DUPD ends inquiry into assault case

The reported robbery and sexual assault occurred in a wooded area behind Keohane dormitory on West Campus.
The reported robbery and sexual assault occurred in a wooded area behind Keohane dormitory on West Campus.

An investigation following the report of a strong-armed robbery and sexual assault that took place on West Campus last November is no longer being actively pursued by the Duke University Police Department.

The incident occurred between Wannamaker Dr. and Chapel Dr. at about 10 p.m. Nov. 16, but was not reported to DUPD until Nov. 23. DUPD Assistant Chief Gloria Graham said that the department has dropped the case because it had exhausted all available leads indicating the identity of the attacker.

“This was a situation that caught us off guard,” Graham said. “The location wasn’t dangerous... there wasn’t a whole lot to go on.”

Graham reported that investigators had suggested a forensic sketch, but the victim did not feel comfortable participating.

Although the attack was on West, administrators did not send out a DukeALERT following the incident. The Clery Act of 1990 mandates that the University issue timely warnings about crimes that pose an immediate threat to Duke students or employees.

Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek said in a December e-mail that the administration had chosen to delay an alert until after DUPD’s investigation.

“Basically, we send out e-mails to the community when we can do so in a timely manner,” Wasiolek said. “ In this case, we learned about the assault a day—or more—after it happened. In addition, the information we had at the time was incomplete. I had very few details and decided to await an investigation by Duke Police and a release by them.”

Women’s Center Director Ada Gregory said alerts were sometimes more harmful than helpful in encouraging victims to cooperate with police investigations.

“Public notification in cases of sexual assault can often be a difficult decision,” Gregory wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. “As a result of highly publicized cases, where information was not kept confidential, many victims [would] either decline to participate in the investigative process or participate only in a guarded way. The Women’s Center hopes survivors will decide to report their attack to police as reporting is key to understanding and preventing sexual assault.”

Despite the delay in the report and the limited information, students generally felt that an alert would have been appropriate.

“It makes me feel unsafe,” said Poornima Gadamsetty, a graduate student in biomedical engineering. “I wasn’t even aware of [the attack]. It happened at a time when I would have felt safe to walk to the gym.”

Freshman Kaitlin Gaiss shared the same concern, noting that she thinks the administration should have sent a DukeALERT.

“If they’re sending alerts about muggings that happen off of East Campus, I want to know about a sexual assault that happens on West,” Gaiss said. “I walk by myself all the time.”


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