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U. mishandled sexual assault case, victim says

Alleged perpretrator received one-year suspension, will join victim on campus in fall

The summer after her first semester as a transfer student, Lena Sclove ’15.5 was strangled and raped by another Brown student, she said at a press conference Tuesday. Within two weeks, Sclove reported the incident to the Office of Student Life. 

Eight months later, following three months of hearings, a disciplinary decision and subsequent appeals processes, University administrators are permitting the student Sclove identifies as her rapist to return to campus this fall. He received a one-year suspension.

On Tuesday, students, community members and Sclove’s family and friends gathered outside the Van Wickle Gates as she publicly revealed the details of her alleged rape and the University’s disciplinary decision on the case.

“This campus has come to mean a lot of things to me. And it’s become a really scary place,” Sclove said, addressing a crowd of more than 50 students, some holding signs that read “I stand in support of Lena” and “Maybe in the next 250 years Brown will realize rape is a crime, not a college prank.”

In the hours following Sclove’s press conference, Margaret Klawunn, interim dean of the College and vice president for campus life and student services, sent out a campus-wide email announcing that the University’s sexual assault policy would be a focus of discussion at today’s Brown University Community Council meeting.

“Brown University takes issues of sexual assault and sexual misconduct with the utmost seriousness,” wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald.

Senior Associate Dean for Student Life Allen Ward declined to comment, directing The Herald to Quinn. Klawunn did not respond to Herald inquiries.

 

From August to December 

Daniel Kopin ’16 “was a former friend of mine, and we had hooked up a couple times,” Sclove said, adding that they “decided we wouldn’t do it again.”

Sclove spent last summer — the summer following her first semester at Brown after transferring from Tufts University — in Providence. On Aug. 2, she attended a party, where she met up with their group of friends.

After the party, Sclove was allegedly "strangled twice and raped" by Kopin, who was a junior at the time, she said. “I said no over seven times. I never said yes.”

Following the incident, Sclove filed reports with the OSL and, months later, the Providence Police Department.

“I knew what had happened. I knew it was wrong, and I had been counseled that I should go report, and that this process would bring me justice and would be part of my healing process,” she said.

Kopin did not return multiple requests for comment Tuesday night.

Though Sclove reported the incident to OSL within two weeks, a University hearing was set for Oct. 11, more than two months after the alleged rape. During that time, Sclove said, she was constantly worried about Kopin’s presence on campus, unable to forget that he was “still living in that dorm — right over there.”

“I had to see him in the campus center, in the library, in the dining hall,” she said.

The Student Conduct Board, a group of students, deans and faculty members charged with holding and reviewing University disciplinary hearings, found Kopin was in violation of four items in the Student Conduct Code: (2a) “Actions that result in or can be reasonably expected to result in physical harm to a person or persons,” (5a) “Illegal possession or use of drugs and/or alcohol and/or drug paraphernalia,” (3a) “Sexual misconduct that involves non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature” and (3b) “Sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force or injury.”

Following the board’s analysis, the case was referred to Ward, who made the final disciplinary decision, Sclove said. Kopin was suspended from the University for one year. He is set to return in fall 2014.

Sclove immediately appealed the University’s decision with a letter explaining her extreme unease with Kopin’s scheduled return.

“I still had two years left to finish my degree and was not going to be safe with those sanctions,” she said.

Kopin made no appeal to the decision, Sclove said.

In her appeal, Sclove wrote that the Student Conduct Board that had heard the testimony for the case recommended a two-year suspension, but Ward finalized a suspension of one year.

Klawunn did not grant Sclove’s appeal, writing in a letter to her, “The Board determines the findings of responsibility but does not determine the sanction,” and in her case, “the precedent of similar cases needed consideration.”

But Klawunn also wrote that “given the nature of the combined offenses in this case, Dean Ward, in addition to considering a period of separation, should have considered imposing a probationary period.” In response to Sclove’s appeal, Klawunn instituted the probationary status, amending the original decision. She also noted that a “No Contact Order” would remain in place should both Sclove and her alleged perpetrator be enrolled at Brown together at any point in the future.

During the appeals process, Kopin remained on campus, leaving Brown just before Thanksgiving, Sclove said. Despite his presence on campus for the majority of the fall semester, Kopin did not receive academic credit due to his suspended status.

As a result of the assault, Sclove said, she suffered a cervical spine injury and was forced to take a medical leave of absence this semester.

“I lost my one semester of freedom, and my next opportunity to come back as a student to matriculate here at Brown is the same semester that the rapist is allowed to come back and matriculate here at Brown,” she said.

 

Disciplinary decisions

“In cases where a crime may have been committed, the reporting student is counseled about criminal justice options and may be encouraged to file a criminal complaint,” Quinn wrote to The Herald. “Whether or not such a complaint is filed, the student receives substantial support from deans, counselors or advocates.”

The disciplinary hearing process took an “incredible amount of time and energy,” Sclove said. But with her parents’ financial and moral support, she was able to take a reduced course load in the fall to “maintain some semblance of sanity” throughout the process, she added.

“I was really sort of encouraged that reporting to the University is much safer than going to the police and pursuing a criminal case,” Sclove said. “I was not treated terribly during the hearing, but at the same time, I was not kept safe.”

When she was notified that she needed to pick up the charge letter for the case — a document both she and her perpetrator were required to obtain in accordance with University policy — she found herself in the same building as Kopin and his father, who were picking up the letter in a room nearby.

“I thought I was just going to pick up a piece of paper, so I went by myself,” she told The Herald. “There was no sensitivity to my state of trauma, to my state of shock or to the potential thought that he could be guilty.”

Sclove said she was not notified when her alleged perpetrator was asked to leave campus and found out that he had left Brown after another week of “living in fear.”

The assault itself followed by the administration’s decision-making process felt like a “double rape,” said Richard Sclove, Lena’s father, at the Tuesday press conference. “It’s hard for me to localize my rage.”

“We understand the trauma of sexual assault and while we are working to ensure we have a good and fair process, it does not always yield a completely satisfying outcome for someone who has been victimized,” Quinn wrote.

“We are and will continue to work with students to develop the best possible process for managing sexual assaults on our campus,” she added.

“The process has to be reviewed and revamped,” said Mitchell Garabedian, Sclove’s attorney, told The Herald. “The sanction, which allows for the perpetrator to be attending Brown University while the victim is attending Brown University, is in essence harmful to the victim and sends a message by the University that they are throwing sensitivity and understanding of sexual harassment or assault out the window.”

 

Culture of disbelief

Though many of her friends and other Brown students had previously spoken out against sexual assault, Sclove said it is easy to “stand against an issue until it’s your best friend who’s accused of it.”

The denial she experienced on campus “speaks to a culture of disbelief,” Sclove told The Herald. “There are students on this campus who hate me for doing this.”

While some of Kopin and Sclove’s mutual friends testified against her allegations of rape, another Brown student submitted a letter to the University describing her own alleged assault by Kopin.

“The University has on file a letter that this person has assaulted another woman on this campus but does not acknowledge it in their decision-making process because the rapist objected to it being included,” Sclove said. Kopin’s objection was in line with University policy on reviewing sexual assault cases, which stipulates that new cases cannot be utilized as supplemental information to ongoing analysis.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Richard Sclove pointed to a study co-authored by Paul Miller, a Boston-based psychologist and former postdoctoral fellow at Alpert Medical School, which found that 90 percent of rapes are committed by repeat rapists, and rapists who also choked victims are at a higher risk of repeat offenses.

Victims can be seen as “vindictive” or “doing it for attention,” but “this is about safety,” said Emma Hall ’16, who is a survivor of sexual assault on campus and underwent a hearing process similar to Sclove’s.

“You can’t have a good education unless the person feels safe, and (Lena) doesn’t feel safe at all,” Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, Inc., a nonprofit that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families, told The Herald. “We want this person expelled from this campus, permanently.”

“Unfortunately, (this case is) typical of college campuses across the country where individuals being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted are then re-victimized by the process, wherein the process is not effective,” Garabedian said.

In preparation for the University’s review of the Code of Student Conduct and its disciplinary processes in the fall of 2014, “this spring we have been meeting with and listening to student concerns” surrounding “guidelines, policies and sanctioning standards for sexual misconduct hearings,” Klawunn wrote in her email to the University community yesterday.

 

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the alleged rape happened at a party. In fact, it happened after the party. The article also previously misstated that Sclove immediately filed a report with the Providence Police Department. In fact, she did so months later. The article also previously referenced the incident in some instances as a rape, rather than an alleged rape. The Herald regrets the errors.



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