UConn Students Rally Behind Classmate After Handling of Sexual Assault Case

On Wednesday, hundreds participated in a “walk-out” on campus in solidarity with sexual harassment survivors, demanding UConn do better.

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University of Connecticut students continue to rally around their classmate who was seen protesting the handling of her alleged sexual assault on campus last week.

Alexandra “Lexi” Docken held signs on campus Thursday, one reading, “I was raped and UConn silenced me.”

NBC Connecticut usually does not show alleged victims of a sexual assault on television, but the sophomore says she wants her story heard.

Frustrated with how she said the university responded to her August sexual assault, the 20-year-old took matters into her own hands.

“She was standing right there, she was holding the posters in the rain, in the cold, and I just couldn’t help but admire her for her bravery, for her courage,” said Maria Brzozowska, a UConn freshman who took and posted the picture of Docken on Instagram, which has since been liked by more than 72,000 people.

Since then, Docken’s fellow classmates have been rallying around her.

On Wednesday, hundreds participated in a “walk-out” on campus in solidarity with sexual harassment survivors, demanding UConn do better.

UConn said they’re committed to providing a safe, supportive environment on all their campuses.

Docken tells us it’s a nightmare when she sees the man she accused of sexually assaulting her around UConn’s campus.

“It's very difficult,” she said, pausing for a long time before continuing. “My head just flashes back to everything and I literally will just pivot turn around.”

Docken tells NBC Connecticut she never reported what she said happened to her at a fraternity to police—local or campus. Rather, she reached out to the college hoping for a quicker, easier and more comfortable process.

In a 2015 report, the National Domestic Violence Hotline said two of three women who experienced partner abuse said they were afraid of calling police—afraid they wouldn’t believe them or do nothing.

Docken shared similar sentiments with us: “I've seen so many failures of the police department to ever bring anyone to, you know, justice.”

She said morally she didn’t want to send her perpetrator to jail, but just wanted him out of UConn, another reason why she went through the school.

Docken said her case eventually went through the school’s community standards process and she, the man and witnesses shared what they saw and experienced that night.

According to documents she shared with us, she learned that in November an investigator was “unable to determine based on a preponderance of evidence what alleged behaviors occurred in the bedroom” that night. The documents also state that, “there was insufficient evidence to indicate a violation of the student code.”

Reflecting, Docken said she sees so many issues with how her case was handled.

“The entire case turned into a he said she said,” Docken said.

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UConn said they are prohibited by law from discussing individual students or cases.

In a lengthy statement, university officials tell us in part that “UConn is committed to providing a safe, supportive environment on all our campuses….” and they have a “a robust system to respond to reported incidents, combat sexual and interpersonal violence and harassment, and provide support.”

And even when a student does not want to pursue an investigation, UConn, “still takes responsive or preventative actions, and always prioritizes support services,” the university said.

The full university statement can be seen below.

UConn sent a letter to students Sunday addressing sexual violence, but students we’ve heard from are frustrated they hadn’t heard from the administration sooner once Docken’s picture started making waves.

In turn, students have been making their own stand to support her.

“I don’t know her. You have to believe her regardless. You have to believe in the victim,” said Seerut Mir, a UConn sophomore who planned a protest last week.

“Honestly. this mirrors stuff that I heard about earlier where girls were telling me that they’ve been assaulted or have felt unsafe at certain parties or certain campus events,” said freshman Korbin Freedman.

“I believe her. I support her and if she’s out there, I love her,” said UConn Student Government Senator Brandon Drummond.

During Wednesday’s rally, many others shared their stories of sexual assault and the culture on campus. Some saying they never wanted to report what happened to them because of what they’ve heard: that the school would not act or believe them.

In response to the rally, a spokesperson for UConn directed us to their previous statement and letter, specifically that “UConn will always do its best in terms of education and awareness; holding those found responsible for misconduct accountable…”

Like many other protesters, Docken hopes for change within the reporting and responding system on campus.

She also hopes students step in if they see something concerning happening to a classmate.

“I've been to plenty of parties where I was wearing exactly what I was wearing, doing exactly what I was doing and exactly where I was, and never had I been raped. It was because of the person and the person only. And I won't stand for that victim blaming,” said Docken.

This isn’t the first controversy around sexual assault on campus. In 2014, UConn settled a federal lawsuit filed by five women who claimed the school responded to their sexual assault complaints with indifference. The school did not admit any wrongdoing.

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