault story false

The sexual assault reported Oct. 31 at the Rodney Complex did not occur, according to university police. The alleged victim recanted her story last Thursday during the investigation, and the case was closed.

University police Chief Patrick Ogden said officers notified Rodney residents of the alleged sexual assault because of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which was signed into law in 1990 after a Lehigh University freshman was murdered by another Lehigh student in her residence hall four years earlier. The Clery Act requires all colleges to disclose information about crime occurring on campus in a timely manner.

"There were some things that she told us during the initial investigation that kind of aroused our suspicion, if you will," Ogden said. "So when she reported this, we were kind of not 100 percent sure that it happened, but we erred on the side of caution […] We thought it was best for the university community to put it out there."

After the student recanted her statement, she provided university police with details of the incident. Ogden said this information cannot be released.

The original report stated that an unidentified man followed the student into her residence hall and into her room at approximately 3 a.m. and touched her in a sexual manner. She texted her resident assistant, who then arrived at the student's room and was able to get the suspect to leave.

The suspect then attempted to enter another room in the complex but was stopped by other RAs. The resident of that room called the police.

Ogden said fliers describing the incident were posted on the glass windows of Rodney residence halls. Detectives used security camera footage and student interviews during their investigation.

He said the screen capture of the alleged suspect caught on a university security camera located on Amstel Avenue led to the student recanting her statement.

"It didn't come in handy as far as identifying the person, but it came in very handy as to kind of confronting some of the inconsistencies in the victim's statement," Ogden said. "That was very helpful. I think that was the key element as to why she finally recanted her statement."

He said although the student could have faced criminal charges for filing a false police report, he does not believe she will be charged. He stressed that this situation, while unfortunate, should not deter actual victims of sexual assault from coming forward.

"I don't want to make her out to be the villain," Ogden said. "If down the road, there's another sexual assault, I don't want a victim thinking they can't come to the police. I don't want a victim of a true sexual assault to think, ‘I'm not going to go to the police because they won't believe me.'"

He said university police will investigate any reports of sexual assault on campus thoroughly.

Freshman Julianne Shenton, a resident of Rodney Hall A, said she learned about the alleged attack through fliers posted around the complex by university police officers. While using posters to inform students about the alleged assault was an effective strategy, Shenton said she wished they provided more description of the suspect.

"It was very broad and it could've been any guy basically," Shenton said. "The way it described it was just like your average guy in a red shirt. It was kind of pointless, not going to lie."

She said the incident has caused her to be more wary of allowing others to follow her into the residence hall after she uses her PDI card to open the door.

"It makes you more conscious of who you let in and who you're not going to let in-I think more so for girls than guys," Shenton said.

Freshman Erika Vaughn said she now makes a more conscious effort to close the door behind her when she returns to her Rodney Hall B dorm. She said she was caught off guard when she heard about the incident.

"Apparently the guy was 20, and these are freshman dorms," Vaughn said. "So if you see a guy older than you trying to get in, it's really sketchy. I was kind of freaked out. Now when I see a guy who's not 18 around here, I get kind of scared."