UT Austin launches investigation into sexual assault at fraternity house

Austin

UT Austin has launched a Title IX investigation into the sexual assault report made Saturday night by a student at an off-campus fraternity house.

The assault was reported 9 p.m. Saturday at the Sigma Alpha Mu house in West Campus located in the 2500 block of Leon Street just east of North Lamar Boulevard.

The president of that fraternity chapter told KXAN it happened at an event held for UT’s Round Up weekend. He explained that the fraternity is cooperating in the investigation and that the person accused of perpetrating the assault is not one of their fraternity members. 

A University of Texas spokesperson released a statement about the investigation Monday:

“The university has been made aware of the incident in question, and can make no comment on this ongoing Title IX investigation. The university takes these matters very seriously.”

Under UT Austin’s policy, just about anyone on campus can report a Title IX violation — from students, to employees, to visitors, to people doing business on campus. People who’ve experienced or have knowledge of “prohibited conduct” are allowed to make these reports. 

“When there’s a large mass of people from our university and out of our university together, lots of parties, it sadly increases the rates of sexual assault,” said Isabella Fanucci, a UT sophomore who is the chair of the Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coalition on campus. 

Fanucci knew that Round Up weekend is a high-risk time for sexual assaults at UT, so she tried everything she could in the days before — a sticker campaign, education for fraternities and sororities, sending out info-graphics, a Snapchat filter promoting consent — all to try and prevent sexual assaults. 

“It’s very disheartening to hear that the consent information did not break through to some people,” she said. 

Fanucci works with other sexual violence prevention groups on campus, she said these groups and UT administrators have identified “Red Zones” or times when they most frequently see sexual assaults. These Red Zones incidents pick up when first years move onto campus, then again during the Red River Rivalry Game with Oklahoma, and again during Round Up weekend. 

It’s frustrating for Fanucci that these are well known, dangerous times for students, yet sexual assaults keep occurring. 

She plans to continue working with newly elected UT Student Government President Colton Becker and Vice President-elect Mehraz Rahman on their plans to address sexual assault on campus.

Foremost, Fanucci says they want to make education about consent and healthy relationships the norm around campus. In particular, they want students to practice affirmative consent, and not engage in sexual contact unless their partner has given them an enthusiastic, sober “yes.”

Next, they want to boost UT’s already existing SURE Walk program which helps transport students home safely at night. The program’s popularity is surging but the SURE Walk itself isn’t securely funded for the long term.

Additionally, Fanucci said her team wants to make resources easier to access for victims so that they feel more comfortable reporting what they’ve experienced.

While there’s plenty of student momentum, she feels these changes won’t stick without support from UT’s administration. 

“I think students have voiced that we need this help, the CLASE study that came out last year, that said 15 percent of women on this campus are experiencing rape on their four years on their campus is appalling,” Fanucci explained. “We do have answers, we do have tangible measures we can take as students as administrators, as allies, as survivors and we can all work together to prevent and eliminate sexual assault. All we have to do is start doing it, honestly.”

Austin police are leading the investigation into this assault since it happend off camput, but could not share many details about what they’d found. UTPD says they investigated eight reports of sexual assault on campus in 2017, though some of those cases may have been dropped or may not have resulted in charges being filed. 

If you have any information about this sexual assault case, police ask that you call 512-472-8477.

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