Sarah Elson, Contributing Writer
The details described in this article may be upsetting to some readers.
When she woke up, there was blood all over the bed. On the sheets, all over a pillow and her underwear, she said. The inside of the comforter was coated.
Investigators asked her what clothes she had on and what type of underwear she was wearing. They wanted to know how she could tell the man she says assaulted her was upset that she didn’t want to participate in sexual activity. And among other “probing and uncomfortable questions,” one VCU student says she was asked whether she had an orgasm during the encounter.
A little more than a year after the sexual assault she says occurred in May 2018, Jamie, who asked that her real name not be published, is speaking out against VCU Equity and Access Services’ handling of the investigation, which found the man did not engage in non-consensual sexual contact.
Equity and Access Services handles all cases of sexual misconduct, sexual violence, sex discrimination and gender discrimination that are brought to the university as part of the Title IX policy.
“I think that it’s a mechanism for covering up sexual assault that happened at the university,” Jamie said of the department.
“People understandably often are quite upset when an investigation does not reach the outcome they hoped for. However, finding a respondent not responsible after conducting a fair and thorough investigation under the Policy, while protecting the privacy of the parties, is not covering up sexual assault.” — University Spokesman Mike Porter
She said there were discrepancies in VCU’s mandatory “Not Anymore” online training and the university’s consent policy, and the final conclusion of the investigation, including comments made in the report. Equity and Access’ consent policy defines affirmative consent as a “voluntary, informed, non-coerced agreement through words and actions freely given.”
Some elements of the language the “Not Anymore” training uses to describe consent are as follows:
- Consent to one sexual act doesn’t mean a person is consenting to a subsequent one
- It can be modified during sexual activity
- Flirtatious behavior or a person’s dress do not imply consent
- Passiveness, a lack of response and silence do not constitute consent
“People understandably often are quite upset when an investigation does not reach the outcome they hoped for,” said university spokesman Mike Porter in an email. “However, finding a respondent not responsible after conducting a fair and thorough investigation under the Policy, while protecting the privacy of the parties, is not covering up sexual assault.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health reports that 1 in 5 women in college experience sexual assault.
The final report, which Jamie provided to The Commonwealth Times, contains evidence, witness statements and comments made by an anonymous third party, who was in charge of deciding whether the alleged perpetrator was in violation of VCU’s policy in regard to non-consensual sexual contact. The report was given to Jamie by the lead investigator on May 20. It established that the “respondent” digitally penetrated Jamie, the “complainant,” who said force was used against her during the encounter, including hair pulling, grabbing and being moved into different positions. But the report found that because she was unable to recall the details of those behaviors — and could remember other details from the encounter — coupled with a denial from the respondent, no controlling behaviors were used against her.
“The Respondent acknowledged that he did not seek or receive consent. … However, Complainant gasped and jerked her hips,” read the final report.
The report goes on to question whether the gasping and jerking was a clear statement of pain, and concluded that the man was not aware if Jamie was in pain.
“Therefore given the available evidence, it was not unreasonable for Respondent to interpret Complainant’s response as indicative of affirmative consent,” the report stated.
It also concluded that, based on the evidence, because the respondent didn’t pursue the encounter further when Jamie expressed a lack of interest in sexual activity, he understood the withdrawal of consent.
“For these reasons, the evidence establishes that Respondent would reasonably have interpreted Complainant’s behavior during the sexual encounter as indicating that she affirmatively consented to digital penetration,” the report stated.
During the investigation, the man Jamie says assaulted her was hired by RMC Events, she said, which provides security guards to VCU campuses.
“VCU Police has contracted security services with RMC Events, and so the security guards in the library are with RMC,” said police spokeswoman Corey Byers in an email. “Police oversee RMC’s operations on the Monroe Park Campus.”
Byers said VCU Police conducts criminal history checks for all candidates seeking employment by RMC Events, which is an independent contractor of VCU. RMC Events did not respond to requests for comment.
“He had basically unlimited access to residence halls, academic buildings, the library,” Jamie said. “He had access to all of that after hours, and I saw him around.”
Kaleigh Hodges, Jamie’s friend, said that after the assault, Jamie became depressed and developed self-esteem issues. Hodges said Jamie had trouble focusing on her classes and getting out of bed.
“The investigation seemed to worsen her depression, not help her,” said Hodges in an email.
Over the course of nine months, Jamie said she was interviewed for hours at a time and provided screenshots and six witnesses to corroborate her story.
Hodges said after the alleged assault, her friend no longer felt safe in many places on campus, including a friend’s dorm because the man Jamie says assaulted her lived there and became a security guard for the location.
“She felt that VCU was not taking her accusations seriously because they hired someone in an active title nine investigation to be a security guard on campus,” Hodges said.
In June, Jamie tweeted about her experience when she learned the results of the investigation. She chose not to contest the findings because the experience “ruined” her first two years of college.
“I accepted the fact that he was found not responsible for the above allegations, however, I know, he knows, and God knows what he did to me and what he will probably do to someone else,” Jamie wrote in a tweet, which she later deleted. “I did not contest the findings because this experience has ruined my first two years of college. … I’ve wanted to share my experience for almost a year now and I finally feel that I can.”
Executive Editor Georgia Geen contributed to this report.