Sex Assault Reported at College
Campus Security Investigating; Student Refused to Go to Police
Hanover — Dartmouth College Safety and Security is investigating a weekend sexual assault on campus, but the Hanover Police Department is not involved in the case because the victim refused to file a complaint with law enforcement.
The alleged assault occurred around 1 a.m. on Sunday. A female undergraduate told Safety and Security officials she was forced into her residence hall and dorm room by her attacker.
The suspect is described as a college-age, white male with dirty blonde hair and a suntan, large athletic build and wearing a navy blue shirt. The woman told Safety and Security that the suspect disclosed to her that he is not a Dartmouth student and is in the Navy.
Harry Kinne, director of Safety and Security, would not provide more details about the assault, but said his office is “aggressively” investigating the incident. The suspect may have attended a party at Beta Alpha Omega fraternity prior to the assault, Kinne said, and members of the fraternity have cooperated with the investigation.
Unlike at some schools, Dartmouth’s security detail is not a state-certified police force, and the college has a memorandum of understanding with town police to report certain incidents, including reported sexual assaults.
However, if the victim declines to cooperate with an investigation, Safety and Security will not provide her name to police, Hanover Police Capt. Frank Moran said.
“By practice and policy, we’ll go along with the wishes of the victim,” Moran said. “The whole premise behind it is it’s such a deeply personal crime that you don’t want to victimize a person further by not allowing them to access some free will.”
Moran said he did not know why the victim declined to talk with law enforcement, but said there are many reasons why a victim might not want to report a sexual assault to police, such as not wanting to deal with the criminal justice process.
Kinne would not disclose the residence hall where the alleged assault occurred, noting that he doesn’t want to provide information that might identify the victim.
The incident comes two weeks after another reported sexual assault at Dartmouth. Around 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 21, a female college employee was walking along College Street when she was attacked near the Congregational Church on College Street and the Novack Cafe.
The victim was “physically dragged” into an area off the sidewalk and a sexual assault occurred, police said.
The victim in that case did go to police and has cooperated with the investigation, which is considered active but has not yielded a clear suspect, Moran said.
That suspect also was described as a tall, white, college-aged male wearing a button-down shirt.
Kinne said he does not know if there is a connection between the Sept. 21 incident and Sunday’s reported assault, however, he said he hasn’t found any evidence that links the two reports.
Safety and Security does not have authority to arrest people and would have limited ability to penalize someone who is not a student. If Safety and Security identifies a suspect in Sunday’s residence hall atack, the college would share that information with police.
If the assailant is not a student, then the college can issue a no trespass notice, and if the suspect returns to campus, Safety and Security could ask police to make an arrest.
The victim is still cooperating with Safety and Security, said Kinne, who noted he has received numerous tips from students.
Kinne sent two emails on Sunday notifying students of the assault and informing them of heightened security precautions.
Sayeh Gorjifard, a master’s degree student, said she was walking on campus at 2 a.m. Monday and saw at least five Safety and Security cars. She said she was grateful for the campus emails, but said they can be a bit panic inducing. For instance, she has friends who have been sexually assaulted, and every alert email is like a trigger.
“Anyone who has been traumatized takes these (emails) very seriously,” Gorjifard said, “and I think it’s almost a bad thing because it’s like reliving a nightmare.”
However, Gorjifard said she isn’t fazed by the warning. She said she might be a bit more alert, but isn’t scared to walk alone.
Gorjifard added that she often wishes the emails included better descriptions of the suspect. For instance, the description of Sunday’s suspect — Caucasian male with dirty blonde hair and an athletic build — matches the description of hundreds of male students.
Sophomore Kevin Crescenzi, a 6-foot-tall white male with dirty blonde hair, said he’s not offended by the generic description, but said it’s too vague to be helpful.
“It could be anybody,” Crescenzi said.
Some students, such as freshman Samantha Guiry, already take precautions when walking on campus. If Guiry gets out of class or a rehearsal late, she’ll call a friend to meet her so they can walk back together. She said that’s a decision she made prior to coming to Dartmouth because she knew about complaints concerning campus safety. She said she doesn’t feel less safe because of the reported sexual assaults.
“I’m actually really glad there is reporting, whereas, there probably would be issues on campus regardless, and a lot of stuff goes unnoticed,” Guiry said.
While two sexual assaults in two weeks might seem like a lot, Moran, the police captain, said he doesn’t think the number is that high.
“I think in a college community such as this where there are people drinking heavily many days and nights a week, there are many opportunities for things to go bad, so the sad truth is no, it’s not a huge number,” Moran said.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.