Sarah Butters, 21 has told that she is angry at three fraternity brothers who ‘took advantage of her’ after sexually assaulting her after an evening of drinking. The boy’s punishment? Expulsion but only after they graduated.
The former James Madison University (JMU) student who would subsequently come to drop out of school as a result of falling grades and stress related to the incident describes how during one 2013 spring break outing she came to be sexually assaulted by fellow students, Mike Lunney, Jay Dertzbaugh and Nick Scallion.
Despite the fact the school determined the Sigma Chi Fraternity brothers had assaulted Butters, school officials came up with the unique punishment of ‘expulsion after graduation‘. Two men graduated in May and the third will be returning to school for his senior year next term.
Told Sarah Butters: ‘I definitely blame them and I’m very angry. I had been drinking but they could have taken care of me or helped me but instead they took advantage.’
Adding: ‘I will always be angry at them. They are the ones who made the decision to commit that act.’
The attack tells Sarah Butters took place in March of her sophomore year when she took a trip to Panama beach, Florida with a group of girlfriends from college. Dozens of other JMU students also poured into the resort to party.
In an exclusive with the UK’s dailymail, Butters tells that the last thing she remembered before the attack, which followed a day of drinking on the beach, was being in a male friend’s apartment.
While still on her trip, Sarah Butters learned that a video had been made of her, visibly drunk and topless, being groped by the three men in a bathroom, Huffington Post reported.
The tape reportedly shows the men, laughing and trying to pull the girl onto their laps and trying to remove her bikini bottoms.
Lunney, Dertzbaugh and Scallion were first identified by WHSV.
Miss Butters said she confronted the three men, whom she considered friends, who denied the attack.
She said: ‘I asked the boys what they knew about this video and they told me: ”I don’t know what you’re talking about.”’
When she returned to college in Virginia, Sarah Butters found to her horror that the video had been shared further and was being talked about online on school gossip sites. She got access to the video in order to see if for herself.
Reiterated Butter: ‘I felt like the girl [on the video] wasn’t me. It was like looking at someone else. I was disgusted. I hated that this had been made public.’
JMU Students discussed the video on JMU gossip site, School Dirt.
‘No surprise here,’ one person wrote.
Another wrote: ‘How the f*** are these kids still on campus?’
Miss Butters consulted her father, a police officer, as she was totally ‘overwhelmed’ by what had happened.
On advice from her father and several legal experts, the girl decided to go to police in Florida because it would have been difficult and costly to take action against her attackers out of state.
Fast forward January of this year, Sarah Butters worked up the courage to hand the tape over to officials at JMU and filed a formal complaint.
Director of judicial affairs Josh Bacon told Sarah Butters he could not determine if the video was consensual, she said.
At a first hearing, the school found Lunney, Dertzbaugh and Scallion responsible for sexual assault and sexual harassment. Their punishment was being expelled after receiving their degrees.
Said Butters: ‘I told the hearing that I was not okay with that. I had to see them on campus. This did not affect their lives and it affected my life for a year.’
A school official told her it was rare for anyone to expelled and the student handbook listed suspension as the harshest punishment for sexual assault.
Upon appealing the punishment a hearing board subsequently decided to expel the three fraternity brothers.
Lunney, Dertzbaugh and Scallion then in turn appealed and a final hearing board in April decided to stick with the ‘expulsion post graduation’ punishment.
The three men were barred from contacting Sarah Butters, are not allowed to walk at their commencement ceremony and cannot return to campus after graduation. However they will receive their degrees.
Another of the school’s punishments was to have the three men create a 30-minute presentation on sexual assault ‘for possible presentation to student organizations.’
Following the school’s muted reaction, Sarah Butters complained to federal officials in April which has brought JMU under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
In a statement JMU said: ‘The University takes the issue of sexual assault/harassment very seriously, and will cooperate fully with the OCR investigation.
‘It is an important and deeply troubling problem, and the public discourse should serve to bring focus to the topic. Due to legal/privacy requirements, there are limitations to what we can say publicly about a pending matter of this type.’
SarahButters now believes that her treatment by JMU will make other victims of sexual assault hesitate about coming forward to report what has happened to them.
Reiterating: ‘I feel like it sends an awful message to female students if someone like me, who has video evidence of being sexually assaulted cannot see her attackers punished. It was a miserable, stressful process.
‘I feel it is putting other students at risk having these men walk around campus. Instead JMU wanted to give these men diplomas.’
And then there were these reactions on the web that made me wonder:
There was no jury and so we have to rely on the school’s procedures. If a crime was committed, then it would be incumbent on the victim to report it to police. It says something that she did not do so, but instead relied on the university to issue some sort of justice, and found the outcome less than satisfying. It may not be fair to her, but she also made a choice in not seeking justice through the criminal system, which may say something about the incident – either that she did not believe it reached the level of crime, or that it would not be seen as such by the criminal system or that she didn’t want her friends to be labeled as criminals.
If there is not enough evidence to arrest and prosecute them, then why should they be expelled? I did not once read where a law was broken and prosecution was sought.
I don’t understand why she press charges? Obviously the school wasn’t doing enough.
I don’t care how much someone drinks, no one has the right to to sexually assault someone, no one has the right to take a video of it and for every person that shared the video should be held accountable.
Many professionals believe that upwards of 60% of sexual assaults are never reported. Victims usually feel guilt or shame after one occurs. And when people immediately start with “well she was drinking” doesn’t help with improving the numbers that aren’t reported. There is reasons why perpetrators choose the victims that they do.