Two El Paso women speak out about sexual assault, UTEP policies in question

Crime

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Two women are coming forward to seek justice following a sexual assault that they say occurred at the end of 2019. 

Two UTEP students tell KTSM 9 News they were sexually assaulted by two members of Theta Chi in November and claims their allegations were not sufficiently investigated by UTEP. The women allege they went to Spirit of ’66 on Nov. 30, 2019, and were sexually assaulted by two members of UTEP’s Kappa Delta chapter of Theta Chi fraternity. 

One of the women tweeted her frustrations on Tuesday night:

For six months, the UTEP Theta Chi chapter has silenced our story of sexual assault through guilt-tripping and intimidation. In the name of justice, we’ve decided to expose their chapter  for what they are: a group of enablers

One of the two victims on her Twitter account

KTSM has learned the identities of the alleged rapists but is withholding the names unless criminal charges are filed. KTSM has spoken to both victims but is not identifying them due to the sensitive nature of the story.

The women reported the incident to the fraternity’s president, who they say dismissed the incident. 

In a private group message with the fraternity, one of the women implored one of the alleged assaulters to take accountability. 

“Hold your brothers accountable for what they did,” she wrote in the direct message. “I’m so tired of men taking advantage of women because they’re intoxicated. And I’m so tired of pretending like I didn’t witness my sister being raped.”

The alleged rapist responded, “I thought you guys wanted your privacy respected.”

The women reported the incident to UTEP’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution and received an email on Feb. 3 with information on-campus support available for Title IX violations.

Available resources included UTEP’s 24-hour Police Safety Escort Program, the Miners Talk Crisis Line, UTEP CARE (Campus Advocacy Resources and Education), and the El Paso Center Against Sexual and Family Violence.

The women reached out to the CARE office but were unable to be placed in touch with anyone.

“Essentially, it deals with Title IX and sexual assault. There is only one therapist, and we could not get in contact with him. We got no help from them, I guess because they were overloaded,” one of the survivors tells KTSM.

UTEP’s Theta Chi President wrote a statement that states an investigation was conducted and that the alleged assaulters were prohibited from participating in any formal or informal fraternity event for more than one month.

But that did not prevent the survivor from seeing her assaulter regularly.

“I saw him on-campus because his fraternity meets in the same area that my sorority meets. It was pretty much inevitable,” she said.

The statement from Theta Chi acknowledges the survivors’ desire to have their privacy protected but then identified them by name a few sentences later.

The Theta Chi president at UTEP, Rolando Lujan, wrote to the women privately in December on behalf of the fraternity to warn them about what pursuing an investigation might entail.

Like the fraternity brother accused of assault, Lujan reiterated the language of the accused rapist.

“I thought you all trusted me on the aspect of and wanted to keep your privacy?” wrote Lujan.

Lujan’s messages suggest he understands the seriousness of the accusations, but the women believe the fraternity is trying to protect the alleged rapists.

“These are allegations that can ruin a persons [sic] career,” he wrote.

“Now cats [sic] out of the bag on both ends, and honestly it might escalate to things neither of us want.”

The women say their experience is an example of how rape culture is mishandled and inevitably perpetuated on college campuses. 

An email obtained by KTSM shows that on April 21, 2020, UTEP’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution stated that a potential violation of institutional policy may have occurred and an investigation was being conducted. 

One of the women graduated from UTEP this Spring despite the trauma incurred from a sexual assault and a semester derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 18, the survivor who graduated received an email from her student advocate with an update on the University’s investigation into the assault informing her the case was closed.

The email reads:

Good morning,

Congratulations on your graduation. Best of luck to you in the future.

Due to our policies and procedures, since you have graduated and will no longer be enrolled we have to close your case file. If I get information from OSCCR, I will be sure to share that with you. 

According to the University of Texas System Policies, “ODOP 421 requires U.T. System Police to appropriately respond to and investigate reports of sexual assaults in a responsible, trained, and professional manner. U.T. System Policy investigations shall be fair, objective, victim-centered, and trauma-informed.”

The UT System link to review policies on sexual assault response and investigation, however, cannot be found.

Title IX policy requires complainants be informed throughout the investigative process.

Ben Hill, Chief Communications Officer for Theta Chi, issued a statement to KTSM stating the fraternity is aware of the allegations and continues to gather facts and says appropriate action will be taken.

A spokesperson from UTEP tells KTSM the University is aware of the allegation, which is being addressed through institutional policies and cannot comment further at this time.

The women say they wish the alleged assaulters would be suspended from campus and Greek life, and for UTEP administrators to take reports of sexual assault seriously and protect women.

“There needs to be more transparency,” said the graduate.

“But no one can take away that degree.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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