UTA investigating sexual assault allegation

Posted Monday, Sep. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A female student at the University of Texas at Arlington told police she was sexually assaulted at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house late Saturday night.

UTA police responded to a call for medical assistance at 11:38 p.m. Saturday and found a woman unconscious in a residence hall, according to a statement released by UTA officials. The woman was taken to an area hospital, where she later reported that she had been sexually assaulted at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house.

UTA has suspended a male student from campus in connection with the incident, pending the outcome of the investigation. Officials declined to identify the student.

Both Sigma Phi Epsilon and Pi Kappa Phi also received interim suspensions for having “unregistered parties and possible use of alcohol by individuals under the age of 21,” the statement said. The suspension means that the fraternities “are to stop all organizational activity pending the outcome of the investigations,” said Kristin Sullivan, assistant vice president for media relations.

“We take these issues very seriously,” UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari said. “We are taking decisive and appropriate action while the investigation continues and due process is served related to these unfortunate circumstances. We … will not tolerate behavior that is potentially dangerous for our students and others.”

Many students on campus Monday said they had not heard about the incident.

“I feel it’s important — that we should know,” said Ada Harris, a junior majoring in software engineering,

She described the report as “troubling” and said that it shows why students need to be vigilant.

Harris said that when she and her friends go to parties, they arrive together and plan to leave at the same time as well. When she sees girls who appear to have had too much to drink, she tries to make sure they are OK, asking: “Who are you here with?”

Yvette Martinez, a business major, said the news is “kinda scary” and “it worries me.”

Fraternity cooperating

UTA Police Chief Kim Lemaux told the student newspaper, The Shorthorn, that no arrests had been made.

The woman told police that she knew the person or persons who assaulted her, but Lemaux did not say how many people the student reported were involved, The Shorthorn reported.

“We still have lots and lots of interviews to conduct and lots of different leads to run,” Lemaux told The Shorthorn. “It’s a serious offense and a serious allegation. We’ll be looking at physical evidence and talking to different witnesses.”

At the Sigma Phi Epsilon house, which sits across from the UTA Police Station, no one was available to comment Monday, but chapter President Christofer Slocum said via email that the fraternity was cooperating.

“We are complying fully with authorities, the university and our headquarters to address and resolve the alleged incident,” Slocum said.

There were two “forcible sexual offenses” reported at UTA in 2011, four in 2010 and three in 2009, according to the school’s 2012 Annual Campus Fire & Safety Report. One of the sexual assaults reported in 2010 occurred in 2007, according to the report.

Figures for 2012-13 were not available.

Unreported violent crime

Prevention and education about sexual assault is an ongoing campus conversation, experts said.

Abigail Boyer, assistant executive director of programs, outreach and communications for the Pennsylvania-based Clery Center for Security on Campus, said one in five women are the victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college.

“It’s one of the most unreported violent crimes,” Boyer said, adding that only about 5 percent of these crimes are ever reported.

Boyer said victims know their attackers in most cases — usually a boyfriend, friend or acquaintance.

“Most people know the person who hurts them,” Boyer said.

Victims are also protected through t he Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, which was signed into law in 1992. It holds universities accountable for informing victims about their law enforcement options, disciplinary proceedings, counseling services and options for changing academic and living arrangements.

UT Arlington provides information on its website that outlines sexual assault prevention and response on the campus. There is also support available through the Relationship Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Program.

UTA pays fine

UTA has faced scrutiny for its reporting of campus crimes in the past.

In April, the federal government notified UTA that it faced an $82,500 fine for incorrectly publishing 2008 crime statistics, including a sexual assault that had been improperly classified as an assault.

“These failures have endangered UTA’s students and employees who must be able to rely on the disclosures of campus crime statistics … and the accurate reporting of crime and statistics in order to take precautions for their safety,” stated an April 2 letter from the U.S. Department of Education.

That case was resolved July 31, when the Department of Education and UTA signed off on a settlement in which UTA agreed to pay a fine of $49,500.

Under federal law, universities must make students aware of campus crimes. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires higher education institutions that participate in federal student financial aid to report campus crimes in their annual safety reports.

This report contains information from Star-Telegram archives.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1 Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna

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