EXCLUSIVE: PSU Student Says School Failed to Properly Investigate Rape Complaint
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Paul said while the University was good about ensuring she had access to information on the case during the school’s internal investigation, she felt uneasy about the whole process.
“It was hard to know what the school’s agenda was,” she said. “It didn’t feel like the school was really on my side at all. It was hard for me to understand. I thought that I did what I was supposed to do and it ended up being a much more difficult process.”
According to PSU internal records secured by GoLocalPDX through a Freedom of Information Act request, the University has had 15 sexual assault cases reported in 2013. Those numbers are lower than the number of reported cases catalogued by the Women’s Resources Center. According to the WRC at the University, they reported 26 cases of sexual assault that year. In August, the University’s Student Code of Conduct Committee held a hearing on Paul’s rape complaint. According to Eden, the committee called her via phone to interview her and only asked her a couple of questions. The committee was made up of students, faculty and administrators.
The Alleged Rape
According to Paul, the incident happened in the early morning hours of June 1 when she said an initially consensual sexual experience with a male student turned into a case of rape. She met the alleged rapist that night, she told GoLocalPDX in a series of exclusive phone interviews from her parent’s home in New Hampshire.
“The sex turned into un-consensual during the act,” she said. “I started to experience a lot of pain and I expressed that to the person multiple times and he struck me when I tried to use any sort of self defense and choked me.”
A little over a day after the alleged rape, she went to the hospital and reported the incident.
“I was afraid of reporting it in general. I couldn’t really believe that it happened to me,” she said. “I didn’t want to believe that it happened to me.”
Shortly after the incident Paul left Portland to be with her parents in New Hampshire. Just 10 days after the Aug. 8 hearing, Portland State University sent Paul an email stating that the Student Conduct Committee determined that the accused was not responsible for rape.
“Federal law, the Family and Education Rights and Privacy Act, restricts universities from releasing student information such as investigations into conduct complaints,” PSU spokesman Scott Gallagher said. “What we can say is how the campus deals with allegations of sexual assaults involving students.
“Individuals who make a complaint or are accused in a complaint receive equal access in the process and have the same opportunity to present their side to the (Student Conduct) committee,” Gallagher said. “[The hearing] is not a criminal proceeding or a civil court proceeding and lawyers are not present. However, both the complainant and the accused are afforded access to an advocate or advisor of their choice.
“In summary, Portland State takes sexual assaults seriously with detailed policies and procedures in place that focus on education, prevention, response and support.”
Gallagher said when a sexual assault is reported, campus police and the Portland Police Bureau investigate. Portland Police officer Ryan Rees said the department does not have a report of the incident because the case was under the jurisdiction of campus police.
The Multnomah County District Attorney is reviewing the case.
“That was one thing that was really confusing to my family and I is why he wasn’t arrested and why he was allowed to leave the state,” she said. “There wasn’t much police action at all more than them just making a report.”
Chris Ramras, Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney, said the case is being looked into and a final decision on whether to prosecute has not been made.
“My best guess is it will be fairly quickly from this moment on,” he said.
On whether the DA would go forward with the case Ramras said, “It’s possible it just hasn’t been decided yet.”
On whether the student’s code of conduct’s decision would impact the judicial case, Ramras said, “It doesn’t really have much impact on what we decide to do.”
Paul’s friend Susana Ruiz, a sophomore at Portland State, has since started a Change.org petition titled “Stop Violating The Sexual Assault Law: Title IX.” The petition has over 50,000 signatures.
Ruiz said since putting the petition up she has received calls from other female students who claim their cases were also mishandled.
“Some of them got blamed for the situation,” she said. “That’s why it’s worrisome because it’s a common thing."
Ruiz emailed mayor Charlie Hales and plans to take the case before the Portland City Council.
Three months after the alleged rape Paul is unsure if she will return to PSU and is appealing the decision of the Student Code of Conduct Committee.
“I wanted it to be taken seriously and I felt that the real police would take it more seriously,” she said. “It was just kind of strange to me and my family as to why there was a case at the school in general. It has just added more stress and anxiety for me, having to go through this whole school process. I thought that the school was going to be on my side.”
Her case was handled through emails and phone calls because she was out of state. Emails and documents of the case provided to GoLocalPDX by Paul show the university conducted a trial Aug. 8 in which they called Paul. She said they only asked a couple of questions focused on how much alcohol she had been drinking the night she met the accused.
“I felt it would have been more helpful if I was there in general,” she said. “I think an advocate would have helped.”
In an email to Paul from an official with the Office of the Dean of Student Life, she was told she could have an advisor or support person of her choice at the hearing but they could not be involved in the investigation. The email also stated the school had a “process advocate” available for questions.
The school has issued a no contact order between Paul and the accused student. GoLocalPDX is not naming the accused student because he has not been charged by law enforcement.