NPR, Center for Public Integrity ignored details in University of Wisconsin alleged rape case

This week NPR and the Center for Public Integrity highlighted the case of Laura Dunn, a former University of Wisconsin student who says she was raped April 4, 2004, by two members of the men’s crew team. The case, which was picked up by a number of blogs, is said to show how campus judicial systems fail sexual assault victims.

But both NPR and CPI ignored significant facts that didn’t fit their narrative — facts uncovered and made public by an investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Reading the reports by NPR and CPI, you wouldn’t know that Dunn originally said a portion of their sexual encounter was consensual; that she “hooked up” with one of the men twice more after that night; and that according to police, she significantly changed her story about an encounter with one of the men at a fraternity party a year later.

Here’s NPR on the how the story began back on April 4, 2004:

That night, Dunn was drinking so many raspberry vodkas that they cut her off at a frat house party. Still, she knew and trusted the two men who took her back to a house for what she thought was a quick stop before the next party. Instead, she says they raped her as she passed in and out of consciousness

In fact, Dunn said that a “portion of the sexual activity was consensual, but she believed that Students B and C had sex with her without her consent.” (OCR report, p. 5) (The men say she was flirting with them, and initiated a threesome)

It took Dunn fifteen months to press charges. Before then (but after the alleged assault), Dunn acknowledges she went over to “Student C’s residence twice to engage in consensual physical contact.” On one of those times, “Student B” was there and Dunn and Student B watched television together (p. 6).

NPR and the Center for Public Integrity never mention any of this (although NPR does highlight a quote from Dunn about how she a virgin, saving herself for marriage.)

laura dunnAfter Dunn went to a college dean July 13, 2005, who discussed her options with her. On July 26, she met with a police detective and decided to press charges, both within the university system and with the legal authorities. The school agreed to delay its investigation so the police could investigate, but told “Student B” to stay away from Dunn in the meantime. (“Student C” had graduated by this time and moved away.)

But on Nov. 12, 2005, “Student B” and Dunn ran into each other at a “no-pants” themed fraternity party. Dunn told the investigating detective a few days later that “she had initiated the conversation with Student B in the hope that he would admit the alleged assault. Student A [Dunn] also told Detective G that when she first spoke to Student B, he stated to Student A that he was not allowed to talk with her. Student A also informed Detective G that after Student B walked away from her she pursued him into another room. Student A said she followed him because she knew he wanted to talk to her. Student A admitted to Detective G that she hugged Student B a couple of times at the November 12, 2005 party.” (pp. 6-7)

“Student B” gave a similar story to “Detective G” in a Dec. 21, 2005 letter. He said “Student A” stared at him for much of the party, and then reached out to touch him as he was leaving and told him she wanted to speak to him off the record. “Student B told Student A that he was not allowed to speak with her and wanted to leave the party before she fabricated lies about him,” Student B wrote in the letter. (p. 8) “Student A asked him to sign a statement indicating that he witnessed Student C rape Student A. Student A told him that if he signed the statement he would get off ‘scott free.’ Student B told her that the offer was ridiculous because she had fabricated the alleged rape. At this point Student A began to scream at him, cry, and make a scene. He quickly left the party and went home.”

Weeks later, however, Dunn changed her story. She told a dean Dec. 2, 2005, that “Student B” followed her from room to room and pounded a wall with his first while talking to her. That’s also what she told the OCR and the Center for Public Integrity: “He started threatening me,” Dunn told CPI. “When he hit the wall, he used his whole forearm, and just slammed within inches of my head.”

So in one of Dunn’s accounts, according to the police, she hugged him and followed him from room-to-room; in another, he was the one doing the following, as well as physically threatening her. The OCR highlights the difference between Dunn’s two accounts (p. 7), which seem to cast significant doubt on her credibility; NPR and CPI don’t even mention it. Um.

wisconsinThere are other details in the OCR report that make one wonder. Dunn met with an investigating campus officer and an assistant dean on Dec. 22, 2005, and Jan 4. 2006. “At one of these meetings, Student A said she wanted to change her written statement to make her case stronger by stating that she was too intoxicated in April 2004 to consent with sexual intercourse with Student B. IO2 [the campus officer] told Student A [Dunn] she should be truthful in her statement.” (p. 9)

A few days later, Dunn asked for a new investigating officer, “explaining that her mother is Hispanic (as is IO 2), and Student A asked for a new IO, explaining that her mother is Hispanic (as is IO 2), and Student A felt that she was experiencing transference of tensions she had with her mother to IO 2. Student A felt this might explain her defensive attitude towards IO 2 during the questioning. IO 2 recused herself from the case.” (p. 10). Another odd detail, which arguably casts light on Dunn’s state of mind, omitted both from the NPR and CPI reports.

Ultimately the case was assigned to a new campus officer, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Suzanne Jones, who decided in April 2006 that there was insufficient evidence to find that Student B sexually assaulted Dunn. “IO 3 [Jones] pointed out that there was no physical evidence that an assault occurred, and alcohol was involved, which clouded the perceptions of Students A and B as to what happened on the night of the alleged sexual assault.” Detective G kept the case open and finally made contact in May 2006 with two students that Dunn said might be able to corroborate her account. They didn’t, and so she recommended to the Dane County Prosecutor office that month that the case didn’t seem strong enough to prosecute. (p. 12).

Dunn then turned to the Office of Civil Rights, which visited the campus and conducted an months-long investigation, eventually determining in August 2008 that there was “insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations made in the complaint.” (p. 1).

NPR and the Center for Public Integrity, obviously, reached a different conclusion.

UPDATE December 14, 2014: The OCR report has been removed from the Center for Public Integrity’s website, but here’s backup copy:

Laura Dunn campus rape Office of Civil Rights finding

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