This story has recently been sent our way and the survivor has asked us to share it on our blog. For confidentiality reasons, her last name has been removed. As the Coalition for Survivors we are in solidarity with her.
[Trigger Warning: sexual violence, rape culture]
My name is Myra and I am a fourth year UCSB student about to finish my Communication BA. I had high hopes for my senior year; however, a serious sexual battery and the secondary trauma of negotiating with the Judicial System at UCSB have seriously derailed my opportunity. The following statement accounts for what happened to me on the day of the assault; followed by the decisions I made to seek justice for what had taken place. The purpose of this account is to demonstrate how institutional incompetence and blatant disregard for both the mental and physical effects of sexual assault undermines the safety amongst the female population at UCSB.
On September 7, 2013 in Isla Vista I went to bed at 11 p.m. after participating in several drinking games. My last memory was reading a text around 2:30 a.m. from a man I had previously had contact with. He said he was in Isla Vista with an attractive friend. I had met him downtown several weeks before and we hooked up. I did not have any further interest in him, as the sexual encounter was aggressive. He was a 23-year-old UCSB transfer student also majoring in Communication and we had several classes together that summer. This friend was 19 and a new student at SBCC.In my next memory I was extremely impaired, disorientated, and found myself naked with both men on my balcony. I was alarmed after noticing my body was bruised, cut, and my pelvic and throat regions were sore and bleeding. I did not understand what had happened. I felt “outside” of my body and my basic reasoning was impaired. I recall falling into the shower stall and dropping my phone in the toilet, which are completely out of character. The UCSB student then pulled me into my roommate’s room and proceeded to have rough sex with me. I remember being in pain, my legs were bleeding and there was blood on the mattress and on the wall from my handprints. After they left that afternoon, I passed out for over twelve hours. The next day, I continued to feel disconnected.
The following Monday after work I talked to my housemates about what they saw. I could not understand a four-hour blackout; I assumed the men must have drugged me when they first arrived. My housemates told me that I had not been acting like myself since it happened. Their stories, along with my experiences indicated I had been sexually assaulted and went to the health center and had a physical examination the next morning. A nurse examined me who had experience in assessing sexual assault victims. She said the damage done appeared to be from forceful sex. She said having sex that morning with the perpetrator could not explain the damage because I was still bleeding and in pelvic pain. She postulated that most of the bodily damage occurred during the time I did not remember. The reality of rape hit. I was introduced to a crisis counselor through CARE and was told my rights. The trauma was becoming real, but my first priority was to take a final and I did not have the time to do a rape kit.
On September 12th I met with my crisis counselor and I told her I wanted to do something. I had gotten a new phone because my last phone had water damage from that morning. All of the texts and calls from the weekend were back and I saw that his number, the texts, and calls were erased. Clearly, this was a deliberate act to cover up what had happened. He went on Instagram and liked all of his photos and his friend’s under my account. I did not want to take legal action because I was afraid of being revictimized. She told me about the judicial process, which seemed like a better option. At first, all I wanted was a no- contact order and to never have class with him again. After I told my entire story in detail to Kristen Burnett, she said the case was too extreme because the allegations of his actions threatened the safety of other students. I could not just obtain a no- contact order because once I gave his name they had an “obligation to the school” to proceed with an investigation because of the “seriousness of my case.” After contemplation and a second meeting where I asked many questions about the process and potential hearing, I felt more confident and made an official report with judicial affairs September 18, 2013.
I was told the investigation would take under two months, and the case would be over by the end of the quarter. After the two judicial officers conducted and analyzed interviews with my housemates and the two men, I was told November 21, 2013 that they had enough evidence to move forward and adjudicate my case. The perpetrator had the opportunity to accept responsibility and take the sanctions, which was a two-quarter suspension, or a hearing where he could risk expulsion. The perpetrator hired a lawyer. At that point, my communication with judicial affairs became ambiguous. I was told the perpetrator was going to meet with his lawyer and judicial affairs after finals and he would have to choose. I was later told he had left the country after finals. There were discrepancies between what the judicial affairs told my father via email and what I was told regarding the meeting with the lawyer. I was never contacted again and my entire winter break was in the shadow of the case. This had effects on my family and me. The thought of the case continuing into winter quarter was terrifying because I did not want to continue seeing him at school. I could end up in a class with him because we are both Communication majors. I was told Stephan Franklin was actively making sure we did not have any of the same courses. The first week of school was traumatizing because he was enrolled in one of my classes but did not attend the first day. Hearing his name still put me into an instant panic. The next day he walked into my class, stayed for half, then left after he saw me. This class continued to be difficult to attend as I become triggered into remembering the assault and my lack of safety.
I met with judicial January 14, 2014 and expressed my concerns. They said they were still trying to meet with the lawyer and finish the case. From this point on, I was called instead of emailed updates. The information shared over the phone was off recorded and there were never any follow up emails to make information clear. On January 24th, I was called and told that they wanted a hearing, which would take place in March a week before finals. February 5, 2014 I was told he had a new lawyer and they were actively negotiating. February 12, 2014 I was told he withdrew from school and had a week left to schedule his finals with his professors. I met with judicial for the last time a few days later to request any paperwork for my records. My patience with the case and staying persistent for five months was my form of action. I must now use my experience as an example of what needs to be changed.
The following are my thoughts and concerns regarding the judicial process as well as the lack of accommodation to victims of violent crimes while attempting to complete their education at UCSB. When I first made the report, I made it clear that I had to be updated regularly because I needed some sense of control. Before my case was deemed formal I emailed judicial affairs weekly, and my crisis counselor contacted them even more frequently. At the end of the case, she was sending them emails daily because she understood my need for information. I met with Stephan Franklin November 4, 2013 with my crisis counselor. I was first told several updates about the case and was promptly sent an email, which outlined exactly what he said during our meeting. This was the only time a formal follow- up email was sent. The next email I received stated that the judicial system had enough evidence to adjudicate my case, I rejoiced because I believed the end was in sight. December 6, 2013 I met again with Stephan and I expressed my need for the case to end in a timely manner, which is in the student conduct code. Instead, I was told “these things take time” and that there was nothing I could do. I was told that “the system is the way it is” and I need to let it “play out”. Off record, I was told during fall quarter there was six other cases “like mine” and my case was the only one that had enough evidence to move forward. I do not know if this statement is true, or if it was their attempt to appease my growing frustration regarding the ambiguous time line. Either way, it ignited my annoyance toward the system.
I took it upon myself to be a heroine for the victims without a voice who are usually too traumatized to come forward. I became even more persistent winter quarter with the judicial system and demanded to know what the course of action was. It had been four months and my mental heath declined the longer it took. I still experience PTSD and depression from the sexual assault and I was on medication and committed to sobriety so I could better deal with the situation. My crisis counselor knew how to support rape victims and understood my need for the case to end. Seeing him still on campus during the first week was a reminder of my pain. I was retriggered every time I saw him sometimes multiple times a week on campus, and occasionally downtown. Doing well in school became impossible. I started missing classes because being on campus felt like a fog of difficult emotions. Judicial affairs clearly would not work within my needs as a survivor for a prompt decision and regular informational updates. Another survivor describes the experience, “if a school fails to remove a rapist from its student body, the school is not only contributing to the victimization of the victim but further proving to the victim that she is indeed invisible but also displaying disregard for the safety of any of its students.” According to the conclusion he can come back once I have completed my education, however, he is a perpetrator of sexual battery and already assaulted a UCSB student. Therefore how do students remain safe when a perpetrator can return with no consequence to his actions other than lost time?
The most difficult meeting I had with judicial affairs was on January 14th. They were both exceptionally informal and told me for the first time portions of what the two men said during their interviews. It made me uncomfortable and angry because the men incriminated themselves by admitting “there were a lot of drugs” and that I “had been given a lot of molly” which they brought. The amount they said I had was over twice as much as I had even taken recreationally. The SBCC student was “especially chatty” and said that I, “had five beers” while in their presence. The UCSB student was “not talkative” but said I consented that night to having “rough sex” with him for several hours. Stephan Franklin said that my case was formal because there was enough evidence against him, and the “power dynamic” with two men against my impaired self was clearly wrong. Kirsten said that if I went to a hearing and persisted with the “non consensual” story and the men said what they told judicial affairs; it would incriminate the UCSB student.
When I first met with judicial affairs, I told the officer I believed I was drugged because I did not remember any of what happened in the early morning. As I previously said, once I told Kirsten Burnett his name she “had to investigate because the allegations are a threat to the safety of students at UCSB.” She stated that a new male student “drugging and raping girls” is a serious crime. Hearing that he admittedly gave me drugs and had sex with me afterward clearly shows I was raped, and he is a rapist. It infuriated me that judicial affairs had known what the men had said since November, and the rapist was still on campus taking classes. They believed he raped me, but there was “nothing we can do.” Clearly, my case started on a serious note but became grounds for negotiation between his lawyers and UCSB. In a judicial system that was serious about sexual assault and the safety of its students, he would have been told to leave November 21, 2013 when the case became formal. There was enough evidence against him but his presence on campus for another quarter represents a lack of accountability by judicial affairs. It shows how; as a result, the assaulter is not held accountable even with evidence of sexual battery on both sides.
I lost all trust in judicial affairs after the meeting on January 14th because they clearly were being swayed by his lawyer and were less concerned about my rights. At the end of January I was told the perpetrator wanted a hearing and it would take judicial affairs another month to process. I had to end this painful chapter in my life and was petrified by their descriptions of a hearing. Stephan told me in the next meeting “I don’t want you to go through it” and “it is so much work on our end.” Four months ago they described a hearing differently. I felt helpless because my crisis counselor, the assistant director of CARE, was my advocate and was unfamiliar with the process. She said most perpetrators accept the sanctions and leave, because two quarters suspension is an extremely lenient punishment for rape. He had a lawyer who could potentially provide questions to cross-examine my witness and I during the hearing. I was told by judicial affairs that I would have a fifty-fifty chance of the hearing board choosing my side. If he was found guilty he would be expelled, but if not they could decrease his sanctions or drop my case completely. I could not risk losing six months of waiting for nothing, and told judicial affairs I did not want a hearing.
After he hired a second lawyer in February, the judicial officers said they were “done playing games.” His lawyer negotiated an agreement that he would leave campus within a week and not return until fall quarter (this is what I was told, but it was not true). During the last meeting with judicial affairs on February 12, I was told I should “let this go” because Kirsten Burnett said my actions resulted in the rapist having to “delay his education for seven months, that’s a long time.” I will never know the specifics of the negotiation, but I was told the Vice Chancellor had to agree to it. I was called a week later and told that the negotiation was accepted. It was a signed agreement called a settlement to withdrawal. When Stephan Franklin called my father a week later they said I was told there was no admittance of guilt. It was not made clear to me that he was leaving school untouched by the crime he committed. On March 4, 2014 I was emailed the final resolution, which said he could return to school after I finished. This was not what I agreed to, which was him NOT returning until fall quarter. Perpetrators get an easier ride throughout the process by allowing them to attend school until they make their decision. This hinders the basic rights and learning of the victim. Judicial affairs policies vary enormously and are designed by the school to protect itself legally from potential lawsuits by the perpetrator. It’s hard to believe that a school with such high distinctions would be capable to succumb to low standards and lack human decency for their female students in order to “protect” judicial affairs from legal threats.
I suffered to accept myself as a victim but I eventually made the choice to tell my story because I want to bring justice to those silenced by trauma. I find solace by sharing my experience. Observing the sadness and anger other students felt about my case motivated me to speak up; even more so after UCSB’s judicial process failed me. Living on the other side of victim meant surviving by taking the side that is right. Neutrality helps the oppressor and never the victim. My rapist remained neutral and walked freely around campus and took two quarters worth of classes. The first lawyer successfully stonewalled my case so he could attend classes for as long as possible. He canceled meetings with judicial affairs FOUR times so the perpetrator did not have to make a decision. Once judicial affairs saw that nothing was moving forward, the second lawyer was hired for negotiation so he could temporarily leave free of any admittance of guilt. He was essentially granted a “get out of jail free card” with nothing on his school record explaining why he left. The settlement to withdrawal should have never been an option: justice was avoided. When I asked Stephan Franklin many months before about why he could get a lawyer, he said they only offer advice. The following statement haunts me because I can still hear him say, “lawyers do not have a place here.” His lawyers made themselves a place in the system and got their client a punishment that was a slap on the wrist. With the system now, it is the perpetrator that remains innocent and is protected by the system. My university’s clumsy, slow moving and overly cautious investigation methods left me feeling even more exposed and victimized. The system as a whole must change and NO, Stephan Franklin, it does NOT have to happen slowly.
Brett Sokolow, founder and managing partner of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management states that when college campuses investigate “sexual assault allegations, they might not make a distinction between investigating the assault as an institutional policy versus a crime punishable by the legal system.” These allegations require two types of investigations and the same individuals should not conduct them. That is because those best equipped to handle criminal investigations are not the most qualified ones to handle an institutional code violation. A mere campus panel investigation would not be adequate to handle a school related murder; homicide detectives would be brought in immediately. However in many schools, including UCSB, rape cases are processed by judicial affairs that also process such matters of plagiarism, cheating on tests, and school housing issues. Not a single officer is trained extensively to handle sexual assault cases. Even with good intentions, UCSB judicial affairs are not equipped to bring forth justice to allegations of violent crime.If UCSB is serious about addressing the rape issue, the system must change and adapt to Isla Vista culture where sexual assault and rape are exacerbated by the predatory nature of drunken students who feel that they are entitled to sex. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only five percent of women report sexual assaults on college campuses. Since instances of rape are clearly underreported it is unfathomable how Judicial Affairs are not trained to deal with civil crimes. It should be the school’s highest priority and concern especially with the recent gang rapes this year. A group of skilled and trained individuals in sexual assault issues who understand the victim need to be implemented in the UCSB staff, and action against the perpetrator needs to be swift and effective. With ever increasing student fees bringing in more funds, how is this possible Chancellor Yang? In response to the vicious gang rapes in a campus community wide email, you said, “survivors who wish to press University charges against a student perpetrator are assisted by the UCSB Office of Judicial Affairs. The Office of Judicial Affairs has trained investigators and protocol for dealing with issues of sexual violence.” My time with judicial affairs proved not.The criminal justice system needs to be contacted and be part of investigation if the victim chooses. If not, they should at least have external oversight of the law or else the procedures will continue to be ineffective.
A month after I received the resolution, I wrote a letter to many student groups and political activists across California. Two days after I sent this email, I was called numerous times by Angela Andrade and finally met with her to discuss my concerns. I was honest, I was upset but explained why, and I assumed she was on my side the first time I met with her. However, the second time we met she sat in front of me with my entire case file. She promised changes to the judicial system, “but we don’t have enough money.” I asked her if she could give me some answers to my case. What happened? Why can’t you tell me? All she did was smile and said, NO. Unless I go through word after word of what THEY said specifically about you, then she could say it. I felt like my battle was lost. I told her that this entire system is wrong; it needs to change because survivors will never speak up if this is how they are treated. She said, do your best, I wish you well, our conversation is over. It is not over Angela, my fight for justice for survivors at UCSB has just started.
I spoke up last September hoping I could one day help other women deal with the deep pain and the complex layers of grief. This type of trauma is crippling and affects many other UCSB survivors, who are in pain and terrified to speak up. My heart ached; I felt unsafe, unclean and engulfed by feelings of shame, anger and sadness the longer the case dragged on. I could barely eat at first, getting out of bed was a struggle or sometimes impossible, and interacting with others took too much effort. The hardest part was losing part of me, which is what my housemates called “my spark, my bubbliness.” That innocence and trust in others was taken away by violence and force but seeing my body so grotesquely disrespected has made me respect myself unconditionally. The silver lining to my story gives proof to my resilience and my strength as a survivor. I recently heard Angie Epifano speak and her experience being a survivor at Amherst. As I looked out into the crowd of survivors and their friends, I saw shock and disbelief. It was then when I had to speak out to show how UCSB was also capable of violating codes and not protecting the rights of survivors. When she stated that being assaulted by her university was WORSE than the actual sexual assault, it struck a cord with me. I believe victims of sexual assault are not represented with their best interest at the forefront by UCSB Judicial Affairs. The system needs to focus on supporting victims by encouraging their steps towards being able to maintain focus in a college setting within a safe and respectful learning environment. If a crime is committed against their bodies or minds, prompt action needs to be taken and they must be respected throughout the process.