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Update on Campus Assaults February 29, 2012

DATE: February 29, 2012
TO: Campus Community
FROM: Royce C. Engstrom, President
SUBJECT: Update from the President on Campus Assaults

Our highest priority as a campus is to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for our students. Recent events have threatened that environment due to the reprehensible behavior of a number of individuals who have committed sexual assault. When a sexual assault happens, it is our job to support the victim and remove the perpetrator.

In the most recent events, there is the sense that the University “sat on” information about a sexual assaulter for a week before taking any action. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are the facts:

On February 10, a female reported an incident to Campus Police. The female did not report the incident as a sexual assault and, to this day, it is not under investigation as a sexual assault. Campus Police, in consultation with the City Attorney’s office on February 10, determined the crime to be the misdemeanor of providing alcohol to a person under 21. The perpetrator was given a citation to that effect. No other incident involving this perpetrator was reported at that time.

One week later, on February 17, a second female came to our Dean of Students and reported that she had been sexually assaulted. She reported that the incident occurred on February 10 and the perpetrator she identified was the same man as was involved in the first reported incident. Because the same perpetrator was involved, we sent out that day a “timely notification” communicating to the campus that the two incidents had occurred and to exercise caution. That evening, communication with Missoula Police Department occurred and the alleged perpetrator was, in fact, monitored by the Missoula Police Department. But with no criminal charges filed by a victim, he was not taken into custody. The perpetrator fled and left the country.

People are understandably angry that this perpetrator escaped. I am angry that he escaped. But he didn’t escape because the University sat on information for a week. He didn’t escape because the University mishandled the cases.

How do we move forward?

  • First, we must continue to communicate that sexual assault is a despicable event and we will not tolerate assaulters on our campus. We will use everything in our power to identify and remove assaulters. The event this week, Men Can Stop Rape, is a nationally acclaimed program. It is but one way of sending the message to our student population.
  • Second, we must continue to emphasize the reporting procedures and resources available to victims of sexual assault. SARC, the Student Assault Resource Center, is a confidential health-care service where students can get immediate care following an assault. SARC is not a reporting mechanism, but students who go to SARC are advised of reporting procedures to Campus Police, Missoula Police, and the Dean of Students.
  • Encourage students to report sexual assaults as soon as possible. A sure method of reporting is to immediately dial 911.
  • Everyone must work to keep each other safe. We can do that by becoming active and engaged bystanders. If you see a situation where someone is using drugs or alcohol to incapacitate another person, interrupt the situation and enlist other bystanders to help intervene. It IS your business.

Unfortunately, sexual assault is present on most college campuses and we have certainly had more than our share in recent months. Since this problem came to light in early December, I am proud that the level of dialogue and awareness regarding sexual assault has increased substantially on our campus and in the community. Only by bringing this issue into the open do we stand a chance of ridding our campus of the behaviors that lead to assault. We are attacking the problem head-on. We appreciate your concern and your help.