The independent news organization of Duke University

Community members decry alleged rape at vigil

In response to allegations of gang-rape at a men's lacrosse team party March 13, more than 175 incensed community members gathered for a candlelight vigil Saturday night.

The group, which included students, employees and neighbors, convened outside two houses off East Campus rented by members of the lacrosse team.

Vigil participants chanted "shame" at one of the lacrosse houses, sung "This Little Light of Mine" and stood in solidarity for a stripper, who was allegedly raped, sodomized and strangled by three white men.

Members observing the vigil said Duke students in surrounding houses responded to the event by shouting at the group, "You can't yell s--- like that," and "Come up here. You know you want it too."

The vigil began at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.-the location of the alleged assault. The house was seemingly empty, with lights off and shades drawn.

Participants then moved to 1103 Urban St., which is also rented by players on the lacrosse team. Members of the vigil said within minutes of their arrival, lights were shut off. They added that they saw figures move behind the drawn blinds.

Residents never emerged from either of the houses.

"The students need to realize they live in a community, and people are going to talk back if they do something, or potentially do something, that is disrespectful to women," said neighbor Faulkner Fox, one of the event organizers.

No charges have been filed as of 10 p.m. Saturday, a Durham Police Department spokesperson said.

In a search warrant issued March 16, police wrote that three men were involved in the offense, which officials are investigating as First Degree Forcible Rape, Robbery, Kidnapping, First Degree Sexual Offense, Hate Crimes, Felony Strangulation and Assault on a Female.

The Chronicle does not identify victims of sex crimes. The men are not being named because no charges have been filed.

According to the Herald-Sun, after lacrosse players were initially uncooperative with investigators, the police issued a "non-testimonial" order, which gave police the right to threaten legal action if an individual would not cooperate in the process of gathering evidence.

Forty six of the 47 members of the team reported to the Durham Police Crime Lab to be interviewed, photographed and DNA-tested Thursday afternoon. The one remaining teammate was ruled out because he was black, and the victim identified the perpetrators as white males.

The tests were sent to a state crime lab with a letter from District Attorney Mike Nifong to expedite the results. A DPD spokesperson said the results will be available Sunday or Monday.

President Richard Brodhead said in a statement that not all of the 46 members who were tested attended the party.

In a separate statement released Saturday afternoon, Duke Athletic Director Joe Alleva said the players deny the criminal allegations. Several members of the team declined to comment for the article.

Brodhead urged community members to cooperate with the police Saturday afternoon.

"The criminal allegations against three members of our men's lacrosse team, if verified, will warrant very serious penalties," he said. "The facts are not yet established, however, and there are very different versions of the central events. No charges have been filed, and in our system of law, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty."

The administration forced the No. 2 men's lacrosse team to forfeit Saturday's home game against No. 6 Georgetown and Tuesday's game against Mount St. Mary's because of the players' acting "in a manner inappropriate to a Duke team member in participating in the March 13 party," according to a statement released by the University.

Several community members staged a protest in front of Koskinen Stadium at 1 p.m. before the lacrosse game to condemn Duke's failure to cancel the game earlier.

"I was dismayed at the thought that the lacrosse team was trying to put this behind them and move forward," said Francis Conlin, a Durham resident at the protest who lives near the Buchanan Boulevard lacrosse house. "I am fully aware a crime was committed by someone. It is too bad the rest of the team won't fess up."

The protesters waved signs that read "Real Men Don't Protect Rapists," and informed individuals who came to watch the game about the alleged incident.

At the vigil Saturday night, participants called on Duke to take a more proactive role in disciplining the students.

"I find Duke's behavior deplorable," said Betty Greene, a resident of Old West Durham. "They took so long to respond and when they did it was sort of wishy-washy."

Some said the only adequate response was to expel every student at the party. Others called for Duke to start the eviction process for the three lacrosse captains that live in 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.

The University bought both the Buchanan and Urban houses, along with 13 other properties off East Campus, in late February.

Freshman Jamie Bell said she was appalled by the alleged actions. "This is an example of how some in the Duke community do not respect Durham," she said. "They think they are above the law."

Adriane Lentz, a post-doctorate in the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said she heard about the vigil through word of mouth and had to come to support the victim.

"A candlelight vigil is a good step, but it should only be the beginning," she said.

David Graham and Laura Beth Douglas contributed to this story.

Check back to The Chronicle Online for further updates about the ongoing investigation.

Comments