TIME Sexual Assault

The Vanderbilt Rape Case Will Change the Way Victims Feel About the Courts

The decision sends the message that the criminal justice system does work for rape cases

On Wednesday, two former Vanderbilt University football stars were convicted by a Nashville jury of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery. Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg could serve decades behind bars for gang raping a fellow student in a dorm room in 2013. (Their argument that they were drunk and thus not in their right minds at the time of the attack was quickly dismissed by the court as a poor excuse for their violence.) The decision offers hope to victims of campus rape who, up until now, have shied away from reporting assaults to the police.

A recent study from the Justice Department found that 80% of campus rapes went unreported to the authorities (compared to a still-disheartening 67% in the general population). Victims of campus sexual assault have many reasons to choose a campus judiciary process over reporting the assault to the police. These victims are often in the position of living on the same campus as their assailant and thus forced to encounter them in the school cafeteria, in classrooms or in the library—places no student can avoid. Depending on the school’s policies, filing criminal charges against an assailant may not necessarily get him removed from campus, whereas a quicker, quieter campus judgment can. In the minds of many victims, the fastest way to feel safe is by going to the dean not the police.

Victims’ advocates have said that some students believe faculty members will be more sympathetic to assault claims than the police. “If you’re a person of color or you’re queer, the process of going to the police also can be one that is not necessarily competent or great to deal with,” Caitlin Lowell of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence at Columbia University told TIME last year.

Perhaps the most compelling reason students are deterred from reporting a rape to the police is that they think they will spend years going through the criminal judicial process reliving the agony of their attack only to be denied justice. A tiny fraction of accused rapists will ever serve a day in prison, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

But the criminal justice system can provide guarantees that campuses cannot. If the news cycle from the past year has taught us anything, it’s that universities—from Columbia University to Florida State University—are not equipped to adjudicate these cases. Students complain that evidence is not systematically collected, hearings are often held without attorneys present and administration officials and those designated to preside over these cases have posed inappropriate questions. In theory, our courts are the best way to ensure that rapists are removed from our streets, and the Vanderbilt case—along with the recent arrest of a Stanford University swimmer who allegedly raped an unconscious woman on campus grounds— suggests that in practice that may finally be the case. (The Stanford student was barred from campus after his arrest, highlighting the importance of police involvement.)

MORE:My Rapist Is Still on Campus': Sex Assault in the Ivy League

The evidence in the Vanderbilt case was hard to dismiss. Though the victim (whose anonymity is being preserved by TIME and other news outlets) said she did not remember what happened the night of her attack after she lost consciousness, other players testified that they saw Vanbenburg slap her buttocks and say he could not have sex because he was high on cocaine. They also said that Batey raped the woman and then urinated on her. (Two other players who have pled not guilty will be tried later.)

University surveillance videos of players carrying an unconscious woman through a dormitory and graphic images of the assault taken from players’ phones proved that the victim was unconscious and confirmed which players participated in the gang rape. There was no DNA evidence, but one player testified that Vandenburg—who can be heard laughing and encouraging the assault in a video shown in court—passed out condoms to the other players.

Most victims are not able to bring so much evidence to the court. And many victims would understandably worry that they wouldn’t be able to finish their degree while enduring this arduous process. (The victim in this case impressively did and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience at another university.)

Assault survivors should take comfort in this small victory. “I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone. You are not to blame,” the victim said in a statement that was read by Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman in a press conference.

Bringing rapists to justice is just one piece of fighting the campus rape epidemic. In the Vanderbilt case, police said that five other athletes saw the victim in distress and did nothing to intervene or report her attackers. Even if our criminal justice system were perfect, it could not stop rape from happening. That’s why the White House is currently promoting a bystander intervention educational campaign on campuses. Ultimately it’s up to students to watch out for one another.

Read Next: Rose Byrne on Frat Culture and How Bystanders Can Stop Sexual Assault

TIME Sexual Assault

UVA Sorority Members Outraged After Being Asked To Avoid Frat Parties

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article last week alleged a gang rape at the house which has since suspended operations.
Steve Helber—AP The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article alleged a gang rape at the house.

“I don’t understand where or when I signed up for an organization that encouraged women to hide from men”

Members of sororities at the University of Virginia are outraged after their national chapters ordered them to avoid fraternity parties over the weekend.

An online petition to remove the mandate had over 2,000 signatures by Thursday morning. It says,

Instead of addressing rape and sexual assault at UVa, this mandate perpetuates the idea that women are inferior, sexual objects. It is degrading to Greek women, as it appears that the [National Panhellenic Conference] views us as defenseless and UVa’s new fraternal policies as invalid. Allowing the NPC to prevent us from celebrating (what used to be) a tight-knit community, sends the message that we are weak.

According to the Washington Post, the Student Council voted on an emergency bill Tuesday night urging sorority national chapter leaders to come to campus.

“I don’t understand where or when I signed up for an organization that encouraged women to hide from men,” Erin Dyer, a third-year UVA student told the Washington Post.

This new controversy comes as UVA tries to examine and reform its Greek culture in the wake of a Rolling Stone article about a rape on campus.

TIME Crime

Why UVA’s New Frat Rules May Not Make Much Difference

TIME.com stock photos Drinking Fraternity Frat Solo Cups
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Methods of enforcement remain few and far between

The University of Virginia has proposed new rules for its fraternity system after the uproar that broke out both on and off campus following a controversial magazine story late last year that depicted a brutal gang rape at a frat house.

The new rules include some strong reforms like the elimination of kegs and hard-alcohol punch. But the nature of the relationship between the university and the fraternities, many of which are privately owned, may make the rules hard to enforce.

The individual Greek organizations have until Friday to agree to the new rules. If they don’t, they risk losing formal affiliation with the university—the one bit of leverage UVA administrators have over the fraternities. Under the new rules, fraternities must furnish a minimum of three “sober brother monitors,” at parties, who must wait at each alcohol distribution point as well as the stairs leading to the residential bedrooms. Beer must be served unopened in the original can, pre-mixed punches would be prohibited, wine must be poured out of a bottle by a sober brother, and hard alcohol can only be served at large parties by a hired bartender licensed by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. A privately contracted security guard would also have to stand outside the front door and check names off a guest list.

MORE The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses

The new rules come after UVA briefly suspended social activities at all fraternities on campus following the publication of an article in Rolling Stone that included a detailed account of a horrific rape that allegedly happened at a UVA fraternity. The story has since been found to have significant inconsistencies. After the Washington Post and other outlets identified problems with the story, Rolling Stone issued an apology and promised to investigate further. On Monday, UVA announced that it would reinstate the fraternity in the story, Phi Kappa Psi, after the Charlottesville Police failed to find any “substantive basis” to confirm the gruesome events described in the story.

Despite the inconsistencies in the article, UVA has decided to go ahead with fraternity reform. Though UVA President Teresa Sullivan was careful not to single out Greek organizations as the main culprits in the problem of sexual assault on campus during an interview with TIME last year, the rules do reflect a slightly softer version of the reforms she favored. “The days of the trash can full of punch have to be over,” she told TIME.

MORE UVA President: Eliminate All Booze Except Beer

Nonetheless, it appears that UVA may not be doing much to enforce the reforms—a reflection of the tricky nature of governing private organizations on campus. According to ABC News, UVA spokesman Anthony de Bruyn said the university would not provide staff to monitor the fraternities to because they are privately owned. “The University will work closely with Greek leadership to support them in seeking compliance with the new practices by their members,” de Bruyn told Time. “Should violations be brought to the University’s attention, as has been the case it the past, the Dean of Students Office will investigate, and any appropriate next steps would be based upon the details of each case.”

The lack of formal monitoring raises questions as to whether the reforms will have any teeth.

TIME Crime

UVA Fraternity at the Center of Controversial Rape Story Is Reinstated

UVA Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity Rolling Stone
Steve Helber—AP The Phi Kappa Psi house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 24, 2014.

Phi Kappa Psi is welcomed back after Rolling Stone article comes under scrutiny

The University of Virginia said Monday that it would reinstate the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity featured in a widely read story last year that depicted a brutal gang rape at its house but later came under withering scrutiny for factual inconsistencies.

The University’s reinstatement of the fraternity came after the Charlottesville Police were unable to find any “substantive basis” to confirm the gruesome events detailed in the November Rolling Stone story, UVA said in a statement. The fraternity chapter had voluntarily suspended its charter shortly following the article.

MORE: Crisis on Fraternity Row

“We welcome Phi Kappa Psi, and we look forward to working with all fraternities and sororities in enhancing and promoting a safe environment for all,” UVA President Teresa Sullivan said in the statement.

After reporting from the Washington Post and other outlets raised questions about the story, the magazine apologized for “discrepancies” and said it’s trust in the accuser had been misplaced.

MORE: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses

TIME Crime

3 New Sexual Assault Allegations at Princeton

Amid growing scrutiny into how schools handle it

Three new sexual assaults were reported over the weekend to Princeton University police, at a time when colleges and universities are under increasing national scrutiny for how they handle sexual assault allegations.

Two of the incidents were reported on Friday and one on Saturday, the Times of Trenton reports. Two of the reported incidents—both involving unwanted fondling—allegedly occurred over the last month at eating clubs, co-ed social clubs at Princeton. The third report alleged sexual activity while incapacitated during the 2012-2013 school year.

Reporting of sexual assault is generally considered a good sign because it indicates that the culture at an institution makes victims feel safe to report. Raising reporting has been one of the signature goals of the federal-government’s months-long initiative to improve the handling of sexual assaults on campus.

MORE: The sexual assault crisis on America’s campuses

Princeton has made a number of changes to its handling of sexual assault cases over the last several months, in response to a federal inquiry. It’s unclear if those changes played any role in empowering students to come forward.

In September, under pressure from the federal government, Princeton became the last Ivy League school to lower its standard of proof for sexual assault violations. Following that decision, the school reached a settlement agreement with the federal government ending an investigation into Princeton’s handling of sexual assault. In December, two student officers were stripped of their titles at the Princeton eating club Tiger Inn, after they sent emails ridiculing women including one that contained a sexually explicit photograph.

 

TIME Crime

These Are the Women Forgotten in the Sexual Assault Crisis

Focus on campuses obscures young women not in school

There’s a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate about campus sexual assault: Non-students are actually more likely than students to be victimized, according to new federal data.

The finding, in a Justice Department report released Thursday, comes amid a fierce focus over the last several months on campus sexual assault and the federal government’s efforts to address it. This new data indicates that just as much—if not more—needs to be done to protect young college-aged women who aren’t in school. College-aged women, whether or not they are in school are more likely to be victims of rape and sexual assault than other age groups.

“I think the data shows that all the attention to college rape over the last year has been appropriate because it’s a problem there, but it has been too narrow a focus because we want to make sure we are not leaving out the huge number of people who don’t go to college,” says Scott Berkowitz, president of Rape Abuse & Incest National Network.

MORE: The sexual assault crisis on American campuses

For the period of 1995 to 2013, non-students aged 18-24 were 1.2 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than their student counterparts, according to the report.

The report contained other interesting findings about the similarities and differences between these two groups of victims. Students and non-students were equally likely to know their attacker (80% in both cases), but non-students were more likely to report it to the police. Eighty percent of student rapes and sexual assaults went unreported to the police compared to 67% for non-students. The finding is particularly interesting because of the debate raging among advocates, public officials and administrators over how best to involve police in campus assault.

“Much of the reform attention has been on the college judicial process,” adds Berkowitz, “but this data really points out that we cannot focus on that at expense criminal justice system, because that would mean abandoning the great many victims who never attend college.”

TIME Crime

Christian University Apologizes to Sexual Assault Victims

BOB JONES UNIVERSITY
Patrick Collard—AP People cross over the walkway near the fountains on the campus of Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. on March 1, 2000.

"We failed to uphold and honor our own core values"

A prominent Christian university in South Carolina apologized to victims of sexual assault and abuse Wednesday ahead of a report released Thursday that documented the school’s failure to adequately respond to their needs.

“On behalf of Bob Jones University, I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault,” university president Steve Pettit said in an address to students Wednesday. “We did not live up to their expectations. We failed to uphold and honor our own core values.”

MORE: The sexual assault crisis on American campuses

The apology came in advance of a 300-page report published Thursday, drawn from interviews with some 40 victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault at Bob Jones university over four decades. The report paints a picture of an administration that failed to offer them appropriate counsel, and in some instances even made them feel at fault for their abuse.

The report was conducted by an independent organization, GRACE, a non-profit Christian group dedicated to helping the Christian community respond to abuse. “This comprehensive report contains painful disclosures by sexual abuse victims and strong language when describing the impact of the institutional responses to abuse disclosures,” GRACE said.

The report comes after months of scrutiny of colleges and universities across the country, as they try to grapple with mounting calls to reform the institutional response to campus sexual assault.

 

TIME Sexual Assault

This Is What It Looks Like When Women Come Out of the Shadows

The reason for optimism amid more reports of military sexual assault

It could be easy to get discouraged reading about the Pentagon survey Thursday that found reports of sexual assault in the American military are on the rise. But a closer look at the numbers gives reason for optimism: There are more reports of assault because more women are reporting those assaults rather than staying silent.

“This is a remarkable change in terms of victims being willing to talk to people in the military about what happened to them,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of the key advocates of military sexual assault reform in Washington, said Thursday afternoon at a news conference with fellow lawmakers.

Reported assaults hit 5,983 in the 2014 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 8% from last year and up from 3,604 in 2012. But the proportion of service members who said they were assaulted decreased by roughly 27%. Among those who were assaulted, one in four reported it, a sharp increase from one in 10 in 2012.

MORE: The sexual assault crisis on America’s campuses

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in the U.S. because of the stigma survivors face. Raising the rates of reporting, therefore, is a key goal as reformers look to hold perpetrators accountable and reduce the number of assaults. That was true for Congress when it passed a number of reforms to the military’s handling of sexual assault over the last several months. And the rise in reports, along with promising responses from victims about being satisfied by the way their cases were handled, indicates a shift in culture that is moving in the right direction.

The military isn’t the only institution that has seen an increased culture of reporting: higher education is moving in this direction, too. Earlier this year, a government report showed that the number of sex crimes reported by colleges themselves rose 52 percent between 2001 and 2011, with a particularly sharp rise in 2010 and 2011.

MORE: Here’s the real reason college sex reports are rising

The military report was not all good news. Reports of retaliation remained high, especially among peers, raising questions about how much better the broader culture in the military really is.

But at a moment when awareness of violence against women has hit a high water mark after highly publicized incidents on campuses, in the military, in professional sports and in Hollywood, Thursday’s news holds out promise that victims will continue to feel more empowered to come out of the shadows across the country.

TIME Opinion

The Problem With Frats Isn’t Just Rape. It’s Power.

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article last week alleged a gang rape at the house which has since suspended operations.
Steve Helber—AP The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article alleged a gang rape at the house.

Too many frats breed sexism and misogyny that lasts long after college. Why we need to ban them—for good.

At the university I called home my freshman year, fraternity row was a tree-lined street full of Southern style mansions, against a backdrop of the poor urban ghetto that surrounded the school. Off-campus frat parties weren’t quite how I pictured spending my weekends at a new school – I wasn’t actually part of the Greek system – but it became clear quickly that they were the center of the social structure. They controlled the alcohol on campus, and thus, the social life. So there I was, week after week, joining the throngs of half-naked women trekking to fraternity row.

We learned the rules to frat life quickly, or at least we thought we did. Never let your drink out of your sight. Don’t go upstairs – where the bedrooms were housed – without a girlfriend who could check in on you later. If one of us was denied entry to a party because we weren’t deemed “hot” enough – houses often ranked women on a scale of one to 10, with only “sixes” and up granted entry to a party – we stuck together. Maybe we went to the foam party next door.

In two years at the University of Southern California, I heard plenty of stories of women being drugged at frat parties. At least one woman I knew was date raped, though she didn’t report it. But most of us basically shrugged our shoulders: This was just how it worked… right?

If the recent headlines are any indication, it certainly appears so. Among them: women blacked out and hospitalized after a frat party at the University of Wisconsin, only to discover red or black X’s marked on their hands. An email guide to getting girls in bed called “Luring your rapebait.” A banner displayed at a Texas Tech party reading “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal” – which happened to be the same slogan chanted by frat brothers at Yale, later part of a civil rights complaint against the university.

And now, the story of Jackie, who alleged in a Rolling Stone article — swiftly becoming the subject over fairness in reporting whether the author was negligent in not reaching out to the alleged rapists — that she was gang raped by seven members of the Phi Kappa Psi house at the University of Virginia, and discouraged from pressing charges to protect the university’s reputation.

The alleged rape, it turned out, took place at the same house where another rape had occurred some thirty years prior, ultimately landing the perpetrator in jail.

“I’m sick about this,” says Caitlin Flanagan, a writer and UVA alumna who spent a year documenting the culture of fraternity life for a recent cover story in the Atlantic. “It’s been 30 years of education programs by the frats, initiatives to change culture, management policies, and we’re still here.”

Which begs the question: Why isn’t every campus in America dissolving its fraternity program — or at least instituting major, serious reform?

Not every fraternity member is a rapist (nor is every fraternity misogynist). But fraternity members are three times more likely to rape, according to a 2007 study, which notes that fraternity culture reinforces “within-group attitudes” that perpetuate sexual coercion. Taken together, frats and other traditionally male-dominated social clubs (ahem: the Princeton eating club) crystalize the elements of our culture that reinforce inequality, both gender and otherwise.

For starters, they are insulated from outside perspective. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that Greek organizations eradicated whites-only membership clauses; as a recent controversy at the University of Alabama revealed, only one black student had been permitted into that Greek system since 1964. Throughout the country, the fraternities grew into “caste system based on socioeconomic status as perceived by students,” John Chandler, the former president of Middlebury, which has banned frats on campus, recently told Newsweek.

And when it comes to campus social life, they exert huge social control: providing the alcohol, hosting the parties, policing who may enter–based on whatever criteria they choose. Because sororities are prohibited from serving alcohol, they can’t host their own parties; they must also abide by strict decorum rules. So night after night, women line up, in tube tops and high heels, vying for entrance. Even their clothes are a signifier of where the power lies. “Those with less power almost invariably dress up for those who have more,” Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at Stony Brook University, wrote in a recent column for TIME. “So, by day, in class, women and men dress pretty much the same … At parties, though, the guys will still be dressed that way, while the women will be sporting party dresses, high heels and make up.”

And when frat boys grow up? They slide right into the boys club of the business world, where brothers land Wall Street jobs via the “fraternity pipeline,” as a recent Bloomberg Businessweek piece put it — a place where secret handshakes mean special treatment in an already male-dominated field. Fraternities have graduated plenty of brilliant Silicon Valley founders: the creators of Facebook, Instagram, among others. They’ve also brought us Justin Mateen, the founder of Tinder, who stepped down amid a sexual harassment lawsuit, and Evan Spiegel, the Snapchat CEO, whose recently apologized for e-mails sent while in the Stanford frat where Snapchat was founded, which discussed convincing sorority women to perform sex acts and drunkenly peeing on a woman in bed.

(VIDEO: My Rapist Is Still on Campus: A Columbia Undergrad Tells Her Story)

If we lived in a gender-equal world, fraternities might work. But in an age where 1 in five college women are raped or assaulted on campus, where dozens of universities are under federal investigations for their handling of it, and where the business world remains dominated by men, doesn’t the continued existence of fraternities normalize a kind of white, male-dominated culture that already pervades our society? There is something insidious about a group of men who deny women entry, control the No. 1 asset on campus – alcohol – and make the rules in isolated groups. “[Colleges] should be cultivating the kind of sensibility that makes you a better citizen of a diverse and distressingly fractious society,” Frank Bruni wrote it in a New York Times column this week. “How is that served by retreating into an exclusionary clique of people just like you?”

The argument for Greek life – at least for the mainstream, largely white frats that seem to be the problem – goes something like this: It’s about fostering camaraderie. (According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, fraternity and sorority members have stronger relationships with friends and family than other college graduates.) It’s about community: As the Washington Post reported, chapters at UVA reportedly raised $400,000 for charity and logged 56,000 hours of community service during the past academic year. It’s part of a student’s free right to congregate. And also about training future leaders. According to Gallup, fraternity and sorority members will end up better off financially, and more likely to start businesses than other college graduates.

But the real benefit – at least the unspoken one – may be about money. Frats breed generous donors: as Flanagan pointed out in her Atlantic piece, fraternities save universities millions of dollars in student housing. At least one study has confirmed that fraternity brothers also tend to be generous to their alma maters.

All of which is part of the problem. Who wants to crack down on frats if it’s going to profoundly disturb campus life?

UVA, for its part, has suspended the frat in question until the new year, what the Inter-Fraternity Council described as a helpful opportunity for UVA’s Greek system to “take a breath.” The university’s president has said that the school “is too good a place to allow this evil to reside.” But critics saw the punishment as a slap on the wrist: a suspension, when most students are out of town for the holidays?

There are other options on the table: The school is reportedly considering proposals to crack down on underage drinking and even a ban on alcohol. Other universities have explored making fraternities co-ed. And there’s some evidence that fraternity brothers who participate in a rape prevention program at the start of the academic year are less likely to commit a sexually coercive act than a control group of men who also joined fraternities.

Yet all the while, the parade of ugly news continues. A group of frat brothers at San Diego State University interrupted a “Take Back the Night” march last week by screaming obscenities, throwing eggs and waving dildos at marchers. The next night, a woman reported she was sexually assaulted at a party near the school’s campus; she was the seventh person to come forward this semester. And on Monday, Wesleyan announced that its Psi Upsilon fraternity would be banned from hosting social events until the end of 2015, also because of rape accusations.

Fraternities have created something that’s fairly unique in the modern world: a place where young men spend three or four years living with other men whom they have vetted as like them and able to “fit in.” What do you expect to happen at a club where women are viewed as outsiders, or commodities, or worse, as prey, and where men make the rules? It should be no surprise they end up recreating the boys club — and one that isn’t all so great for the boys, either.

Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at Time.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. She writes regularly for the New York Times and is a contributing editor on special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s non-profit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

Read more views on the debate about preventing sexual assault on campus:

Caitlin Flanagan: We Need More Transparency on the Issue of Fraternity Rape

A Lawyer for the Accused on Why Some Rules About Consent Are Unfair to Men

Ban Frat Parties–Let Sororities Run the Show

TIME Education

No Formal Police Investigation Yet in UVA Rape Case

A University of Virginia student looks over postings on the door of Peabody Hall related to the Phi Kappa Psi gang rape allegations at the school in Charlottesville, Va. on Nov. 24, 2014.
Steve Helber—AP A University of Virginia student looks over postings on the door of Peabody Hall related to the Phi Kappa Psi gang-rape allegations at the school in Charlottesville, Va., on Nov. 24, 2014

Police still "evaluating next steps" as account of incident comes under scrutiny

While questions mount regarding the credibility of an account of an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia (UVA) fraternity, police have yet to open a formal investigation.

University officials have said — as recently as Dec. 2 — that they have been instructed by police not to discuss the specific incident because it is the subject of a police inquiry. But TIME has learned that so far, that inquiry has not crossed the threshold for the Charlottesville Police Department to treat it as a criminal investigation. Because the alleged incident took place at a fraternity house off campus, it falls under the jurisdiction of municipal law enforcement rather than the university’s own campus police.

Police had previously confirmed that UVA president Teresa Sullivan had contacted the department to request a criminal investigation and said they were reviewing a published account of the alleged incident. But police have not yet accumulated enough information to take the matter beyond an inquiry and open a formal investigation.

Asked by TIME for a response, Charlottesville Police spokesman Captain Gary Pleasants said he could not confirm that a formal investigation was under way and reiterated a previous statement that the department was “evaluating the next steps.” He added, “In most cases, a formal investigation would be launched when a victim of a crime or witness to that crime makes a report to the police.”

The latest news about the status of the law-enforcement inquiry comes amid growing criticism of the article that placed UVA into the spotlight for an alleged brutal sexual assault and subsequently resulted in sanctions by the university against fraternities. That account, published by Rolling Stone on Nov. 19, described a gang rape at a fraternity involving seven men and was told through the first person account of a young woman. The story has come under scrutiny in recent days for relying solely on the alleged victim’s account and failing to make any attempts to contact the accused individuals, who were not identified.

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