Alleged Sexual Assault Victim Disapproves of University's Response

By: Grant Cruise Email
By: Grant Cruise Email

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- On Tuesday, we introduced you to former James Madison University student Sarah Butters who says she was sexually assaulted by three fraternity brothers on a 2013 spring break trip in Florida.

Part II of this series focuses on how the University responded and why Butters said it wasn't enough.

Sigma Chi didn't reveal many specifics, but did say members were kicked out a year ago after a coed said she was sexually assaulted.

Butters said JMU's ruling in the case came a year later, "I don't think they had my best interest in mind when they gave them the punishment of expulsion after graduation."

JMU President Jonathan Alger and Judicial Affairs Director Josh Bacon declined our request for an interview and the University, but the University did send this statement:

"James Madison University takes the safety and well being of our students very seriously. Consistent with federal law, the university has thorough processes in place under which complaints are investigated and reviewed, and which include students, faculty and staff. Also consistent with federal law, the university is forbidden to discuss any resolved or active judicial affairs cases."

"I think this school cares more about their image and their reputation of maintaining a safe environment than they do actually protecting the students," said Butters.

"A lot of people drink, a lot of people get drunk. It's a reality of life, but most people do not commit sexual assault. That isn't an excuse we accept here. It's not an excuse we think society should accept," said Jasmine Brock, an adult Advocate at the Sexual Abuse Resource Agency.

Butters said two of the men in the video graduated last month, but one is set to return in the fall if he chooses.

WHSV called the men more than once and e-mailed them, but never received a response.

Butters said she won't be coming back to Harrisonburg to finish college, "This is my family's worst nightmare. They aren't here to protect me. And they're really upset that something happened. It really took a toll on us and has been hard on all of us."

What about dangers facing other college coeds?

"Hopefully nothing happens, but I don't want to give people that false sense of security. Because you don't have to worry so much about the perpetrators you know and that people know did something. It's most of them we don't know," said Brock.

If you're asking why JMU has any responsibility for something that its students did hundreds of miles away, according to the student handbook, "James Madison University reserves the right to hold students accountable for off-campus behavior. Examples of such off-campus behavior would include, but not be limited to, crimes of violence, sexual assault and/or alcohol or drug violations, as determined by the Office of Judicial Affairs. "

"It just really disgusts me that JMU is still going to give diplomas to people they find responsible of sexual assault and sexual harassment," said Butters.

Sigma Chi's Executive Director Mike Church wouldn't offer much information about the case, but when asked why the fraternity found enough evidence to suspend the young men and the school didn't, he said the two have different standards.

"The only thing I can say I regret is drinking as much as I did. But if I'd gone back to that day and drank half as much as I did, I probably would have been hanging out with similar people because those guys were my friends," said Butters.

"It doesn't matter what you were doing leading up to it. If you didn't consent or can't consent. Whatever those reasons are, I don't care what the reasons are consent couldn't happen," said Brock.

Now as Butters decides what is next for her, she is closing the book on JMU but says her work isn't finished, "My case is over with. I can't really change their punishments or do anything about that but I can make sure that something like this doesn't happen to anyone else," said Butters.

Thursday night is the final part of our story and if you are a parent, it's a story you need to see. Find out how the Internet may have turned one night of poor decisions into a lifetime of humiliation.

Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.


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