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‘They Just Didn’t Make It Very Easy For Us’: Three Loyola Students Voice Frustrations with Loyola’s Sexual Assault Investigation Process

Alanna Demetrius | The PhoenixThree Loyola students accused a former male Loyola student of sexual assault and voiced their concerns with the university's investigation process.

Sexual assault resources are listed at the bottom of this story.

Three Loyola students have accused a male student — who has since left the university — of sexually assaulting them in separate on-campus incidents, The Phoenix learned.

The young women say school officials didn’t investigate aggressively enough, allowing a “serial predator” to remain at Loyola with few restrictions for five months while looking into the allegations — an alarming lag the women say could have exposed other students to danger.

Tim Love, deputy coordinator and executive director of the school’s Title IX Office, now known as the Office for Equity & Compliance, that investigates sexual misconduct, dodged questions from The Phoenix about if the school put students in danger in this case. 

“I was worried it was going to happen again while we were trying to get this all figured out,” one of the women said.

The assault accusations also raise new questions about the quality of security by Loyola’s police force, Campus Safety. One of the women was assaulted on the quad, in the grass outside the Loyola Information Commons, while the other women were assaulted in residence halls, according to interviews.

Thomas Murray, head of Campus Safety, didn’t respond to multiple interview requests from The Phoenix, continuing a pattern of secrecy about crime on or near campus that critics say has been a hallmark of school President Jo Ann Rooney’s administration.

Love said privacy rules precluded him from getting too specific when answering questions about these cases. For instance, Love wouldn’t say whether the male student was ultimately expelled, as the women told The Phoenix.

The man facing the accusations didn’t respond to numerous voicemails, or multiple direct messages on Facebook. The Phoenix isn’t naming him because he hasn’t been charged with a crime. In interactions with Loyola officials, he has denied wrongdoing, documents show.

This is the second allegation of a male Loyola student assaulting more than one student in recent years. In 2013, a first-year was accused of raping two young women in their dorm rooms on back-to-back days. Charged with felonies, he pleaded guilty in 2015 to misdemeanor simple battery and was sentenced to probation, The Phoenix reported.

An outside expert on sexual assault investigations, Sarah Layden of the nonprofit Chicago group Resilience — which supports survivors of sexual violence — told The Phoenix it’s “troubling” that, with the new cases, the school didn’t act more decisively when the students first made their complaints in late 2018.

Three students coming forward is a “pretty good indicator” of a potential threat to other students, Layden said.

“Minimally, I do think it’s alarming that three students being sexually assaulted by another student didn’t rise to the level of an imminent threat to students’ safety, knowing what we know about those who perpetrate these crimes,” Layden said.

The young women were told their investigations would likely take 60 days, but they said they didn’t wrap up for five months, with the alleged assailant still enrolled during that time with almost full access to campus.

“Only when we get to talk about it does it begin to slowly get better.”

Loyola Student

“We went into that initial meeting with Tim Love and the three of us talked about the fact that he is a serial predator,” one of the three accusers told reporters. “The way that they defended him staying on campus was that they claimed he wasn’t violent . . . therefore he’s not a threat to campus.”

Love wouldn’t confirm if this was said.

All three of the women agreed to speak to The Phoenix, which isn’t naming them. One of the women noted how common sexual assault is at colleges across the U.S. At Loyola in 2016 alone, there were 55 reports of sexual violence on students off campus and 15 reports in residence halls, The Phoenix reported.

Sexual assault can take many forms, including attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts and penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

Sexual violence on college campuses is widespread, statistics show. Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation, according to data from RAINN. 

Women ages 18-24 are at an elevated risk of sexual violence, according to RAINN. In 2018, nearly 70 percent of Loyola’s undergraduate students enrolled were females, according to U.S. News and World Report

“Only when we get to talk about it does it begin to slowly get better,” said one of the women in the latest case.

‘It’s impossible for me not to think about it’

Alanna Demetrius | The Phoenix

One of the three women recalled meeting the man accused of sexual assault as a first-year student through a campus club. They began seeing each other and text messaging, but they never formally dated, the woman said, adding that the night of the first sexual assault, in 2016, they met up outside the dorm where he lived at the time.

The male student insisted on taking a walk around campus, despite how chilly and late it was. 

They ended up on the East Quad in front of the Loyola Information Commons, where he sexually assaulted the woman, according to interviews.

“I walked home,” the woman said. “I have no recollection if he walked me home, if we parted ways at the quad, at Sheridan, I don’t know. Trauma memory is weird . . . but I can remember exactly the clothes I was wearing — the t-shirt, the shorts, the flip-flops, everything about it, and I can pinpoint the exact position we were laying on the quad, but I don’t remember how we walked home.”

According to interviews, the woman had been drinking alcohol, in a condition where, according to Loyola’s community standards, a person is unable to consent.

They hung out the following day, and he assaulted the woman again in a first-year dorm room, according to the woman. 

“I remember I went down to my friend’s room,” the woman said. “I didn’t say anything but I wrapped myself in a blanket and rocked back and forth. … I was just kind of in shock.”

The woman said they stopped seeing each other a few weeks later, but they continued to bump into each other regularly.

The woman had trouble sleeping, didn’t want to eat and suffered from panic attacks severe enough that they caused nosebleeds. 

The woman had straight A’s the first semester, but missed classes often during the second semester. 

In 2017, about four months after the alleged assaults, the woman told a resident assistant, known as an RA, about what happened. 

RAs, in addition to other faculty, staff and administrators are mandated to report sexual assaults at Loyola.

The RA filed a report with the EthicsLine — a way to report misconduct or violations of Loyola policy online or over the phone. Shortly after the report, the accuser was contacted by Loyola’s Title IX coordinator.

The student opted against filing an official report or contacting police at the time, but wanted the male student out of the campus club. The woman obtained a temporary no-contact directive against the man. These ban alleged offenders from contacting the person, even through a third party. 

The woman also saw a therapist through Porchlight — a counseling service for survivors of sexual assault at Chicago universities — after getting a referral through Loyola’s Wellness Center, the school’s health facility.

“It took me months to just admit that something had happened, so it was just a very long process of dealing with it,” the woman said. “I was assaulted on campus and it’s a very small campus, so every day, I walk past [the first-year dorm] and I walk past the quad, and it’s impossible for me not to think of it.”

‘I did kind of block it out’

Alanna Demetrius | The Phoenix

The second woman met the alleged offender through classes and the first-year dorm they both lived in.

She said she was raped twice in the dorm during their brief relationship her first year at Loyola. 

“On a couple of occasions, some things happened that I had told him that I wasn’t comfortable [with] or I didn’t want to be doing that, and it ended up happening anyway,” she said.

The first assault occurred in a dorm stairwell in late October or early November 2016, she said, while the second assault occurred in her dorm room on Nov. 6, 2016.

Immediately after the first incident, she said he looked at her and said, “You know I didn’t make you do that, right?”

She remembered interacting with her roommate afterward.

“I came back and she could see that I was upset and asked if I was okay and I just kind of went to sleep and cried,” she said. “We didn’t really talk about it in-depth or anything.”

She said they broke up in December 2016.

The following year, she said she struggled at Loyola. She said she didn’t leave her room often and her grades suffered.

“I didn’t do a lot of the things I wanted to do,” she said, adding that she didn’t discuss what happened with anyone until the middle of 2018.

“It was kind of a weird situation the way it all happened, because it did happen to me so long ago, and I did kind of block it out of my mind for a while,” she said.

She said she didn’t initially report the incidents, but slowly processed what happened to her. She remembered being reminded of the assaults while reading Loyola’s student conduct expectations.

“I was looking at the student conduct book for my . . . job and I went to the Title IX stuff and I was like, ‘That looks familiar,’” she said.

‘I didn’t feel like a human’

Alanna Demetrius | The Phoenix

The third woman said she met the man through a dating app in spring 2018, and they dated for several months.

During that time, she said there were several instances of unwanted contact that escalated.

In one instance, he tried to remove her pants even after she said no, she said.

He also groped her, she said.

Ultimately, she said he raped her.

That occurred the morning of March 24, 2018 after she spent the night at his dorm room. They broke up in early April, about a week and a half later.

She said it took time to comprehend what happened because he said things to make her question the situations. She said he accused her of not caring about him and he made her feel guilty.

“It was confusing because outside of these instances he was sweet and kind and caring and would always talk about what a feminist he was,” she said.

In the weeks after she was raped, she said she stopped attending many of her classes and was just focusing on getting through the rest of the semester.

“I didn’t feel like a human,” she said. “After he raped me, it was the first time I was consciously aware of what was happening. I remember knowing that what he had done was rape, but not knowing how to explain it or describe it.”

She said she began to drink heavily on the weekends.

“I was drinking in a way I had never done before, really just in pain and not understanding how to explain or cope with what had happened to me,” she remembered. 

Once she returned home for the summer, she tried to understand what happened to her. She said she looked up the word “rape” and read the definition.

“The most poignant one was the FBI [definition] [and] I remember reading it and thinking that’s exactly what happened to me,” she said. “I’m an articulate person and I don’t know how to describe that feeling, other than to say it felt like a black hole. To this day, it’s still startling.”

That summer, she said she called the man on the phone because she wanted him to understand what he’d done. At first, she said he tried to deny it, but when she mentioned possibly filing a Title IX investigation against him — in other words, an internal complaint with the school, which could lead to discipline and a mark on his record — she said his tone completely changed. 

“What scared me the most about that interaction was the lack of complete and utter remorse,” the woman said. “The fact that I was saying to him, ‘What you did to me was rape,’ and [he was] trying to talk me out of it . . . and then when I mentioned Title IX, this automatic switch to this anger that I’d never seen from him before.”

Several days after that July 2018 phone call, she emailed a Loyola administrator to file a report against him. 

Throughout the summer, she said she saw things that reminded her of the man. As a result, she said she “shut down.”

“I shouldn’t be having panic attacks in a restaurant because the person sitting next to me also wears the type of glasses that he wears,” she said. 

She coped by writing stories and poetry, she said.

When she returned to school in the fall, she said she was terrified of seeing the man around campus and didn’t want to go anywhere without her friends.

She said she ran into the man’s best friend at a dining hall one day, causing her to stop eating on campus. After that, she said she lost about 20 pounds in a month.

During the fall semester, she said she began going to therapy through Loyola’s Wellness Center.

‘We needed to do something’

The three women initially didn’t know each other.

Two of them had met through a mutual friend in 2017. One of them, then, met the third woman at a party in 2018.

They realized their mutual connection to the man accused of rape, and said they realized they’d all been through similar trauma.

They said they discovered similarities in the man’s behavior toward them. They noted his fascination for sexual acts in public places, such as his desire to have sex in the Mundelein Center for Performing Arts piano rooms. They also discovered he had taken each of them into stairwells.

“It was terrifying how much of it wasn’t these random acts, but that it was a calculated pattern.” 

Loyola Student

Two of the women said they made the connection that he threw his hands up in response to their protests of his advances, telling them he wasn’t “trying to take advantage” of them. 

“It was terrifying how much of it wasn’t these random acts, but that it was a calculated pattern,” one of the women said.

From there, they said they decided to launch Title IX investigations.

“It wasn’t even a conversation, it was just very much mutually understood between us that we needed to do something,” one of the women said.

Title IX launches investigations

The three women said they filed separate investigations with Loyola’s Title IX office during the first week of December 2018, more than two years since the first sexual assault.

They said they didn’t file reports with the police, opting to have the school handle things through an administrative process, rather than a criminal one. 

Love, Loyola’s Title IX coordinator and executive director of the Office for Equity & Compliance, said the university doesn’t require survivors to contact law enforcement, but is able to assist people who decide to go to the police.

Roughly 20 percent of female survivors ages 18-24 report sexual violence to police, according to RAINN.

Some survivors don’t go to the police because they believe it’s a personal matter, or not important enough, or they opt to go through another channel, such as the Title IX office, according to RAINN.

In this instance, the three women met with Love, and each case was assigned to different investigators. At the time, investigators were Loyola employees with other roles at the school, though trained to handle Title IX investigations as needed.

One of the women told the Title IX office she worked at Loyola, and yet inexplicably, the investigator assigned to her case turned out to be her boss.

She said she was uncomfortable with that, so she had to wait for a new investigator.

Love said things will be handled differently moving forward, with the school creating the Office for Equity & Compliance earlier this year, which will have three full-time professional investigators and no longer rely on investigators who work other jobs on campus.

“The office was not created in response to any specific concerns, but we are absolutely committed to soliciting and considering stakeholder feedback as we work to advance safety and equity within our community,” Love said.

“Our goal is to balance the needs of the complainant with the rights of the respondent and also in consideration of the safety needs of the larger university community.”

Tim Love, Loyola’s executive director for equity and compliance and Title IX coordinator

The women said no-contact directives were issued through the school to the man they accused. He was also banned from several buildings on campus the women frequented.

The Title IX office spends a lot of time working with complainants — people who open cases against someone — to ensure they feel safe and comfortable on campus, Love said. 

However, Love said the university must look out for both the complainant and respondent — also known as the accuser and accused person — and avoid punishing a student before the results of the investigation.

“Our goal is to balance the needs of the complainant with the rights of the respondent and also in consideration of the safety needs of the larger university community,” Love said.

The school can restrict a person’s access to certain parts of campus if there’s “reasonable cause” to believe they posed a safety risk to the university community, Love said. 

One of the women relayed that employees told them “he’s not a threat to campus,” so he wasn’t banned outright. The women said they were stunned by his continued access to campus because he had the opportunity to interact with more women, and possibly reoffend.

It also meant the women making the accusations continued to see him, with one of them saying she saw him almost every day around campus during the investigation because they had the same major and took classes in the same buildings. 

In February 2019, while the school was still investigating the claims, one of the women spotted the man on a date with another female student who she knew through a class. She said she later contacted that woman through social media to warn her about the man.

Reached by The Phoenix, that woman confirmed she was contacted by one of the accusers, but declined to comment further.

More frustrations with school emerge

The three women said they had other problems with the school during this time.

They said Title IX employees told them investigations are typically finished within 60 days, although Love said it’s hard to set a specific time frame since each case is unique.

Under Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, Loyola has a responsibility to respond “promptly and effectively” to notifications and reports of gender-based misconduct.

While state law doesn’t provide a specific time frame to complete investigations, the Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act states that “complainants alleging student violation of campus policy shall have the opportunity to request that the complaint resolution procedure begin promptly and proceed in a timely manner.”

The length of investigations may feel like an eternity for survivors, Layden, from the nonprofit Chicago group Resilience, said.

“Often times these investigations can take some time to substantiate,” she said. “While I don’t agree nor do I make excuses that those timelines are acceptable, the unfortunate thing about it is it’s kind of the reality that we live in. I think it’s kind of the nature of a variety of things that come to sex crimes.”

Love said the new office he’s overseeing will hopefully expedite investigations, which have faced criticism in the past.

Love said certain circumstances can prolong investigations and it’s common for people involved in investigations to be unhappy with the amount of time the process takes. He said the office is “sensitive” to timeliness.  

“For all the students involved, it was a hard semester and that’s something I certainly understand,” Love said.

The three women said it often took days to hear from investigators. At one point, one woman said she didn’t hear from her investigator for 23 days before reaching out to follow up.

Another woman said she found herself “digging and asking” to get updates on the investigation process.

“They just didn’t make it very easy for us,” she said. “The lines of communication were never completely open. Everything took a lot longer than they said it would.”

“For all the students involved, it was a hard semester and that’s something I certainly understand.”

Tim Love

Love said the goal of the Title IX office is to be as transparent and responsive as possible, but the office avoids sharing certain details of the investigation in order to “preserve” it. 

“Our goal always is to be transparent throughout the process and not to have this be a scary or unknown or secretive process,” Love said. 

When asked by The Phoenix if Love felt the office reached this “goal,” he said he couldn’t speak to the specifics of these individual cases.

Layden said investigations entail some secrecy because sharing evidence can influence the way other people in the investigation process are answering questions.

“Survivors also have a right to be treated with compassion, to be treated with dignity, to at least be kept apprised in some way, shape or form that this is something that’s being looked at,” Layden said.  

One student remembered an investigator mistakenly sent an email to the accused man that was supposed to be sent to the woman, which included “sensitive information.” Emails reviewed by The Phoenix indicate the investigator didn’t know about the mistake until the accused man pointed it out to the investigator.

During the investigation process, the survivor and witnesses share their experiences with an investigator who then compiles a summary statement, Love said. 

When one of the women received that document, she said she found numerous grammatical, content and structural mistakes. The most troubling was the accidental switching of the titles “complainant” and “respondent.” She said this was also mixed up in the witness’s statement. Love said he wasn’t aware of these mistakes until The Phoenix asked about them.

“They just didn’t make it very easy for us. … the lines of communication were never completely open. Everything took a lot longer than they said it would.”

Loyola Student

The woman said the mistake made it seem like she assaulted the man, not the other way around.

“That’s not okay,” she said. 

The same woman also remembered words the investigator used to describe her feelings, which she said were inaccurate, including the word “disappointed.”

“I wasn’t disappointed, I was terrified, I was screaming, I was crying, please don’t use the word ‘disappointed’ of all the words in the English dictionary,” she said. “Pick a better word.”

Love said the Title IX office’s goal is to always produce professional work. When asked again about reaching this “goal,” Love wouldn’t go into detail about these cases.

“If I received back a report like that I could understandably be disappointed or not have that sense of trust we’re shooting for,” Love said.

The investigations wrap up

The first investigation to finish resulted in a guilty finding on March 27, 2019 of rape — formally known as “non-consensual sexual penetration,” according to records reviewed by The Phoenix, which also showed the male student at the center of the case was then placed on university probation.

For his punishment, he had to conduct community service and write a paper on the meaning of consent, the documents show.

The woman who had accused him of that rape said she didn’t feel the punishment was enough and appealed the verdict, hoping he would get a stronger sanction. He also appealed it, she said, saying he shouldn’t have been found responsible at all, documents show.

“If you’re found responsible for that, I feel like you deserve more punishment for that than writing a paper.”

Loyola Student

“If you’re found responsible for that, I feel like you deserve more punishment for that than writing a paper,” the woman said.

Her appeal ended up resulting in the punishment increasing to a suspension, documents show.

Meanwhile, the other two women said they were told by the school they would have an administrative verdict by April 18, before Easter break.

One of those women recalled preparing mentally to receive the notification, readying to miss class and work if necessary.

But that day came and went without a verdict, rather emails from the school saying the cases would be “queued,” creating confusion for the women.

That means the school’s investigations conclude on their own schedules and the verdicts come out one after another — not all at once, despite the investigations starting at the same time. Love said the school does this so it can take into account previous conduct history before deciding if and how to punish the person.

“For the most fair, appropriate outcome to be generated, sometimes we have to put a pause on one [case],” Love said. “It would only be in an odd circumstance that two or more investigations would be resolved at the same time.”

One of the women recalled angrily going on a walk and running into another one of the women.

“We both were just outside on the sidewalk literally screaming and yelling because I have never felt as powerless as I did in that moment,” the woman said. “That was really upsetting.” 

On April 26, one of those two women was told the accused student would be expelled, documents show. 

“We both were just outside on the sidewalk literally screaming and yelling because I have never felt as powerless as I did in that moment. That was really upsetting.” 

Loyola Student

 

The third woman was notified on May 6 that the case had finished and the male student wasn’t found guilty of assault in that case, records show.

The woman thought about appealing the verdict through the school’s process, but “decided not to because our one goal was to have him expelled and that was achieved.”

“Although I wanted the validation from the university that it happened, it was real and it wasn’t okay, I didn’t want to put myself through going through an appeal,” the woman said.

‘I’m fortunate that I had them with me’

While their individual investigations played out, the three women leaned on each other. In preparation for meetings with the Title IX office, they spent time together with coffee and snacks.

“We each supported each other and cared for each other and made each other laugh,” one of the women recalled.

Another said she could talk about almost anything with the others and was met with genuine understanding. 

“I knew if there was something weirdly specific I wanted to talk about, or just [wanted] to talk to someone about dealing with Title IX itself, or just [wanted] someone to rant to, I knew they would be entirely understanding and probably feeling the same way,” the woman said.

One of the women said the only good thing that came out of the experience was that they forged such a close relationship with each other.

“We were all really vulnerable our freshman year and he took advantage of that. He targeted that.”

Loyola Student

“I hate that I was approached at a party and told that my assailant raped another woman, but to be believed unconditionally and be supported by them was the only thing that helped me through the process,” the woman said, adding that the male student preyed on their vulnerability.

“We were all really vulnerable our freshman year and he took advantage of that,” the woman said. “He targeted that.”

Along with going through similar investigations at the same time, the women said they understood the specific details of each other’s trauma. Each said they understood the fear of seeing a certain colored backpack on campus — because it resembled the alleged offender’s backpack.

“I’m fortunate I had them with me, to have other women, who not only understand the experience of being assaulted and raped and understand survivorship, but to have other women who understand exactly what I’m saying,” one of the women said. 

Knowing the same man had hurt multiple people encouraged all three students to take action against him, they said.

“At that point, it’s a serial problem,” one of them said. An investigation is “kind of for the greater good at that point.”

If anyone is in need of sexual assault resources, they can call the Loyola Sexual Assault Advocacy line at 773-494-3810. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is also available 24/7 at 800-656-4673.

Loyola students can report sexual misconduct to Title IX at 773-508-3733 or use the university’s EthicsLine reporting hotline, Loyola’s system for dealing with different complaints.

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