This story has been updated to reflect the print version published on Jan. 22.
The female student who says she was raped by the former president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and another who alleges a different member of the fraternity raped her told the News on Friday that the fraternity’s announcement of an investigation into its sexual climate represents a bad-faith effort to outmaneuver negative media coverage rather than a sincere push for reform.
On Friday, a story in Business Insider described victims’ accounts of two incidents of sexual assault by members of the fraternity. One of the victims was assaulted by former fraternity President Luke Persichetti, whose suspension from Yale and expulsion from the fraternity last school year were first reported by the News on Thursday. The other victim — who spoke with the News after the publication of the Business Insider story, saying she was raped by a lower-ranking member of the fraternity last spring — never filed a Title IX complaint against her alleged assailant, who resigned from the fraternity after the Business Insider story was published, according to a fraternity spokesman. The spokesman said the fraternity had no previous knowledge of the second allegation.
Persichetti was suspended by Yale for three semesters after the University found him guilty of “penetration without consent” during an encounter following the fraternity’s annual Christmas party in December 2016, according to people with knowledge of the case. The victim herself was unable to discuss the details of Yale’s decision to suspend Persichetti because of a confidentiality rule that bars members of the campus community involved in a Title IX case from publicly discussing the proceedings of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.
But she was allowed to describe the night she says Persichetti raped her and said that he forced her into having sex without a condom in his bedroom, even as she said “no” multiple times over the course of the night.
Yale does not necessarily expel students that the committee finds guilty of “penetration without consent,” “nonconsensual sex” or “intercourse without consent.” According to the Yale Communication and Consent Educators webpage, when a committee panel finds that a student has violated the University’s sexual misconduct policies, expulsion is the first penalty it considers. Ultimately, the panel determines penalties by majority vote.
In response to a request for comment from the News, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy provided the same statement the University provided to Business Insider.
“Our sexual misconduct policies set high standards for student conduct, with discipline occurring even in cases involving ambiguity,” the statement reads. “Our decision makers work hard and conscientiously to calibrate discipline appropriate for each case, taking into account all relevant factors, while upholding the principle that these are educational processes.”
Yale has a policy against confirming or denying the existence of Title IX investigations.
A year after the alleged incident — and just days after a reporter from Business Insider contacted fraternity members about sexual assault allegations against its members — the Yale chapter of the fraternity asked its national organization to investigate the fraternity’s sexual climate and promised to suspend all social events until the investigation concludes.
But in an interview with the News, the woman who accused Persichetti of rape called the fraternity’s response to the allegations “a PR stunt” designed to protect the fraternity’s image rather than prevent sexual assault.
“If the fraternity cared about its sexual climate, then they would have started the investigation a year ago when I was raped by their president,” she said. “They would have asked an unbiased investigator to look into their sexual culture. And they certainly would not have held the [Christmas party] again this year.”
She also pointed out that the fraternity’s latest statements echo ones made by Persichetti himself in 2016, when he claimed that the fraternity was building a more positive culture after the end of a five-year campus ban that Yale imposed as punishment for a pledge ritual in which initiates chanted “no means yes, yes means anal” in front of the Women’s Center at Yale.
“The fraternity didn’t change after the five-year ban,” she said. “And they haven’t changed since I was raped.”
The victim told the News she reported Persichetti’s assault to the New Haven Police Department in Dec. 2016, two days after the incident. But although the case technically remains open, she said, she lost faith in the criminal process after an officer asked her for Persichetti’s phone number in August and said the police had not reached out to him in the eight months since she filed her report.
Police spokesman David Hartman said on Friday that the department does not disclose police reports from sexual assault cases. The head of the New Haven Special Victims Unit, Tammi Means, told Business Insider that it was “a mistake from an investigative point of view” to ask the victim for Persichetti’s phone number.
Reached by phone on Friday afternoon, Persichetti declined to respond to any of the new details about his case, including the University’s finding of “penetration without consent.” But he expressed dissatisfaction with the two women who have come forward with sexual assault allegations against the fraternity members.
“They have no respect for the sanctity of the system they have used to attack me,” he said. Persichetti had previously told the News that he feels let down by the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, saying “serious decisions were made based on ambiguous facts.”
On Jan. 7, the Business Insider reporter, Abby Jackson ’08, contacted current fraternity President Nicholas Hardy ’18 with questions for her story, according to emails obtained by the News. Days later, the Yale chapter contacted its national organization asking for an investigation.
In a statement to the News on Friday, a spokesman for the Yale chapter acknowledged that the impending story — rather than the allegations against Persichetti, whom the fraternity expelled after Yale suspended him — was the impetus for the fraternity’s request to its national organization. The spokesman said the fraternity will lobby its national organization to make the results of the investigation public. The national organization did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
But the spokesman’s assurance meant little to the two women who alleged they were raped by members of the fraternity.
“They were simply trying to get some positive press to counteract this [Business Insider] article,” said the woman who chose not to file a Title IX complaint against her assailant. The woman said she was raped by a the fraternity member at an off-campus house after they met earlier in the night during a party at Toad’s Place.
In a statement to the News on Friday, Hardy said the Business Insider story described a “number of appalling and disturbing incidents that we as an organization must do everything we can to prevent happening again.”
He added that last November the fraternity established a working group of six members to create a safer environment and that the fraternity expels members who breach Title IX regulations.
The working group will produce a publicly available report with recommendations for improving the fraternity’s culture, Hardy said. When the report is complete, he said, the fraternity will send a final copy to the News, “allowing all students to hold the fraternity to the highest possible standard.”
Mary Miller ’20, public relations coordinator for the Women’s Center, said her organization “eagerly awaits” that list, despite its concerns about the fraternity’s response to the recent sexual assault allegations. Hardy said that the fraternity will share the report with the Women’s Center and hopes to receive feedback from any other student group that “will agree to work constructively with us to make improvements.”
“There absolutely should be more transparency and accountability throughout the fraternity and all other fraternities on campus, but the DKE chapter’s request for an investigation, as well as their working group, keeps the conversation within their organization,” Miller said. “Yale’s chapter of the fraternity ought to carefully consider what they mean by transparency and accountability — do they consider themselves only accountable to each other and the national organization, or accountable to the students who attend their open parties, or to the entire university?”
The Women’s Center at Yale was founded in 1970.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org