The Department of Public Safety is investigating a reported rape of a University student by another student.
Police officers received a call Monday afternoon from a West Quad Residence Hall resident. According to the DPS media log, the student said she had been sexually assaulted on Valentine’s Day.
Because the case is still under investigation, DPS officers declined to comment about the nature of the assault. Though the case was first reported as first-degree criminal sexual conduct, its status may change as the investigation continues, officers said.
An accusation warranting a case of first-degree criminal sexual conduct would involve both sexual penetration and the use of force or sexual penetration that occurs while another felony is taking place. Second-degree criminal sexual conduct is applied when a person forces contact with his or her victim but no penetration is involved.
A sexual assault may also be listed as first-degree criminal sexual conduct if another person aids the suspect and the victim is mentally or physically incapacitated, as could be the case if drugs, such as GHB, or alcohol were involved.
DPS Lt. Crystal James said there are no allegations of any date-rape drug being used in this case, but added “there is suspicion that there was some alcohol involved.”
James said investigations involving rape and sexual assault are especially difficult to investigate due to the nature of the crime.
“We have interviewed both parties, but we are still interviewing people about it,” James said. “We are still trying to determine what happened. It is difficult to determine it one way or the other.”
Besides interviewing the victim, suspect, and any witnesses, investigations involve collecting, gathering and recovering evidence from the night, much of which may have disappeared by the time the victim reports the crime.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center Director Kelly Cichy said any biological evidence must be collected within 72 hours after a rape or sexual assault occurs. Students who believe that date-rape drugs were involved in a rape or assault should go to the hospital immediately, she added.
The evidence collection procedure includes visiting the hospital; giving consent for the procedure; answering a list of questions about the incident; taking oral, anal and/or vaginal swabs; collecting pubic hairs; and collecting scrapings from underneath fingernails.
Cichy added that although hospitals are required to report crimes that they are made aware of, they are not required to release any information given to them by the victim without his or her consent, so victims still unsure of whether to report the incident can collect the evidence without having to go to police.
“It’s a pretty invasive and painful thing for somebody to have to go through,” Cichy said. “But if the person wants to prosecute criminally, the evidence can be very helpful in case the person denies it. … It really opens up (his or her) options in terms of what the victim wants to do in the future.”
There are many legal and emotional factors students should consider when deciding whether to file a report with police about a rape or sexual assault, Cichy said.
Benefits, she said, include holding the perpetrator accountable for his or her actions, as well as possibly helping a future victim should someone else experience a similar incident with the same perpetrator.
“The disadvantages that we talk about are ones that most people think about right off hand, which is, how many times am I going to have to tell my story?” Cichy said. “And some people just really don’t want to have to go to court as a witness. That can be a very private thing.”
If a student does choose to file a police report, it is up to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to choose to prosecute, James said.
Besides going to police, students also have the option of filing a complaint with the University, through the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. Victims choosing to go that route will have to file a written complaint and cooperate with an investigation. Students found guilty of a sexual assault or rape through OSCR could be suspended or expelled, Cichy said.