Prelude to a lawsuit at UConn

The lawsuit filed by multiple women who alleged UConn had mishandled sexual assault cases resulted in a great deal of media attention, scorn, and led to changes internally at UConn as well as legislative action toughening rules for all universities in CT. The lawsuit proved to garner enough attention to actually facilitate efforts at change. These problems did not appear overnight at UConn and the Daily Campus primarily had recounted this recent history during the regimes of Presidents Austin, Hogan, Austin again after Hogan abruptly left (only to leave his next job even more abruptly), and finally under Herbst.  (All articles are from the UConn Daily Campus except where noted. This is clearly not a complete accounting of all the assaults or discussion around them.)  What follows is a timeline starting back in 2001 and leading right up until October 2013, when the lawsuit was filed against UConn.

Back in 2001 an article recounted there was an increase in sexual assault incidents, with 12 total, and 4 reported to police. Administrators said there were more reports because there was more awareness. The years that would follow would indicate the limited progress that was made.

In 2002, columnist John Daddona called for UConn to improve student safety pointing to a sexual assault concern. (though it did not address intimate partner violence).

Also in 2002, an article “Sexual Assaults Raise Concerns on Campus” highlighted the concern when two sexual assaults happened. In that same article the Vice President of Student Affairs seemed to be saying that activist groups were fostering the idea that the campus was unsafe .

A sexual assault was investigated in 2002 where the victim knew the assailant.  This was part of three reported assaults in a one month period between october and november. (Though one was deemed to be false. )

Also that year, UConn Football Player Chris Meyer was charged with tampering with a rape case and a forum on sexual assault noted the focus was so much on women protecting themselves and not much on the potential assailants.

A year later, a DC article noted the campus crime report was focusing on sexual assault and some campus programs tried to get men involved.

In 2004, the Take Back the Night march was held exclusive to women, though men were urged to get involved, by stopping sexual assault. Also in ’04, the Police noted sexual assault statistics but that then as well, assaults were severely under reported, though possibly that the trend was improving.

In 2005 a Take Back the Night march was heckled. (‘Take Back the Night’ empowers women to share stories, be healed) and a DC article estimated that 401 sexual assaults happened on campus based on the national estimate of under reporting.

In 2006, a former NFL quarterback came to campus to work on the dialogue and provide a male perspective. Also in ’06 DC ran an article “Facing Fact: Date Rape Victims are Not at Fault” that also outlined the current statistics. The head of a UConn office said 6 sexual assault cases had been brought up and four people found guilty and expelled

This was the same year that Columnist Kareem Mohni wrote that the Women’s Center Lacked Presence on campus and lamented not enough education was being efforted by the university as a whole and a DC editorial decried the lack of awareness of sexual assault on campus.

Also a high profile assault which fell outside the bounds of legal definitions of sexual assault attracted major media attention. In response columnist Adam Himmelberger stated the need for clearer laws.

In 2007, the DC reported that an accused rapist was still allowed on campus. Commentary Editor Kyle Thomas called for an accused rapist to be banned from housing, when even after his charges he remained on campus and remained in housing. A second student was charged with rape but allowed to remain on campus by a judge, he was also charged under the laws changed in reaction to the 2006 sexual assault mentioned above.

That same year columnist Laura Alix called for a large dialogue on gaining rape victims acceptance. and columnist Matt Bond called for Campus Rape Culture to be ended, the editorial board also called for stricter punishments for Rape, through referred to a non UConn case.

During the year the UConn’s Violence Against Women Prevention Program (UCVAWPP) outlined the issues of sexual assault and the DC devoted a long article to that

In May of 2008, three sexual assaults occurred on spring weekend including one where the editor in chief of the daily campus was the victim she recounted what happened. (Hartford Courant) Bruen recounted what happened in the DC.

In 2008 a student arrested for rape was banned from campus, and Governor Rell responded by ordering a full safety assessment of campus. (Student arrested for rape asked to leave UConn There were two assaults over the course of seven days.    After the second attack Governor Rell offered the UConn Police state help to protect campus. Though the Director of the Women’s Center noted that most victims know their perpetrator suggesting the larger issue was not random attacks.

After the first an attack on a student, students questioned whether campus was safe. A Daily Campus columnist wrote an article saying the statistics said assaults were low, though ignored the statistics about unreported assaults. A DC editorial urged more bystander intervention. And not long after that continued to press the issue with “The UConn Community can help stop Sexual Assault. “

A rally was held  against violence against women. A month later, the DC and students called for a metanoia about Sexual Assault

Also a custodian was arrested for multiple incidents of assault in October.

A survey of students released in early 2009 said 60 percent of students felt unsafe. Just over 52.2 percent did not know about resources available to them. 43 percent of people did not know how to report sexual assault to the police department.

That coming April, students rallied to protest sexual assault, President Hogan attended, but one attendee noted the event was somewhat of a band aid and that they needed to get out to find out why rape occurs in the first place so it could be stopped. Additionally, after the sexual assaults during spring weekend in 2008, the DC reported no significant changes had occurred in how university dealt with sexual assault prevention in 2009.

In September, a sexual assault suspect was caught a year after his original crime and he had committed a second one between the time. The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) raised concerns about why the campus was not notified of an attempted rape. Though this was explained by administrators. (Campus safety concerns discussed ) Not long after columnist Jason Ortiz wrote in the DC urging the administration to do something about sexual assault.  Also in a busy September, An editorial called for the administration to be more transparent after the  arrest of a former cheerleading coach for sexual assault.

In October 2009, a year after it was requested, the held a Metanoia about sexual assault (recounted here Panel discussion kicks off Metanoia & here UConn  Metanoia 2009)

In 2010, to it’s credit the DC editorial board criticized the use of the term “rape trail” (Editorial: Campus nickname for trail is degrading, insensitive ) the same year to their credit, the DC editorial board reminded people that alcohol was not an excuse and called for greater awareness of what rape actually is. (Editorial: Alcohol not an excuse in rape cases ) Another DC editorial said that ignoring sexual assault won’t make it go away and was critical of society.

That same year the head of the UConn’s Violence Against Women Prevention Program gave USG the statistics we are still grappling to this day,the UC VAWPP program put on a play to cement the idea of consent, and bystander intervention training occurred.

The Daily Campus decried that it took one year to arrest an accused sexual assaulter, (and he had been able to strike again), the trial began in 2010, a year after his arrest. They used this as an opportunity to criticize the overall backlog in dealing with sexual assault cases.

In 2011, the Editorial Board came out opposed to blaming the victim in general, (though not referring to any UConn event.) and a separate editorial  called for sexual assaults to be taken seriously.

Later that year,  the DC itself was criticized for publishing a sexual assault joke and students also held a march to end victim blaming.

In 2012, a UCTV television show had some troubling content which led to protests. UCTV would apologize for airing it. (Controversial UCTV show causes uproar. ) Columnist Joe Flynn reacting calling for rape culture to be stopped. (echoing past efforts.) There was a false report in 2012. (Though these are statistically rare.)  Much later that year, columnist Imaani Cain wrote an article saying consent should be norm, not sexy.

In March 2013, the DC covered negotiations in the congress to pass an act to provide more assistance to victims.

Just months before the lawsuit in April the DC editorial board  said consent should be a mandatory part of sex ed. Later that month, a UConn student reacted to the unveiling of the new UConn Athletics logo by commenting on a belief that the athletics culture was “frightening to college women” (this is an oversimplification of her overall point I apoligze in advance). This resulted in rape threats and online abuse.  (RH Reality Check)  The full article she posted on “Feminist Wire” is here.   [Note I am not agreeing or disagreeing with the positions she took, but no one should get treated the way she was for offering an opinion.] The Daily Campus recounted how police did not offer much to help the student after the event.  Hartford Courant columnist Colin McEnroe noted that UConn appeared to give the student little support and this issues she raised were worthy of discussion. (Courant). Students came to the support of the student as well.

A May article noted sexual violence in CT had increased and UConn had set up a new website to talk addressing sexual harassment.

There was also a sexual assault at a party in October days before the lawsuit.

This long set of links shows an ongoing pattern of assaults, reactions, calls for change, and seemingly the pattern repeating, a quite discouraging trend, which hopefully may see some change finally happening.

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