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Student found not responsible for sexual assault

Due to complainant’s incomplete memory of incident, initial ruling upheld upon appeal

The student accused of sexual assault by one of two female students who reported being drugged at an October party has been found not responsible by the University’s Student Conduct Board, according to a Feb. 20 letter reviewed by The Herald from Deputy Provost Joseph Meisel to the complainant.

Meisel, the appeal officer in the case, upheld the SCB’s initial decision upon appeal, according to the letter.

The SCB wrote in its findings that the complainant’s incomplete memory of the event did not allow her to effectively counter the alleged assailant’s testimony that she consented, Meisel wrote.

The woman appealed the decision, citing the “dangerous precedent” set by not adequately taking into account the memory loss that accompanies the ingestion of date-rape drugs, according to the letter.

But in his appeal decision, Meisel wrote that, because no new evidence had emerged, he remained unable to call for a rehearing of the case — even if he were to give the greatest possible weight to the complainant’s “flash memories.”

Administrators, including Meisel, did not respond to requests for comment.

The alleged assailant, who is unaffiliated with Phi Kappa Psi, was charged with “non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature” and sexual misconduct involving “penetration, violent physical force or injury,” the letter states.

The SCB’s finding of not responsible relied heavily upon its conclusion that the accused student may not have known the degree to which the complainant was incapacitated.

The night of the incident, the complainant had been drinking, was “having trouble with unlocking a door” and needed “to lean against the wall,” Meisel wrote in the letter, recapping her testimony.

The accused student’s descriptions of the night “indicate that he recognized you had been drinking to some degree,” Meisel wrote to the complainant. “The question is whether the visible presentation of your stumbling could or should have led (the alleged assailant) to infer that ... your level of intoxication was past the point at which it would have been reasonable to assume you were capable of giving consent.”

The complainant’s testimony of being “unable to respond, move or consent” during the sexual act was at odds with the alleged assailant’s account of “sustained activity and responsiveness throughout the sexual encounter,” Meisel wrote.

“This finding represents a gross misunderstanding of how consent works,” said Katie Byron ’15, a member of the Task Force on Sexual Assault.

“This is an atrocious Catch-22 that the University has put itself in where they say that because her memory was flawed, because she was incapacitated, that she can’t provide any sort of alternative testimony,” Byron said. “But yet somehow, she was … still able to give clear and convincing consent. You can’t have both of those things.”

Justice Gaines ’16, also a member of the task force, said “the fact that only the accused’s memory is taken into account because the victim doesn’t have a memory is horrifying.”

Gaines expressed concern that the decision could establish a precedent according to which a victim who does not completely recall an incident is not considered to have been “victimized” or to have “experience(d) a sexual assault.”



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