Harrington, Seccuro help UVA 'take back the night'

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="262" caption="Dan Harrington"]Dan Harrington[/caption]

The father of murdered college student Morgan Harrington paid a visit to an annual rally against sexual violence Thursday night, as Liz Seccuro, someone who sought justice 21 years after a UVA fraternity house sexual assault also joined the April 8 event in Washington Park. Dan Harrington of Roanoke brought many ralliers to tears as he recalled his daughter's disappearance and death and stressed "a need for societal change" to reduce violence against women and others. Courteney Stuart photographed the event.


@ Hollowboy: Not all rapists belong to fraternities. I have been very vocal over the past 6 years about the way the University mishandled my daughter's rape. Unfortunately, the UVA cops had jurisdiction because the rape occurred on grounds. I have proof that 3 women were raped by the man who raped my daughter; none of these rapes were fraternity related. One of these rapes occurred while he was in the middle of an appeal for the SAB verdict rendered in my daughter's case. He even had the ability to break into the UVA server and intercept official email. President Casteen, Vice President Lampkin, Attorney Susan Brown, and yes Sexual Assault Coordinator Claire Kaplan were well aware of this man's actions, yet did nothing to remove him from the campus nor get him the mental health assistance he needed. Never once did I hear a University Staff member say " We do not tolerate this behavior on our campus."

The bottom line here is that when you let a rapist roam the campus, more than one woman becomes victim to his predatory ways. History repeats itself. THIS is the reason ALL women must find the strength within themselves to report their assault. If you remain silent, he will rape again.

Six years later and I'm still asking the same questions: Is it right for campus police to ignore evidence and treat a felony crime as an administrative matter? Is it right to do nothing when you're told by a young woman that she's been sexually assaulted?

As a parent, I cannot remain silent. If I remain silent, nothing will change. The voices of the Take Back the Night Survivors are loud and clear, but who is listening?

What's the argument against HB154 (or similar)?

Instead of "take back the night" they should be teaching these young ladies to dress appropriately and not get "drunk off their butts." It's always raucous fun and games until someone disappears or gets hurt.

I want to make it clear that this happened on the UVA campus while I was an undergraduate there.

UVa will expel you for stealing a soda or guessing correctly on an exam, but not for rape.

Where an alleged felony crime like rape is involved University administrators should be involved in the investigation or resolution. It should be left to the police and the judicial system. If they wish to take further action against a student convicted of a serious crime, fine.
If a rape was committed and reported to the police at one's workplace, the employer would not be deciding whether or not the act would be investigated or prosecuted. All they could do would be is suspend or terminate the employee charged or convicted.
Maybe the relationship of the University Police needs to be changed so that they are answerable to the judicial system and not to the administration. Or maybe in cases of serious crime require that the city or county police take over, in much the same way other institutional security bodies are required to. The bill mentioned certainly deserves passage.
Or even consider absorbing the UVa police onto the city and county forces which would simplify the whole jurisdictional matter. Not that the University would probably go for that, as all too often they want to feel themselves apart from the rest of the community and answerable to no one but themselves.

Thank you Susan for all of this information. Thank you Hollow Boy for your commentary.

Hollow Boy, I so agree! It's time the University answered for such actions as allowing a "convicted" rapist to STAY and ATTEND the college after such a crime. It's been far too long that the University allowed to solve such problems on their own with such "slaps on the wrist". Time for them to "man up"!

Since rape on UVA's "grounds" is being discussed, I'll add here my experience....in 1987, I was staying with friends in the (female) "Crew" house, and a man that police suspected as being the so-called "Taxi-Cab Rapist" broke into the house while we were asleep. He tried to attack on of the girls, but her fighting back and screams woke us up, we all ran toward her room, and he ran away. His get-away car was a taxi-cab, parked a few blocks away, which the police told us they saw when responding to our 911 call. I don't know what ever happened to the "Taxi-cab rapist" or if he was ever caught.

As a parent of a student who became the victim of a violent crime on campus grounds, I want to make it clear that I did all I could to have this man arrested. Your city police contacted the UVA police and asked for jurisdiction and were denied. If you want the laws changed, then you have to write the appropriate people and have the laws changed. I cannot do it by myself.

I am very disappoint4ed in groups such as 4-in-1, SARA, FIFE, NOW, and the UVA Women's Center because they do not appear interested in having these laws changed. The issue of jurisdiction is a HUGE issue and can only be resolved by changing the laws of the Commonwealth.

@Hollowboy: You stated, "Where an alleged felony crime like rape is involved University administrators should be involved in the investigation or resolution. It should be left to the police and the judicial system. If they wish to take further action against a student convicted of a serious crime, fine." Take a look at my webpage. Then visit websites such as Security on Campus. Also visit the website for The Center for Public Integrity as search for campus assault. They recently did a 6 part series on the problem of campus assaults; UVA is featured in the first piece. This is not just a UVA problem, this is a nationwide problem.

@Wahoo: Are you saying that the near attack happened on grounds and the local police responded? Is the "crew" house a dormitory? Frat houses are not considered "on grounds".

Was there and what your brief story says only touches on how moving these personal accounts were. I have attended most Take Back the Nights since the initial one in 1989 and this one will be among the most memorable.
What was horrific was hearing that the Westboro Baptist Church crowd was saying cruel things about Morgan Harrington and was planning to be at the memorial in Blacksburg. I really wish there was a way to legally shut those people up. I know, "free speech",but theirs is more on the level of an obscene phone call.
Liz Securro's account brought to light the refusal to deal with the problem of sexual violence in the University community. All too often the approach has been to say that the danger of rape comes from local people,and not acknowledging that it may be even more likely to be from fellow students. Not from the "townie" lurking in the bushes, but the seemingly nice guy at a fraternity party or a classmate.
Claire Kaplan, SARA, and others have done a terrific job educating people on these issues, and cannot be too strongly complimented.


Good post.

Quick question: what legal (or other) barriers are there to Albemarle Co. police and prosecutors to work on cases on UVa Grounds?

Susan, This happened at the Crew house, which is not a fraternity. It's the house where the female students on the rowing team lived. (I wasn't on the rowing team; I was just staying with them for the week when it happened.) So it wasn't in a dormitory but it was very near the official campus. I don't remember the exact street address now. And I don't know where the girls on Crew live now, since this was back in 1987.

Susan, I'm sorry to hear about your daughter and UVA's shameful reponse to this crime. I will certainly be asking my delegate to support another version of the bill you mentioned.

Susan, rapists do not need "mental health assistance." They need to be in prison.

"Frat houses are not considered ââ?¬Å?'on grounds'"

Several of the houses are indeed on UVa property. Others on City of Charlottesville property are operated on behalf of their alumni owners through the University's Historic Renovation Corporation.

That said, I don't think labeling fraternities as the hotspots of rape is appropriate. I would guess dorms and private student housing would be crime scenes in a similar, if not greater, number of cases -- just based on the proportion of students living there.

@Antigone: Agree. But since the cops failed, the very least the school could have done was have his mental health evaluated. Maybe the referral of a psychiatrist would have kept him from raping another girl while going through the SAB process with my daughter.

If I can urge any of you to do anything, please write your VA delegate and ask them to contact Delegate Mamie Bacote of Hampton and lend their support. She has agreed to cosponsor another version of HB154 (mentioned above) in next January's session. Let's put the investigation of felony crime where it belongs - in the hands of trained cops, not campus cops. Your town will be safer.

Thank you Antigone. Rape has nothing to do with mental health, it is a crime, plain and simple. The only reason people come to the conclusion that it might be related is the unfortunate Supreme Court decision to allow states to use civil commitment laws to keep sex offenders locked up in "special" so called "hospitals" after their sentences are expired. In Virginia our so called "hospital" for sex offenders is nothing like an actual hospital. And in California sex offenders in "hospitals" have actually striked and rioted, something you would never see in an actual psychiatric hospital where people are trying to recover from a mental illness. Susan, I am so sorry for what happened to your daughter and I wish it had been handled appropriately. As for keeping sex offenders locked up longer, simply hand out longer sentences in the first place and keep them in prison where they belong. And by all means, don't let UVA police do the investigation.


Ignore the troll.

Secondly, I can imagine why the politicians would heed the State Police's argument if it was clearly made. I imagine one would lose votes if seen to be voting against the police in this very pro-law enforcement state. But why not co-opt the police by bundling together this bill with some more funding for them?

As for the educators, I think you're meaning administrators who don't actually teach. I can't imagine anyone on the front line of education would think it wise to have campus cops investigate felonies.

It could be that in this era of fiscal austerity, it makes sense to administrators to downsize campus police budgets and instead ask the counties, cities, and the Commonwealth to take this burden. In fact, if the policy is that the public authorities have to take on these felony cases if asked, then this is a non-brainer; administrators could just reduce their budgets by setting a new policy unilaterally.

Dear HollowBoy,

If you have attended TBTN since 1989 then you must be keenly aware that the UVA campus is full of predators. You are too quick to commend the very people who have done NOTHING to change the policies and laws these past 12 years. What has policy changes have happened since Liz Seccuro was raped 20+ years ago? Nothing! Do your Google research - If Chief Longo had not reacted to her story, the University would have continued its cover up of her assault. Educating people on these issues also means reacting to the crime and getting rid of the predators that remain in our town on that campus! Google search how many expulsions have occurred for people who commit rape at UVA -- your search will turn up dozens of articles that say not one person has been sanctioned or expelled when found guilty of rape. I have a teenage daughter and that statistic frightens me!

I did not mean to commend University administrators who have not addressed the problem and indeed have often swept it under the rug.Rather, I meant to commend those at the University and in the community who have tried to do something-and have often been ignored by those same officials.
When Ms Securro told the University Police about her assault why didn't they tell her then that the fraternity house was not in their jurisdiction and that she needed to call the city police? Talk about lack of competence! She could have gotten justice then not 20 years later.
Then again its the UVa police who brushed off the mysterious disappearance of grad student Patrick Collins from Jordan Hall in 1986 as " he just walked away", despite no evidence that was the case. His disappearance has never been accounted for.
Despite several decades of co-education, there are still vestiges of the UVa culture when it was an all-male school,of the "good old boys" mentality.
Incidentally I am a UVa alumnus (1969) and hold the school dear to my heart. But not all aspects of it. I was repelled by the fraternity culture then and refused to have anything to do with it. People are amazed when I tell them I never attended even one frat party during my undergrad years there.
There is a book entitled Fraternity Gang Rape by anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday that I recommend. It describes not only how the fraternity culture violates and degrades women but also the men themselves. Yes, I know there are some good people who have belonged to fraternities.
I do not have children. But if I had a daughter I would not want her to attend a fraternity party. If I had a son, I would not want him to pledge a fraternity. Despite all the claims they make about the good they do, the community service and whatever, I see them as bastions of elitism,sexism; as a general manifestation of a hetero-patriarchal culture.

The quick answer - the answer I was given over and over - is that they cannot investigate crimes that occur on campus unless they are given jurisdiction. To remedy this situation, House Bill 154 was introduced during the 2006 Virginia Legislative Session by Delegate Ken Alexander, D-Norfolk. This Bill's focus was to mandate that local law enforcement have primary jurisdiction when felony crimes (rape and murder) occur on college campuses. Unfortunately, the Bill was absorbed into HB1036, requiring Campus Police to be better trained. The Lawmakers did not understand the complexities of HB154. I've tried to resurrect this bill twice since then, but the State Police lobby shoots it down every time and it has yet to make it out of Committee.

I hope people understand why the involvement of the UVA cops can make or break a case. If the UVA Police properly investigated and referred a case to the Commonwealth for prosecution, it would be referred as a Criminal Case and the Albemarle Commonwealth Attorney would have the final decision as to whether or not to prosecute the case.

The facts in my daughter's case show that the UVA police mishandled the case, and then Pres Casteen covered it up by NOT allowing the local cops to investigate. For example, ten days passed between the date my daughter filed a campus police report and the date when UVA Detective Coles conducted her initial (and only) interview with the "alleged" rapist. My daughter lived that nightmare for 10 days, not knowing what the Detective was doing. The Detective was unprofessional in every aspect of the investigation. She did not interview anyone who spoke to my daughter prior to the rape or in the days following. She told the "alleged" rapist ââ?¬Å?not to worry”, that this was an ââ?¬Å?administrative matter” and by including vague statements full of innuendo in her report, she used her position as investigator to influence the Commonwealth Attorney to not prosecute this case. Also, since 10 days has passed, any forensic evidence, such as a bite, scratch, or bruising inflicted upon him by my daughter during the assault would not be visible. President Casteen wrote in an e-mail to me that the 10 day delay was more than appropriate and well within the protocol of proper investigation. I find that troublesome.

The bottom line is that the detective's inability to do her job had a devastating domino effect on way this case was handled by everyone in authority; she had overstepped her position, was emotionally involved in the case, used poor judgment, and improperly influenced the Commonwealth Attorney.

My daughter's case was a key point during a debate between Camblos and Lunsford during the last election. They used her case to illustrate why a change was needed. But you tell me, has anything changed?

As an Alumnus, I agree. I was glad to see Casteen go because I felt the honor committee no longer was respected in dealing with just these sorts of problems. To much violence and noise is accepted, and it has no place.

Geez, tcaros, you had to ruin it! Maybe the young men ought to keep their GD pants zipped, eh? And maybe the mothers of the violated women ought to be allowed to act like Lorena Bobbitt!

Sexual Assault is a crime of violence, power, and control. It occurs when a person is forced, threatened, coerced, intimidated or manipulated into sexual contact they did not want. It includes any kind of unwanted sexual contact. Sexual assault is NOT about sex, lust, or passion. Its an act of power, control, and violence used to dominate and humiliate another person. Because many people believe that only forcible rape by a stranger is sexual assault, victims (and others) sometimes blame themselves for the feelings they have after an assault, especially if they were assaulted by someone they know. Having a better understanding of sexual assault can help survivors of assault, and the people close to them, understand why they feel the way they do.

Eighty percent of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows - a date, a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member, a spouse. Rape or sexual assault by someone the victim knows is as serious a crime as rape committed by a stranger.

We cannot explain why sexual assault happens to some people and not to others. Many victims believe they did something to cause the assault. No one asks to be assaulted. No one deserves to be assaulted.

@RvR: The State police lobby has made innuendo that they are not funded to investigate campus crimes (how many felonies do occur on campus grounds?). In addition, there is a huge push from Educators to allow the universities to handle these matters in house. Put these two conditions together, and add few delegates who have other interests to feed, and the bill is killed before it leaves committee.

I'd like to thank everyone for having such a polite dialogue. I've been on these boards before and people have been downright mean. Please continue to support the Take Back the Night events.

The only way to really take back the night is to put serious punishment in place for offenders with absolutely no parole and hard labor. Coddling does not work.

Video camera systems are now dirt and no sorority has any excuse for not having such a system covering their houses. Why is this taking so long?