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LAPD: Occidental College students reported 3 rapes in 3 years

April 19, 2013|By Richard Winton

Los Angeles police say they have investigated three rape cases involving Occidental College students in the last three years, far fewer than current and former students outline in a civil rights complaint.

In the U.S. Department of Education complaint filed Thursday, attorney Gloria Allred's law firm, which represents several current and former students, alleges that 37 students were "raped, sexually assaulted, battered, harassed or retaliated against for speaking out against sexual violence" since 2009.

The women say the college discourages reporting of sex crimes and proceeding with criminal and/or administrative action against the perpetrators.

Five current and former female students alleged in a news conference Thursday that they had been raped on campus or in nearby student housing during the years covered in the complaint.

A sixth woman described herself as a victim of sexual assault during the news conference outlining the complaint, which alleges that the college violated Title IX, which bars sex discrimination at schools.

The complaint seeks to curtail any federal funding to the school if it does not take steps to improve the situation.

The complaint comes two months after students criticized the college for not making public an alleged rape of a student by a fellow student near campus. Prosecutors reviewed the case and declined to file charges, police said.

"Some students were discouraged from filing a formal complaint, while others were not informed of their rights," said Caroline Heldman, chairwoman of Occidental's politics department, who joined Allred and the alleged victims at a news conference. "In some cases, the college chose to let perpetrators back on campus after they had been found responsible for non-consensual sexual intercourse."

College officials released a statement defending Occidental's record but acknowledging that the university wants to improve its record.

"We readily admit that Oxy has more work to do, and are vigilantly ensuring our continual progress," the college said.

Jim Tranquada, a college spokesman, said that since 2010, Occidental has updated its sexual-misconduct policies and procedures and trained more faculty, staff and students in how to respond effectively to reports of sexual assault.

The university has also initiated an education effort to "foster a culture that rejects sexual violence," he said.

The college recently hired former sex crimes prosecutors Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez to conduct what it calls an "independent" review of policies and practices.

The Times could not independently verify all 37 alleged incidents that Allred cited. She said some of the women reported the incidents to police and others did not. Some took place on campus, others in nearby houses, she said.

Allred said the college needs to take a "zero-tolerance" approach concerning any student that the school determines had non-consensual sex with another student.

Asked about the zero-tolerance stance, Tranquada on Thursday presented The Times with a policy that says the college in sexual-conduct cases can impose "sanctions, ranging from a warning to permanent separation from the college, depending on the severity of the offense."

Senior Carly Mee said she was raped as a freshman. She said she reported the incident to the college but did not report it to police.

She said a university panel found the alleged perpetrator responsible and initially expelled him, but that he appealed and now will be able to re-enroll once she graduates in May.

ALSO:

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Sexual assault policies under fire at Occidental College

Man shoots stripper, kills himself after lap dance, police say

Twitter.com/@lacrimes| Google+

richard.winton@latimes.com

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