Sexual Assault Allegations At UConn Lead To Many Questions

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STORRS — The number of feminists who say they hate being lectured about campus sexual assault by stodgy, gray-haired men is equaled only by the number of young men who say they hate being lectured about the "jock culture" by feminists who know little about athletics.

So here's an idea. Let's put down our chromosomal swords and agree on this much. Nobody is rooting for rape. We are in this together. The legal and moral net that currently is entangling UConn must be cut open with solutions and, just as important, acting on those solutions. The ones who can't — or won't — will have to give way to those who can and will.

There also is no denying that the bigger that the story has become — seven current and former students have accused UConn in a Title IX complaint of failure to adequately respond to their reports of sexual assault — the harsher the spotlight has become on UConn athletics. Four of the seven also have leveled a civil lawsuit led by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred against the school.

Junior Rose Richi alleges that a UConn football player raped her.

Graduate Kylie Angell, who was on the crew team, alleges that a UConn athlete raped her.

Graduate Alyssa Palazzo, part of only the Title IX complaint, called the UConn cops, which led to the 2012 arrest of Lyle McCombs in a domestic dispute, and then gave testimony to an administrator in the school's Office of Community Standards. She said she lived in fear of retaliation for months while having to live in the same building as the UConn running back.

Three of the five students who have stepped forward so far are directly tied to athletics. A fourth, Carolyn Luby, is indirectly linked after some hideously sick stuff she endured after writing a piece about the new UConn athletic logo.

Coaches, athletic directors and school presidents like to call athletics the front porch to their universities. It is an apt description. Right now, the front porch light is flickering in Storrs.

"I think national statistics show that athletes in a college setting are more likely to have in their midst perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence," said Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, chairwoman of a legislative task force on domestic violence. "One of the first steps I think the university can take if they want to respond to this situation quickly is to reach out to those communities where they know there is a higher likelihood of offenders and start with some important prevention training — and accountability."

Every question, every answer does not have to line up with the lawsuit's time line. Some questions need to be asked today. Some need to remain open to public debate. For long after Allred returns to Los Angeles, the state's flagship university and a passionate fan base will be dealing with the fallout.

In the civil lawsuit, Richi alleged that she was raped in September 2011 by a football player in his dorm room. When she went to the UConn police in early 2013, Richi has said a number of times that Det. James Deveny did not believe her. (When contacted recently by me, Deveny, no longer on the force, declined to comment.)

A decision was made by the state's attorney not to pursue the case. According to the lawsuit, the alleged rapist later contacted Richi in intimidating fashion, she then left a voice mail for police that she was afraid and seeking help, yet the police never returned her call.

According to the lawsuit, Richi continues to feel unsafe on campus because she is still being forced to cross paths with the football player and does not feel protected by the UConn police or administration.

"Due to pending litigation and the federal student privacy statute commonly known as FERPA — which protects the privacy of victims, the accused, witnesses, and others — we simply cannot discuss the details of our response to these allegations," UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said in response to questions about whether police had records of Richi's call and if they had talked to the football player to see if he had made contact with Richi. "There are existing proceedings which are an appropriate forum for all the facts to come out in a thorough and systematic way, and we will not address accusations piecemeal."

Athletic department spokesman Mike Enright gave the same response when asked if the football player would face repercussions within athletics if he made contact with Richi.

Piecemeal is one thing. With this story reaching a national level of scrutiny, isn't Richi's immediate safety a matter of everyone's concern? Or am I missing something here? IsUConn and BC meeting for the first time in basketball since 2005 all that matters?

When asked about the phone call and if she still felt unsafe, Richi directed me to her lawyers.

"Our client, Rose Richi, has no comment in response to your questions," Allred said.

How about something as simple and human from the police as, "We are doing everything we can to assure Richi's safety." How about the same from Allred saying, "Since filing our lawsuit the police have/have not assured us of Rose's safety."

The cloak of secrecy, in this instance, does not serve either side well.

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