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February 19, 2007

If you know her, you're not a real rapist

As goes Harvard, so goes the University of Tampa...

The Univerity of Tampa is now admitting that it erred in failing to alert the campus community regarding a rape suspect at large:

TAMPA - University of Tampa officials say they should have informed the student newspaper earlier of a rape on campus after the Gasparilla parade, but the assault didn't merit extreme precautions or alerting all students.

"The question at first was: Is it date rape? We don't go into a security alert for a date rape," UT spokesman Grant Donaldson said Saturday. "That's not called for."

Though some students expressed outrage that school officials didn't notify them immediately, others suggested that the victim brought trouble on herself by drinking too much, leaving her friends and allowing a stranger into her room.

Still, Donaldson said, the university failed to alert the newspaper in a timely manner and officials will review policies related to releasing information about similar events.

The rape occurred Jan. 26, when a man escorted a drunken student to her UT dorm room. The man, whose blurred image was captured by security cameras, fled the room when another student showed up. The young woman reported the assault to police soon after. [SPT]

Because as we all know, alleged stranger rapists are suspects who should be considered dangerous, whereas, it's gauche to treat other alleged rapists as dangerous suspects when they're only suspected of raping women they know.


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Three weeks. What a response time from the University of Tampa. The same night as the woman who was arrented when she reported being raped to the Tampa Police Department. Those unpaid fines were considered the more serious crime.

can't believe I'm wading into this, but the university's position doesn't seem obviously unreasonable to me. The reporter sort of conflates two issues in an obviously stupid way, but at root it looks like there were two distinct issues: 1) should the university have notified the paper, and 2) should the university have declared a security alert? As to the first, they've reached the conclusion that they should have, which seems right to me. But as to the second, depending on what "security alert" means, that seems perfectly defensible. Presumably a security alert is a campus-wide alert that an imminent danger to the campus exists.

I was at the University of Iowa when Gong Li went on a multi-building shooting spree. A campus alert was obviously called for. I was also at NYU when a guy stabbed his girlfriend in her dorm room. A campus-wide alert wasn't called for, because...well, actually because he was arrested within 20 minutes, so there was no point, but even if he'd fled before the cops arrived, there's a case to be made that he didn't pose a threat to anyone else (I obviously don't want to press the analogy too far; that would have required a judgment call, involving, for instance, whether he took the knife with him, and so forth. But in the case of a date rapist, the chances of his raping someone else in the immediate future [say, 12 hous] strikes me as pretty low).

The point of a campus alert (one presumes) is to notify students of imminent danger, not to punish wrongdoers. The security officer's claim wasn't that he wouldn't seek prosecution for the date rapist, just that he didn't see him posing an imminent threat requiring the immediate notification of the entire campus. Presumably the rapist would be arrested as soon as possible regardless of whether an alert was immediately issued.

I'm willing to bet, based on the Gong Li example (and NYU after 9/11), that a campus alert is a pretty radical measure, with a lot of bureaucratic implications. At the very least, all classes will have to be cancelled that day, meaning they'll all have to be rescheduled, with countless complications ensuing. The campus will probably need to be locked down. Security officers will all get overtime. Etc. etc. That's assuming University of Tampa doesn't have some Ultra-Extra Security Alert, of course, but I think that's a reasonable assumption.

Does a date rape really warrant that? Would the campus be made any safer by doing that?

The article is pretty slim on details but I get the sense that while drunk and alone she encountered a stranger who convinced her to allow him to accompany her to her room. This might change as more details are released but this is strikingly similar to how serial rapists and killers operate. They gain the trust of the victim and they are remarkably able at overcoming qualms. If this is a stranger rape then at minimum an alert should have been issued throughout the campus so that people could take precautions while the police investigated.

Interesting how they want to punish women for the high crime of trusting and befriending men.

I have mixed feelings on this, because I don't know enough about the m.o.s of different types of rapists. There's stalking and dating violence going on at every campus on a constant basis, but these offenders aren't usually a danger to the general population. (Unless, that is, they have some association with or are trying to help the victim.)

It is very frustrating that aquaintance, date, and marital rape are considered less serious by society than a stranger jumping out of the bushes. The trauma for the victim is oftentimes much worse.

Arguably (but not definitely), there are cases of date rape that don't merit a security or newspaper alert. But this is obviously not one of those cases.

This had all the hallmarks of a serial rapist in the making (Hawise explained this quite eloquently), and therefore it is a larger security issue. It is appropriate to warn the larger population, and it's ridiculous that they didn't do that.

I must say I am a bit confused by some of the responses here. Rape is serious and seriously harmful and frightening. It doesn't matter whether it's done by a perfect stranger from behind the shadows or with a person that one just had a date with. I would argue it's much more likely for someone to have a repeating pattern of rape than, say, a stabbing spree. In my mind that is what makes it necessary to include in a campus wide alert.

Date rape is just as horrible a crime as "stranger rape" - and just as serious and so it should be taken as seriously.


well clearly, yes. Which is why rapists--date rapists, stranger rapists, whomever--should be arrested and prosecuted. Which presumably was done at UT, or at least would be done as soon as the individual was identified (and if it is the case that this was a non-student, unknown to the victim, then the analysis about the threat might change, although of course then it's dubious to describe it as a date rape, as opposed to a...what, virtual stranger rape?).

But declaring a security alert has nothing to do with punishing the perpetrator, or the victim, for that matter (Amanda). It's about whether there's an imminent, ongoing threat to the university. It's still not obvious to me that there was such a threat; unless that's the case, it's not obvious that the security officer was wrong.

Just to clarify what I was trying to say earlier: aquaintance rape, like stalking and dating violence, is a constant on every college campus, and studies routinely show that the vast majority of cases aren't ever reported to the school or the police. There's no reason in this sense ever to go OFF alert (whatever that consists of).

It will be verrry interesting to see the skewed stats of the Tampa Police Dept at the end of this year.
I only have one simple thing to say: NO is NO.

That makes it against the will of the person.

It's obvious to me that Tampa is in shut-down on crime-reporting because they want their violent crime stats to be skewed DOWN. So they can keep erroneously reporting same.
I have a bit of experience with this in that I had to call from different phones to report a crime because believe it or NOT -- (and you should believe it) every time I called the TPD for a nuisance crime that I wanted a record of, the SAME nasty broad answered the phone. I realized they were routing my calls. I went to a pay-phone, got someone different. Went to another phone, got someone different. Went back to my cell-phone = same nasty broad telling me there was no crime committed. This is the second incident of this.
My point: This rape victim was SHUT DOWN. The security guy on campus did it purposely. This is a top-down thing. Sheriff David Gee of Tampa graduated from Tampa U. Tampa U. security takes their instructions from the Mayor, the top law enforcement officer. There is a persistent nulling of crime-reporting in Tampa FL.

It depends on what an "alert" is for UT.

If an alert cancels classes, then obviously it would be silly to declare an alert for date rape. It would probably be silly to do it for anything less than a daytime multiple-shooting.

At UMD, we get "crime alerts" whenever there's a crime of any significance from the police captain in our email. I normally delete them without looking at them. Inasmuch as the point here (of the meaningless "crime alerts") is not "OMG the school cannot function now that a crime has happened" but "keep your wits about you while on Rt. 1 at night," sending out an alert for this sort of thing is sensible.

In this particular case - it seems like (from the article) like a rape of opportunity that should have prompted an alert by the school. However, a date rape would suggest that the accused person wouldn't be a threat to the population of the school (except for other people that person was dating) so an alert wouldn't be needed.

FYI: that is not to suggest that date rape isn't dangerous, only not dangerous to the student population at large (Lindsay),
Nor is that in any concievable way punnishing women (Amanda),
Nor would this mean that a date rape is less serious - just not as much of a threat to the general population (Mike)

This is a good example of only getting an answer for the question you asked. Policy was driven by the wrong question.

What UT security should have asked themselves was, Is this man likely to find a drunken female student on or near our campus in the near future, who he might (attempt to) rape? Clearly, the answer would have been Yes, so we need to ask our school's media to run the security tape, let's find and charge this guy before he strikes again.

Instead they asked the question, Is this the type of crime and victim we want to be widely publicized on our campus?

If you follow the link to UT, you'll find this gem of a statement: "Dean of Students Bob Ruday said he did not believe the university recognizes the event as rape because the student "freely allowed" the man to come up to her room." That man needs to be fired, preferably in 1992. The crime is not recognized as a rape because she allowed the man into her room. You heard it, ladies, if you allow a man in your room, you're giving him carte blanche to your body. Maybe they need to send out an alert about THAT. Fucking A.

I think that "the university" needs to take classes on what constitutes a crime and if it cannot pass, should have its license to have students be revoked. Too many so-called institutes of higher learning are failing to show a passing grade in basic skills to allow them to be in charge of human beings.

"The question at first was: Is it date rape? We don't go into a security alert for a date rape," UT spokesman Grant Donaldson said Saturday. "That's not called for."

Except that it sounds like it wasn't a "date rape." It sounds like it was a stranger rape.

If any other students were raped by this same guy in the time when the school was debating whether or not it was deserving of a campus alert, I foresee a big-ass lawsuit.

I know that at my graduate school, they sent out alert e-mails pretty often to all the student e-mail accounts, which should have been done at a minimum in this case.

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