WPD investigates allegations of date rape

A female student recently came forward with the allegation that she was date raped following a College social event. The student has registered a complaint with the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) and discussed the situation with the Dean’s Office.

She alleges she was at a party with a long-time friend and was forced to have non-consensual sex with him later that night in his room.

The student initially met with a member of the College’s Sexual Assault Reponse Team (SART) and then later with one of the College’s deans. The alleged assailant was persuaded by a friend to meet voluntarily with a dean as well. Each student involved spoke with a different dean.

Dean Roseman said different deans meet with each student to create a comfort level for each side of the dispute allowing the Dean’s Office to get a complete picture of what occurred.

In order for the College to formally investigate an allegation of sexual assault, it must receive a written complaint detailing the allegations that can either be written by the student or by a dean and approved by the student. The student has opted not to file a formal report with the College, and is instead pursuing the case primarily through the WPD.

The WPD completed its initial investigation into the incident yesterday and the student has asked the WPD to share the information with the College if they pursue an independent investigation, Roseman said.

Though the student has not asked for a formal College investigation the Dean’s Office is pursuing a less formal investigation itself.

According to the student handbook, the dean of the College is authorized to put “appropriate restrictions, up to and including suspension, without prejudice to the student’s record” until the conclusion of a court case in any instance where the Dean determines a student is a potential threat to the community.

Roseman said she believes this is a situation where an investigation needs to occur before any disciplinary action needs to be taken.

Since the alleged assault occurred, the female student has accused the College of not doing enough to pursue and take action on the matter. Roseman acknowledged the College made several mistakes when it first responded to the situation. When the student initially came in contact with the Deans’ Office, the SART member handling the case forgot to give her a copy of the College’s pamphlet on sexual assault. Also, a miscommunication between the Health Center and Security caused a delay in the College’s notification of the WPD they had received a complaint.

In addition, though the WPD would have theoretically learned about the alleged assault from Security’s report, the student was not informed by the SART member she spoke to that she could pursue her case through the police department. Informing a student of his or her right to contact the police is not a mandatory response from the College and, in fact, some experts on sexual assault argue that informing a survivor of that option so early in the process can cause even more pain. In this case, however, the student was angered by the fact that she was not informed of her options.

Roseman said the SART member feels strongly that informing the victim of her right to go to the police that early in the process was not the correct decision for this particular situation.

The Dean’s Office has launched a preliminary report into the matter and is working with the Health Center and the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield in dealing with the situation. Through these actions, the College is also learning how to improve its rape and assault counseling services for students.

According to Roseman, “[The College has] developed and implemented an active education program on the subject that begins with First Year Orientation and continues throughout a student’s time at Williams.”

She added the College takes any allegation of sexual assault very seriously and its procedures call for a thorough investigation and for informing the survivor of the opportunity to pursue a criminal claim through the WPD.

“Whether the survivor informs the local authorities or not, the College can pursue an investigation and can apply disciplinary sanctions.”

As of late, Roseman is working with her staff and members of the College community to determine the extent of the College’s involvement in the counseling aspect of such matters. In any instance of rape or sexual assault, there is always a question of whether the College and other counseling services should stay involved with the allegations until the victim asks them to leave.

The College encourages students who have been raped or assaulted to register a written complaint with the Dean’s Office – a prerequisite for the College launching a formal inquiry – and most importantly, to seek counseling from SART, the Health Center, the Rape and Sexual Assault Network or the Elizabeth Freeman Center.

“As with every instance of an allegation of sexual assault, we are doing an investigation in this case,” Roseman said. “I have every confidence in the professionalism and dedication of members of my staff who work in this particularly difficult area.”