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Rape charges resurface on CBS

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, November 3, 2006

A former Notre Dame student who in 2002 accused four former Notre Dame football players of rape said Thursday on CBS’s “The Early Show” that University officials told her not to press charges.

Lindsay Charles spoke with CBS correspondent Tracy Smith as part of a segment on sexual assault on college campuses.

Charles accused Abram Elam, Donald Dykes and Lorenzo Crawford – who, in 2002, were current football players – and Justin Smith, who was then a former player, of sexual assault and gang rape. Elam was convicted of sexual battery and placed on a two-year probation, but was acquitted of criminal deviate conduct and conspiracy to commit rape. Dykes was tried and acquitted, and the charges against Smith and Crawford were dismissed before their cases went to trial.

“I was the victim of a crime. I was raped,” Charles told CBS. “I didn’t do anything wrong, and for them to say ‘Don’t go to the police and report this crime,’ I think is a travesty.”

The University, however, “absolutely would deny” that officials advised Charles against reporting the alleged rape to police, Assistant Vice President of News and Information Dennis Brown said Thursday.

He pointed out that Charles’ statement is not a new one. When she testified in the trial against Elam in 2003, he said, she made the same claim.

But Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Kirk denied this charge under oath when he was questioned on the stand the day after Charles made the accusation, Brown said.

All four men were expelled from the University for violating Notre Dame’s regulations on sexual misconduct. Brown said in a statement Thursday that “permanent dismissal is the most serious sanction a University can impose.”

Brown said CBS asked the University for comment on the story last May, but the University was not told when the segment would air. CBS said Notre Dame responded to its request with the following statement:

“Our policies and procedures call for informing victims of all their options, including going to the police to file a complaint, so that they can decide how to proceed.”

Notre Dame students who are victims of sexual assault can meet with Victims’ Resource Person Ava Preacher – who is also associate director of Arts and Letters – to decide what steps to take after a sexual assault.

Preacher, who Brown said has filled this position since it was created in 2001, is familiar with civil, criminal and University procedures and resources.

“We do not discourage victims from reporting their assailants, either to the University or the police,” Preacher said. “This was true in 2002 as well.”

Preacher declined to comment on specifics regarding Charles’ case.

Preacher said her role is to give victims information about what options they can pursue and inform them of available resources.

“My job is not to counsel students in any way,” Preacher said. “It is simply to provide information about what resources are available.”

In his statement, Brown said sexual assault and sexual violence unfortunately can occur anywhere, even at Notre Dame. But rape and sexual assault in any form, he said, “are unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the Notre Dame community.”

The University has a wealth of support services for victims, Brown said. Typing “rape” or “sexual assault” into the search engine on Notre Dame’s home page brings up a Web site that lists resources for victims of sexual assault, he said.

Notre Dame’s Counseling Center and Health Services are equipped to provide counseling and medical care for victims. Residence hall staff members are trained on how to approach sexual assault cases. Notre Dame Security/Police (NDSP) is also available to handle sexual assault and rape cases.

In crime statistics available on its Web site, NDSP reports that since 2003, there have been four instances of sex offenses reported on Notre Dame’s campus. In 2005, a forcible rape was reported to NDSP. In 2004, an instance of sexual assault with an object was reported to NDSP and a forcible rape was reported to non-police authorities. In 2003, sexual assault with an object was reported to NDSP.

Mary Kate Malone contributed to this report.