UD student holds silent protest after DE Attorney General’s office rejects her sexual assault case
Last week, about 50 students gathered on the North Green for a silent protest in support of a university student who claims she was sexually assaulted on campus on Jan. 26.
Alyvia Pauzer, a sophomore psychology major from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is looking to bring attention to her alleged sexual assault and raise awareness for sexual assault prevention. Pauzer told the Review that the State Attorney General’s office (AG) informed her last Monday, which was the 100th day since her case was opened, that they did not have enough evidence to pursue her case in court.
Pauzer expressed severe disappointment in how her case has been handled by the AG and the Title IX office. Pauzer and her father met with the AG the night of the protest to discuss the closing of her case. Pauzer said that they issued an apology for how her case was handled.
Usually, the AG would have an in-person conversation with the victim, but Pauzer said that she had only received a phone call from a social worker to inform her that her case was closed. Pauzer said that the social worker told her that it came down to a “he-said-she-said” situation and that they didn’t know if they could convince a jury if he did or did not ask for consent due to Pauzer’s inebriation.
“Title IX has been rough,” Pauzer said at the protest. “I wish I had never reported it to them. I’m very upset with them.”
Pauzer told The Review that on the night of her alleged assault, she was “very drunk” and ended up “blacking out.” She said she remembers her body being whipped around, knowing something was not right and somehow making it to the bathroom to call some friends and bring them to the room to get the alleged perpetrator out of her bed.
Pauzer said that she decided to go to the Christiana Hospital the next day to have a rape kit done. She then called the University of Delaware Police Department (UDPD) to report the alleged incident, and said that officers came to her dorm room and took her clothing, as well as a belt left by the alleged perpetrator for evidence. She also claimed that she provided screenshots of text messages to UDPD from the supposed perpetrator which allegedly contained a confession that he did not ask for valid consent and acted too aggressively.
Pauzer said that, in addition to pursuing a criminal case with the Department of Justice, she decided to file a report through the university’s Office of Equity and Inclusion. Pauzer said that in late February a university investigator had reached out to her to put together a report, but has yet to follow up. She said that she does not expect to hear back from them until as late as June. If the university’s investigator finds that the person accused by Pauzer is responsible, that ruling would not have the backing of the law but it would likely have significant and long-lasting effects on the lives and reputations of the accused and the accuser.
“I want the university to punish him in some way that will teach him a lesson,” Pauzer said. “I don’t just want a slap on the wrist. I want him to live with this for the rest of his life because I have to now.”
Adam Cantley, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for undergraduate students, said that a student has the option to pursue litigation through the criminal justice system and/or the university’s system for handling student misconduct.
The university’s administrative process for handling sexual assault cases is not a legally legitimate means of litigation or prosecution, and it is entirely separate from the investigation that the Delaware criminal justice system conducted. Had the AG decided to pursue Pauzer’s case, it would potentially be decided in court, wherein Pauzer and the defendant would have been represented by an attorney, before a judge and jury.
In the criminal justice system, the plaintiff and the defendant would have the right to a trial before an impartial jury, access to legal counsel and the ability to face each other in court. These rights are not explicitly outlined in the university’s sexual misconduct policy.
The university defines sexual assault as “physical sexual acts committed when consent is not
received, a person is physically forced, intimidated or coerced into a sexual act, or when a person is physically or mentally unable to give consent.” Pauzer said she was inebriated to the point where she cannot definitely recall what happened during the alleged assault, so she would likely meet the university’s criteria for being unable to give consent.
Any student who files a report of a sexual crime to the university will have their case given to the Office of Equity and Inclusion. A Title IX coordinator will then reach out to the student, who is referred to as the “complainant” throughout the case, to discuss their options and inform them of the resources available to them, including Sexual Offense Support and counseling services.
If the complainant decides to file a formal complaint, both parties, the complainant and the respondent — the person against whom the report has been filed — will separately meet with an investigator to put together a report. The investigator will then determine if the respondent is liable.
A university investigator, according to their sexual misconduct policy, must be “an appropriately trained professional, who may or may not be a University employee, who reviews and investigates reports of sexual misconduct under this policy. The investigator(s) will be impartial and unbiased, will disclose any real or reasonably perceived conflicts of interest to the Title IX Coordinator as soon as such conflicts are discovered by the investigator and will have training in investigating and evaluating conduct under this policy.”
If the respondent if found to be responsible, the university may then decide on a number of “remedial measure” including, but not limited to provide an escort to the complainant, ensuring the complainant and respondent do not share classes, work spaces or extracurricular activities; reassignment of residence halls, tutoring or other academic support; arranging for extra time to them to complete, retake a class or withdraw from a class and job reassignment.
The university may also issue a number of sanctions against the respondent. These sanctions could be as minor as attending a seminar and reviewing the university’s code of conduct expectations, to as major as expulsion.
If the respondent is found not responsible, the complainant has the option to appeal the case, which will then be brought to a board consisting of a faculty or staff chair, a faculty member, a staff member, and a student representative who will vote on the matter.
According to Cantley, the administrative process has a far lower standard of evidence in finding an alleged respondent accountable than the standard for finding the alleged attacker guilty in criminal cases. Cantley said that this “preponderance of the evidence” is fairly standard across most universities in how they handle misconduct cases.
The university defines evidence as “information, specific and relevant to the alleged incident, presented to the investigator in support of the position of either the complainant or the respondent.”
“It is very different from a criminal process, which requires belief beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard,” Cantley said. “Preponderance of the evidence is a lesser standard. It means that the people who are looking at the evidence need to feel confident, more likely than not, that the behavior occurred.”
University President Dennis Assanis issued the following statement to The Review in response to inquiries about the university’s policies for supporting potential victims sexual assault.
“The University takes all sexual misconduct cases very seriously, as the safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority,” the statement read. “We have in place a comprehensive policy and a clear investigative process that is fair and responsive to all parties involved in a case. Our policy and practices ensure full compliance with federal Title IX and, just as importantly, align with our institutional values of respect, integrity and responsibility. The University provides resources to support all of its students involved in the investigative process.”
Mitchell Patterson contributed reporting to this story.