James Madison University in Virginia allowed three frat boys found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman and distributing video of it to stay on campus until graduation, even for years.
According to the Huffington Post, Sarah Butters, then a sophomore and a sorority member, was sexually assaulted in Panama City, Florida, on a spring break vacation in 2013. She later learned that the three young men, whom she had considered her friends, had filmed video of the assault inside a bathroom and passed it around.
In the video, Butters is blackout drunk, topless and being groped as the men try to take off her underwear/bathing suit bottom. She is heard saying “This isn’t okay, this isn’t a good idea.” She told WHSV news, “I’m clearly, like, not really able to defend myself or fight them off. We were in an enclosed bathroom. It was three of them surrounding me and none of them thought they were doing anything wrong.”
In January, Butters filed a formal complaint with JMU’s judicial affairs office. (WHSV notes that the student handbook makes clear that JMU students are held responsible for off-campus criminal behavior, such as drug use, violence and sexual assault.) She also included screenshots of the video and confirmation from others that the video had been shared. JMU, which is located in Harrisonburg, found the men guilty of sexual assault and sexual harassment and punished them with “expulsion after graduation.” That means they are not allowed to walk in commencement and aren’t allowed back on campus after they graduate. Two were kept on campus for the remainder of the school year; the third will not graduate until spring of 2015.
Butters appealed the punishment; the school changed its tune and expelled the three men. Then they appealed and the school reverted to the original punishment. The school tacked on an additional dumb restriction that bars the three young men from joining any campus clubs.
Butters has now taken her complaint to the federal government, alleging (quite rightly) that JMU mishandled the incident. JMU is now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights as part of their major investigation of 63 universities for violation of Title IX. Butters has also left JMU as a student.
In a statement regarding Butters, the school said “James Madison University takes the safety and well being of our students very seriously.”
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[Image via WHSV]