Graduate speaks about filing Title IX complaint against UW-Whitewater
A University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate said reporting her alleged sexual assaults on campus to administrators was like being “assaulted again” by the university.
The woman, who graduated in the summer of 2013, filed a Title IX complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Education the following January. The federal government opened a formal investigation into her allegations that the university delayed its investigation into the reported sexual assaults and that the subsequent investigation was “not prompt or thorough” less than a month later. At stake could be millions of dollars in federal aid given to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“I don’t feel I was treated fairly,” the woman said. “I don’t think anybody should be treated the way that I was. It was worse than the assault, a lot worse. I regret with everything, coming forward and saying anything.”
News 3 does not identify alleged survivors of sexual assault.
The woman said the alleged assaults took place in a campus residence hall on Sept. 15, 2012, and April 11, 2013. She did not report them to UW-Whitewater police and to administrators on campus until after graduation. The Walworth County District Attorney’s Office did not file criminal charges in connection with the incidents.
However, it’s the reaction she claims she received from campus administrators that led to her file the Title IX complaint. The eight-page complaint documents what the alleged victim contends are examples of missed appointments, hurried conversations and a failure to interview key witnesses to her claims. Further, she alleges she was treated coldly, without sympathy and without any help for navigating the system by the woman who was investigating her accusations for the campus.
“When I told her that I was having a really hard time talking to her and that after our first conversation I got off the phone and just screamed until my voice hurt, she just told me I needed to go to therapy and talk to someone,” she said. “Rapists are one thing, but the people who stand by and don’t do anything are completely different.”
A university spokeswoman released a statement to News 3 confirming that UW-Whitewater was cooperating with the federal investigation and, as a result, could not speak to the specifics of the woman’s allegations. However, Chancellor Richard Telfer said in that statement that the university remains committed to providing a safe campus for its students.
“All across campus you will find faculty and staff who work hard to assist our students,” he said. “These people care deeply about the students who attend this university. I believe that our staff members treat students fairly and compassionately when they investigate these very challenging and stressful situations.”
The graduate said she is speaking out because she worries about future sexual assault victims on campus.
“It felt like something I was obligated to do,” she said. “I’m obligated to do it, so the next person, maybe they don’t get treated this way. There’s something wrong with a system that makes people not want to come forward.”
Title IX investigators already visited the Whitewater campus once to conduct interviews. The victim said she believes they will be returning at least once more before they conclude their investigation. There is no set time frame for that to be completed.
Laura Dunn, a UW-Madison graduate who filed a Title IX complaint against her alma mater regarding how it treated her assertion she’d been sexually assaulted by two members of the crew team, represents the UW-Whitewater graduate. Dunn, who now runs SurvJustice, a Washington, D.C.-based organization helping survivors, said she hopes this case will convince the UW System that it needs to be more progressive in helping student victims of sexual assault.