September sexual assault still under investigation

Editor’s note: This story was revised for accuracy at 8:45 p.m. Oct. 13.

A sexual assault reported by a female student in early September is still under investigation in the Campus Life office, a university official said.

TCU Police Sgt. Kelly Ham said the female student hasn’t pursued criminal charges but could change her mind and pursue charges at any time.

Nick Whitesell, assistant dean of Campus Life, said the Campus Life office, along with the TCU Police Department, was involved in the case from the beginning. Students can be brought up on charges for violating the code of conduct at the same time they are under criminal investigation, he said.

“We’re not a court of law at the university so just because you’re going through our discipline process doesn’t mean you’re not going to be going through the legal process or vice versa,” Whitesell said.

Sgt. Cheryl Johnson of the Fort Worth Police Department said the state cannot file charges against the offender without the cooperation of the victim.

“It comes down to the constitution that you have a right to face your accuser,” Johnson said. “If (the victim) doesn’t want to cooperate, it’s almost impossible to pursue it.”

Campus Life considers all cases that it investigates on an individual basis, Whitesell said. Punishment for violations of the code of conduct could be anything from a verbal warning to expulsion from the university depending on the offense.

The sexual assault reportedly took place on or around Aug. 30, but the female student did not report it to campus police until Sept. 9.

According to crime statistics in the TCU Police Web site, five forcible sex offenses were reported in 2006, two in 2007 and one in 2008.

Ham said acquaintance rape can occur because the college setting gives students more freedom than they have ever had before.

“For the first time you’ve got young men and young women away from home, allowed to do whatever their personality thinks is OK,” Ham said. “People are putting themselves in situations at parties and stuff like that where they’re indulged too much in the spirits and their judgement gets impaired and they make bad judgements.”

Whitesell offered ways students could avoid putting themselves in potentially harmful situations. Students should make sure they leave a party with the people they arrived with, know where their friends are during a party and never put a drink down and pick it back up to drink again, he said.