Assault victims face tough judicial process
This is the second in a three-part series on sexual assault at Dartmouth. Part one
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was published on May 2, and part three was published on May 6. 

After attending an all-female high school, Anna Winham '14 came to the College thinking sexism was a problem that no longer existed. During her freshman fall, several of her friends were raped. Because of these experiences, many of which went unreported because her friends did not immediately realize that they had been sexually assaulted or did not want to go through the reporting process, Winham decided to become a Mentor Against Violence and learn about sexual assault. But after Winham became a mentor, she herself was sexually assaulted. "In some ways it felt like I really should have been able to know what to do and how to get out of it, but I didn't," she said. During the Green Key weekend of her sophomore year, Winham went to a fraternity with two friends. While she had only a few drinks, Winham recalled feeling unexpectedly drunk. She began talking to a male student whom she met in the basement, but upon feeling sick, she decided to go home. After the student repeatedly insisted on walking her back, Winham finally agreed. Once in her bedroom, he repeatedly asked Winham to perform sexual acts, though she told him she was drunk and wanted to go to sleep. Winham kept refusing, but suddenly and without asking for consent, he raped her. THE DECISION TO REPORT The morning after her assault, Winham said she felt "weird," but not upset. She initially could not believe that she had been raped. It wasn't until that evening that Winham fully understood what had happened. "I did not want to believe that I a MAV, a feminist, all of these things it just could not be true that I had just been raped," she said. Winham found her phone, which she had lost the night before, and saw that she had received multiple text messages from the perpetrator. He texted her saying that he was coming over the next evening, and Winham was terrified. "I ran to the door and locked it, which was the first time I had ever locked the door of that house," she said. It took a few days for Winham to decide how to proceed. She reported the incident due to the high rate of underreporting and pursued charges through the College with her name attached, though she was also given the option of filing a report with the Hanover police. Winham's case is one of the handful incidents of sexual assault on campus that are reported each year. Many victims choose not to report, citing a wariness of the adjudication process or a desire to avoid focusing on their assault for an extended period. National estimates of unreported sexual assaults range from 80 to 90 percent of all total incidents. The Sexual Assault Awareness Program gives students information about the Committee on Sexual Assault adjudication process, but does not attempt to convince students to decide one way or the other, Sexual Assault Awareness Program coordinator Amanda Childress said. When advising students, the office discusses the benefits and drawbacks of adjudicating and what the student hopes to gain from adjudication. "Some of them that have gone through it have found it helpful because they've gotten to share their story," Childress said. "Others have found it not helpful because they've felt revictimized, or because they don't get the outcome that they wanted." Cally Womick '13 was sexually assaulted when she was a freshman, and has since reached out to many students who have experienced similar trauma. Out of the dozens of students she contacted, none chose to go through the adjudication process, and only a handful reported the instances of sexual assault to the College. Womick attributed the lack of reporting to how "painful and scary" the experience is, causing many students deal with it outside an official network. She said the adjudication process can be harrowing for survivors because it requires them to share painful personal information with many people. Womick believes Dartmouth must enforce stricter punishments for perpetrators of sexual assault. "I would love to see Dartmouth have a no tolerance policy," she said. Stuart Allan '14 dated a survivor during the immediate aftermath of her assault and was with her when she considered reporting her case. Because of the trauma she had undergone and her fragile mental state, the College advised her not to go through the adjudication process. Allan said her perpetrator was a serial rapist, however, and that the College should have encouraged victims to adjudicate their cases to prevent further offenses. "It's no longer about them, it's about saving the next girl or next girls, because the people who do this are usually serial," he said. "The administration knew about it, but they didn't push the girls to go forward with it. The fact that it seems like the guy was known to them but was able to continue doing things, that just seems like a bad outcome to me." COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS The COS hearing for Winham's case was in June, one month after the assault. Winham said she believes the male student was able to read her statement before writing his own because he responded to specific elements of her report. When Winham went through the College's adjudication process, students adjudicating sexual assault cases were not educated on sexual assault, Winham said. One student on COS asked why she had not taken Safe Ride instead of walking home with the male student. "I thought that they totally would have benefited from training," she said. Sexual assault education is now a part of COS hearings, counseling and human development director Heather Earle said. At the end of the hearing, the male student was found responsible for charges of threatening behavior related to the calls and text messages he sent, but not for the charges of sexual assault. While she had the option of appealing the charges, Winham did not expect it to be successful. "That is the ultimate outcome, which is pretty frustrating," she said. "It's not as though I want him to be severely punished. I don't think that's going to help anyone. But I do want the College to acknowledge that I was raped, and I don't really even need it for me, I just need it for the people who are younger and who are going to be here." The COS process is lengthy, beginning with the initial step of making a report. Students may make a formal complaint through the Hanover police or file a written or verbal complaint with Safety and Security or the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs office, which is not reported to the police unless the victim is a minor. The third option is to make an informal or anonymous complaint with SAAP, Judicial Affairs or an undergraduate dean. Dartmouth cannot take disciplinary actions on these types of reports, but can discuss "informal educational interventions" for perpetrators. Additionally, students can choose to obtain a College "no contact" order with the perpetrator or a formal restraining order from the police. Students select an advisor to accompany them throughout the process. This advisor must remain neutral and is not allowed to serve as the victim's advocate, said Childress. SAAP coordinators may not serve as formal advisors at hearings. COS then conducts an investigation into the incident, which includes asking the two people involved as well as any witnesses for statements. The committee decides whether to charge the alleged perpetrator with any Standards of Conduct violations. If there is enough evidence to warrant a hearing, a panel consisting of two faculty members, two students and one administrator is selected from the COS membership. The COS is composed of 12 faculty members, 12 students and eight members selected by the College president. The victim may choose whether the hearing is open to the community or closed, and whether additional observers such as SAAP coordinators are present. Outcomes include a warning for the student to exercise better judgement that is recorded on his or her disciplinary record, College probation, suspension or expulsion. Data on these outcomes is available online to community members, though the most recent information is from the 2009-2010 school year. That year, the committee saw a single sexual assault case, which resulted in the perpetrator's suspension for four terms. There were also three cases of relationship abuse, which resulted in two probation sentences and one suspension. Undergraduate judicial affairs director Nate Miller and assistant dean of the College for campus life Kate Burke did not respond to multiple requests for comment by press time. CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM When a victim of sexual assault comes into the emergency room at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the staff contacts local WISE advocates and has specially trained members go through a protocol with the victim. If patients appear to have been or say they have been sexually assaulted, staff members are bound by law to report the assault, said a DHMC staff nurse in the emergency department who asked to remain anonymous because she was not authorized to speak on the matter. Victims are offered the chance to meet with officers in the Hanover Police Department, who explain their options, answer questions and determine what they would like to see done, acting police chief Frank Moran said. The department's underlying policy is that no victim is forced to do anything that they do not wish to do. "Our whole goal is to provide service to those victims and not traumatize them more," Moran said. So far this year, the Hanover police has investigated seven cases of sexual assault. Last year, police investigated 15 cases, only one of which resulted in a conviction. The department is participating in an Upper Valley effort to create a resource team for sexual assault, Moran said. If a victim decides to have the assault investigated and prosecuted, police will conduct a detailed audio-recorded interview so the facts are clearly established as a starting point for the department's investigation. The department may conduct witness and suspect interviews and obtain search warrants to discover evidence. Following an investigation, felony charges, including sexual assault, result in a case file being opened with Grafton County, attorney Lara Saffo said. The county prosecutors argue on the victim's behalf in court. Saffo recently spoke about the process at a Dartmouth sorority, and believes students would benefit from learning more about sexual assault. "I definitely have that as a goal, for the Dartmouth student population to learn more about exactly what happens in Grafton County," she said. WISE program manager Kate Rohdenburg said that because the criminal justice system requires invasive questioning, victims rarely choose to go through it. The process can take years, meaning that for college students pressing charges, they could spend the majority of their time at school consumed by the case. Both the COS process and the criminal justice system need reform, she said. "Neither system is set up to be supportive to someone that has gone through sexual assault," Rohdenburg said. "There's lot of room for improvement." Despite her experience, Winham said the adjudication process was important because when more sexual assaults are reported, more perpetrators are held accountable. "The College has to take this problem seriously, and I would never want to pressure someone into reporting because that's the second instance of taking away someone's agency," Winham said. "But I would encourage it, if people feel like they can handle it in some way."


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