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UA officials ignored rape, student says


Casey Dexter
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Rebecca Isaac, a senior creative writing and political science student, sits outside the Memorial Student Union, where she works at the Women's Resource Center. Isaac says she was raped two years ago on campus and is now attempting to make a sexual conduct provision in the student code of conduct.

By Erin Mahoney
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 17, 2000
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When Rebecca Isaac tried to punish the man she said raped her, she said the university turned its back on her.

Two years later, the creative writing and political science senior is fighting to put a sexual assault provision in the codes of conduct at universities nationwide.

"I've had friends say, 'go to the U of A - rape is allowed there,'" Isaac said. "It 's important to show we don't allow this on our campus."

Isaac said she was raped two years ago at a fraternity party, and charges that discrepancies in the UA's code of conduct allowed the alleged rapist to go virtually unpunished.

The current UA code of conduct forbids "intentionally or recklessly causing physical harm to any person on the university campus or at a university sponsored activity, or intentionally or recklessly causing reasonable apprehension of such harm," but does not specifically prohibit rape.

But Isaac said the distinction is unclear.

"If he had slapped me, he would have gotten the same thing," she said. "They're not the same thing."

On April 16, 1998, Isaac said she attended a late night party at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house, 1423 E. First St., with five friends - something she'd done many times before.

After a few drinks, she began dancing with a UA student, a Kappa Sigma member she'd met before. When he asked her to play pool with him upstairs, away from the group, she said she "fully expected to play pool," according to her official code of conduct complaint, submitted to the Dean of Students Office April 21, 1998.

But when they entered the pool room, Isaac said the student grabbed her from behind and raped her.

"My friends were banging on the door," she said. "All I could remember right after it happened was that it hurt, and I said no."

Repeated attempts to locate the student accused in Isaac's complaint were unsuccessful.

Isaac chose not to file a police report, because she was unsure about the legal definition of rape.

"I felt like I couldn't go to the police," she said. "(In a rape situation) You don't know which way is up."

Isaac said following the incident, she experienced pain and vaginal bleeding, but tried to convince herself she was okay.

The day after the party, a UA Campus Health nurse determined that Isaac had suffered vaginal injuries, according to the code of conduct complaint.

Isaac said she was unfamiliar with rape kits - extensive tests and samples taken by police officers or doctors to determine whether a rape has occurred - and didn't discover she would need one before it was past the 72-hour deadline for evidence to survive.

"I found out at about hour 75," she said.

After reviewing her options with campus health employees, Isaac said she decided to file code of conduct charges against the accused student.

"The code of conduct was offered as an option just like going to the police," Isaac said. "It feels safer."

According to the UA's Oasis Center for Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, if a student files a sexual assault charge against another student, "the U of A may pursue Code of Conduct charges against the accused student whether or not these charges are pursued by legal authorities and whether or not the student is convicted of these charges."

Isaac said she filed a complaint and met with Assistant Dean of Students Veda Hunn on April 21, 1998. Isaac said Hunn took a list of Isaac's and the accused student's witnesses, and promised to investigate the matter.

Hunn said yesterday she was unable to comment on Isaac's case, or confirm any allegations, based on federal privacy regulations.

In October 1998, Isaac said she was told that her reported attacker had been put on university probation, and charged with alcohol violations, and had been referred to the Oasis Center for counseling.

Isaac said Hunn told her there wasn't enough evidence to continue an investigation, but told her that the accused student had admitted to intercourse.

"Veda Hunn said she knew a miscommunication had taken place," Isaac said. "He (the student) admitted to the dean that there was blood on his penis. He told her it was consensual."

Isaac said she was outraged by the punishment.

"I was raped twice - once by him and once by the school," she said. "I was treated like I did something wrong."

Hunn said she was barred from commenting on any code of conduct cases, but said the code's "physical assault" provision is effective.

"I do believe the process was fair," she said. "Just because you don't have a sexual assault provision doesn't mean you can't hear cases on sexual assault."

Isaac said she immediately sent letters to local and national Kappa Sigma leaders, asking for the accused member's removal from the fraternity.

A November 16, 1998 e-mail from Matt Noble, alumni volunteer for the state Kappa Sigma organization, told Isaac that the student had been asked to resign.

"He was given the opportunity to resign from the chapter or we would expel him," it stated. "He chose to resign... he now is no longer a Kappa Sigma."

Bob Gordon, UA Greek Life coordinator, confirmed that the student left the fraternity in fall 1998.

UA Kappa Sigma President Chad Foust declined comment on the issue, and national leaders were unavailable last night.

In October 1999, Isaac said she attempted to file a civil suit against the UA, but the six month statute of limitations - the time in which a lawsuit may be filed - had expired.

"It wasn't to get money," she said. "It was to make them change the way they handle it."

She has retained a lawyer and said she is in the process of filing a civil suit against the student.

Isaac said she has written letters to prominent politicians, including President Bill Clinton and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asking for a bill requiring sexual assault to be included in all universities' codes of conduct

Hunn said she - along with deans from all three Arizona universities - are working to change several parts of the code, and hope to add a sexual assault provision.

"Behaviors have changed, issues have changed," Hunn said. "It (the change) has nothing to do with someone saying it was not fair."

No Arizona universities currently include sexual assault in their codes, Hunn said.

Changing the code will take one to two years and will be available for student input before it appears before the Arizona Board of Regents for final approval, Hunn said.

But Isaac said she won't be satisfied until all U.S. universities include a sexual assault rule.

"Even if we change it at our university, there are others across the nation that don't have it," she said.

Regent Judy Gignac said she was in favor of adding a sexual assault provision, but said education is more important.

"Maybe the problem is we ought to sensitize our female students into being more comfortable going to the police," she said. "I would be in support of finding out why someone who's been raped can't get satisfaction under the UA code of conduct."

Matt Sanders, Oasis Center assistant director, said the UA's code of conduct was structured to include sexual assault under the physical assault provision, but he is supportive of a code of conduct change.

"In ways, I am in support of that," he said. "It allows the victim to name exactly what happened to them."

Lily DeSantiago, director of Campus Acquaintance Rape Educators, said she supports Isaac's cause.

"People are scared to report them (sexual assaults) because they're afraid the school won't support them," she said. "The UA needs to make an effort in educating students."

Rebecca Knox, co-director of the UA Women's Resource Center, agreed.

"We do have quite a few women who have been victims of sexual assault," Knox said. "It would make them more comfortable coming forward if it was in the code of conduct."

Isaac said she volunteers at the center regularly, and is working to contact campus fraternities, sororities, and residence halls to share her story.

"More people need to come forward," Isaac said. "(If) more victims report it, we'll catch more people.

"If I can do something good out of what happened, it will make me feel not quite so powerless."

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