In the midst of an increasingly energetic campaign, led by the Department of Education (DOE) and accompanied by the White House, to investigate Title IX complaints against dozens of colleges and universities, AVFM has received a copy of one such complaint against Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.
Last fall, Emerson College was beset with a massive amount of local as well as some national media coverage concerning the alleged mishandling of several sexual assault investigations conducted by their Title IX personnel. Three students—Sarah Tedesco, Jillian Daugherty, and Sarita Nadkarni—were very vocal and accommodating in response to press inquiries of their allegations and the school’s handling of them. All three alleged that Emerson fostered a hostile environment by failing to investigate, by discouraging them from reporting their assaults to the police, and by failing to inform them of their rights.
In October 2013, the three students filed the Title IX complaint with the help of End Rape on Campus (EROC), an organization that has been a driving force behind many of the recent Title IX complaints filed with the DOE in recent months. The Emerson complaint is featured on a list of 11 schools EROC had “assisted” on their website.
On May 1, 2014, under mounting pressure from groups like EROC, the DOE released a list of 55 colleges that were to face investigations into Title IX violations of sexual assault policy. “We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in a statement. “We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue. I also want to make it clear that a college or university’s appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law.”
The announcement followed much fanfare from the previous week, with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden weighing in on promises to protect women from sexual violence and to bring more transparency to the federal government when it comes to violations of civil rights.
“Colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend rape and sexual assault doesn’t occur on their campuses,” Vice President Biden said after the White House issued a 20-page report on April 24 that set guidelines on how schools should deal with sexual assault. “We need to provide survivors with more support and we need to bring perpetrators to more justice and we need colleges and universities to step up.”
On May 28, the DOE released the names of five more schools that are to face investigations into Title IX violations.
The document given to AVFM News earlier this week by an anonymous source outlines the cases of four complainants: the three students mentioned above and one anonymous student. It is poorly written and was labeled as a draft in its file name. Currently it is not clear whether the entire document has been released to the school or to the local press, who has covered the complaint extensively. It must also be made clear that AVFM cannot verify that this document is genuine, as recent Title IX complaints have not been made public by the DOE. In order to protect the identity of the document’s provider, AVFM cannot provide details about how it came into that individual’s possession.
The document can be seen here.
AVFM has redacted all of the names of the accused in the document and also any information that could lead to their identification.
Complainant #1: Sarah Tedesco
In an October 10, 2013, article published in Emerson’s student newspaper The Berkley Beacon, Sarah Tedesco stated that after reporting an October 12, 2012, assault to campus authorities and Emerson police, she was encouraged to discontinue the police investigation.
“She said she thought that because of everything that it would be in my best emotional interest to drop the charges through the Cambridge Police Department,” Tedesco said of a campus housing official investigating the incident. “She said she thought that it was taking over my life and hurting me emotionally.”
Tedesco, citing her “emotionally impressionable” state at the time of the above suggestion, told the Beacon that she took the advice. She also stated that the reason the case was then, and apparently is still now, unresolved by both the police and the school was because she took this advice. The Title IX complaint states that there was evidence in Tedesco’s sexual assault collection (rape) kit connecting one of the two students allegedly involved in Tedesco’s sexual assault—one from Emerson and the other from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—but no disciplinary action was taken against the individual by the Emerson College Police Department (ECPD), the Office of Student Conduct, or the Cambridge Police.
Tedesco’s accounts to the press and in the Title IX complaint state that she received threatening texts from one of her alleged assailants during and after the aborted investigation and that she was the victim of another alleged rape by the same assailants in April 2013.
One remarkable detail the local press has not mentioned about the complaint is that one of Tedesco’s alleged assailants is a female student at Emerson. Also, the only DNA evidence cited from the police investigation of the alleged rape was the presence of female saliva in Tedesco’s vagina.
The Title IX complaint states that the alleged male assailant hit Tedesco’s head against a wall in a fraternity house office at nearby MIT and then forced her to the floor, where he penetrated her vaginally. Additionally, the complaint stated that “due to her intoxication, incapacitation, and trauma,” Tedesco did not remember her alleged female assailant being in the room when questioned by officials after the event, even though the only evidence present of any sexual contact was that of a female’s saliva in Tedesco’s vagina.
Tedesco’s complaint goes on to allege harassment during the adjudication process in the form of text messages from her alleged female assailant, which, according to Tedesco, included information that “only someone present during her assault would know.” Tedesco said she informed school officials, who told her that because the text messages were sent anonymously, they could not prove the assailant sent them. The complaint stated that in a final report emailed to Tedesco after the investigation’s closing, Emerson said they had attempted to track the messages through their IT department but were unable to trace the source. The report also stated that the college had urged Tedesco to go to the Boston Police and have the messages professionally tracked.
Puzzlingly, Tedesco did not go to the police at this point. The explanation provided in the report was that officials had recommended during her initial complaint (before the presence of any threatening texts) that she not involve the police any further and to drop the investigation.
Complainant #2: Jillian Doherty
The second complainant, Jillian Doherty, told The Berkeley Beacon that she reported her assault a year after it allegedly occurred and that she initiated the investigation process when her alleged assailant was studying abroad—not allowing him to directly respond to her accusations.
According to the complaint, Doherty was raped by a fellow Emerson student on April 6, 2012, after responding to a Facebook message from the alleged assailant asking her to come over and engage in consensual sex at his residence. She complied with this request, engaging in admittedly consensual sex with him, but said that immediately after the consensual encounter he allegedly forced her to engage in anal sex.
“When Doherty initially refused XXXXX’s request for anal sex, he verbally harassed Doherty,” states the Title IX complaint. “XXXXX then anally penetrated Doherty without warning or her verbal consent. Doherty’s extreme pain and emotional distress during the attack caused her to begin to cry out while XXXXX was still actively assaulting her. She pleaded with XXXXX to stop several times, but he continued to rape her. XXXXX finally stopped raping Doherty when he passed out from intoxication and/or exhaustion.”
The alleged assailant was reported to have had only six beers.
Her alleged assailant reported to investigators a year later that he did not remember having anal sex with her, only consensual vaginal sex, before showing her to the door and saying goodbye.
Doherty confided in her roommates about the sexual encounter shortly after the alleged event. They in turn told investigators that they had got the impression that Doherty had just experienced a bad sexual encounter, according to the Title IX complaint. It was only after confiding in a friend a week later that Doherty “realized” that she had been raped, and instead of reporting it to the police or the school administration, she told her therapist in spring 2012.
Even though the complaint states that Doherty was “unable to make sense of what happened,” she had contacted her alleged attacker via Facebook messages, which were said to be private and were not provided in the Title IX complaint (nor is there any mention that they were provided during the investigation), accusing him of raping her anally. According to the complaint, she said he messaged her back, claiming he had no memory of assaulting her. The complaint does not specify when this exchange took place.
However, the Title IX complaint did specify that on March 2, 2013, nearly a year after the alleged assault, Doherty filed an informal report of the rape after learning about a letter writing campaign organized “to open the college’s eyes to the rape epidemic happening at Emerson.” She wrote several high-level Emerson administrators, including President Lee Pelton, who, along with all the other recipients, responded promptly both in a private email as well as a public statement posted on the school’s website.
An investigator was promptly assigned to Doherty’s complaint, and after a month of deliberation the board of investigators proclaimed that the alleged accused was “not responsible” for raping Doherty.
The judgement summary reads:
“1. Both [Jillian] and [XXXXX] admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages during the night of the alleged incident and to being intoxicated at the time of the alleged incident.
2. The Board concluded that both [Jillian] and [XXXXX] genuinely believed [they] were telling the truth in [their] statements concerning the incident. However, the Board found it more likely than not that both [Jillian] and [XXXXX] were unable to fully and accurately remember what occurred at the time of the alleged incident due to their respective alcohol consumption.
3. [Jillian] testified during the hearing that [XXXXX] engaged in forcible, non-consensual anal sex with [her]. However, [Jillian’s] testimony in this regard was inconsistent with an account of the same event [she] provided to a witness on the day immediately following the alleged incident.
Based on the above findings, the Board concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that it is more likely than not that the Respondent violated the College’s Code of Conduct as charged. Accordingly, the Board found the Respondent “not responsible” for the charges and no sanctions are being issued against the Respondent.”
The Title IX complaint charges “unequal treatment” during the hearing, further stating that a letter of character had been submitted to the board on behalf of Doherty’s alleged attacker, which Doherty did not have an opportunity to review beforehand. This, in spite of the complaint stating that Doherty herself chose to leave the Boston area during the time of the hearing.
Emerson College is repeatedly cited in the complaint for not informing Doherty of her right to contact police. The complaint also states that Doherty herself would have gone to the police initially had she known that the school would have “mishandled her case to the degree that they did.” This contradicts a statement Doherty made in an interview with The Berkeley Beacon, in which she said she did not go to the police because she “didn’t feel she had sufficient evidence to present to law enforcement.”
Complainant #3: Sarita Nadkarni
The third complainant, Sarita Nadkarni, reported to have been assaulted in the early hours of March 13, 2013, after a night of celebrating her birthday with friends.
The account in the Title IX complaint states that on the way back to their dormitory after enjoying drinks at Lolita’s, a local establishment in Boston’s Back Bay area, Nadkarni and one of her friends were approached by two men. After her friend asked one of the men for a cigarette, she then asked if they could take a picture of her and Nadkarni to commemorate the event. The men accompanied the women on their way back home and bought them coffee at a 7-11 en route.
The foursome reached the dormitory, where Nadkarni’s friend asked if the two men could join them in their dorm room to drink some beer. Nadkarni reported that she agreed after hesitation and only on the condition that her friend sign the two men in, making her “responsible” for their presence there.
Nadkarni spoke briefly to a dormitory neighbor who had accompanied her and her friend that night but had returned to the dormitory early. Speaking of her guests, Nadkarni told her that she “might sleep with one of them.”
While in the dormitory, Nadkarni did in fact have sex with one of the men while both her friend and the other man were still in the room. After finishing, the man said he needed to step outside to have a cigarette. After he left Nadkarni and her friend in the room with the other man, the other man started to kiss Nadkarni. Seeing this, Nadkarni’s friend left the room, leaving the door locked on the inside.
The Title IX account of what happened next seems to contradict logic.
The complaint stated that the man started to perform oral sex on Nadkarni, but she did not stop him because she felt “confused.” He then allegedly started to penetrate her digitally while choking her. Then he stopped choking her to “masterbate [sic] on her face,” and that in spite of her being alert and the man having both hands occupied, she was “physically unable to stop him.” Only when the man tried to get between Nadkarni’s legs did she “finaly tell him to stop,” according to the complaint. He did, however, allegedly continue to “painfully digitally penetrate her,” but upon hearing someone at the door she was suddenly able to push him off in order to get off the bed to open it.
Nadkarni then went to the bathroom and subsequently the shower room, where the dorm neighbor whom she spoke to earlier questioned her about what had happened. After hearing Nadkarni’s account, her neighbor asked whether Nadkarni had consented. When Nadkarni said no, her other friend who had been in the room with her and the man said, “You totally consented. I saw you kiss him, made sure you were OK, then left. You were fine.”
The complaint attributes this contradiction of accounts to “Emerson College’s lack of Consent education,” even though only one witness saw the two engaging in consensual kissing and neither witness saw what had actually happened after that. Nadkarni chose not to go to the police and instead showered and went to bed. The complaint also attributes this act of self-volition to the school’s lack of education, stating that “Once again, because of the poor education on what to do after being assaulted, [her friend] was unaware to tell Nadkarni not to shower, or warn Nadkarni about the loss of evidence if she chose to.”
Complainant #4: Anonymous
The fourth complainant is listed as anonymous in the report, crippling Emerson’s ability to defend itself during the Title IX investigation.
The complainant was allegedly assaulted in early April 2011 while on her way home by a stranger who had stalked her and upon catching up to her attempted to kiss her. She fought back and he then allegedly bit her lip, calling her a “cunt whore.” Instead of contacting the police, she went directly home, where she stayed in bed for the rest of the weekend.
According to the report, a friend was finally successful in telling her to go to the Emerson Police Department, who were accused in the report of mistreating the complainant by simply admonishing her when saying they could have had a chance to capture the suspect had she reported the incident sooner.
“Sarah Tedesco and Jillian Doherty are two attention loving girls who are going on every news station that they can get on just to act like they were Raped when I know that [alleged assailant in complaint #2] was innocent from speaking to some of his friends,” wrote an Emerson student who wishes to remain anonymous in an email to AVFM News.
“As an Emerson student, I know that this community is not suffering from a ‘rape epidemic’ like these girls are saying it is. There is very little rape, look at the statistics online in their Clery report,” the student continued. “The school has been since before 2011, when the original Dear Colleague article came out and before this entire rape frenzy on college campuses started, working on prevention programs. These two manipulative girls did not say any of this when talking to media. They just sat silently and lied going on man hating sprees.”
In Emerson’s 2013 Clery report, the data show that in 2012 there were three reported sexual assaults on the Boston Campus of Emerson College. The first three complainants in the Title IX report account for the entirety of these. The fourth complainant reported in 2011, which accounts for one of only two reported sexual assaults in that year. There were no reports of sexual assault in 2010.
According to Emerson’s Office of Institutional Research’s 2013 Factbook, the total enrollment in the fall of 2012 was 4,489, with 1,582 (35%) male students and 2,907 (65%) female students. If the first three complainants were, in fact, raped that would make the percentage of women on campus raped that year to be 0.1%, or 1 in 969 female students.