Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) expressed deep concern Thursday about sexual assault allegations at the University of Virginia contained in a newly published Rolling Stone article.
The story in the magazine’s December issue describes a harrowing account of an alleged sexual assault at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house near campus in 2012. The victim, who is identified by an alias in the story, alleges that she went upstairs with a fraternity member during a party and entered a dark room, where she was attacked. The victim told Rolling Stone that she was pinned to the floor and was raped by seven male students. She did not pursue charges against the students involved and describes a lackluster response from University officials she contacted about the incident.
In a statement, McAuliffe said that he was “deeply disturbed” by the account and spoke to University president Teresa A. Sullivan about the allegations.
“Sexual violence is a nationwide problem, and it is critical that our schools acknowledge that this is a pervasive issue and take bold action to end it,” McAuliffe said. “Virginia will not tolerate sexual violence on our campuses or in our communities. Now is the time to act — we must ensure that survivors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and we must do more to hold perpetrators accountable.”
McAuliffe said that the university will investigate the allegations and review policies and procedures involving sexual assault on campus.
Charlottesville police said Thursday that they are investigating the 2012 incident at Sullivan’s request.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said that he was “deeply troubled by the horrific sexual assault allegations,” and urged for a thorough investigation.
“It’s time that Congress, universities, and law enforcement authorities work together to combat this epidemic,” Warner said in a statement. “We must end a culture that tolerates campus sexual assault.”
In a letter to the university community, Sullivan said that the article highlighted “many details that were previously not disclosed to University officials.”
She indicated in her letter that the administration was limited by privacy laws from commenting on specific allegations in the story. In recent years, the campus has renewed focus on sexual assault prevention, including the “Not On Our Grounds” awareness campaign. Recent data shows that 27 forcible sex offenses were reported at U-Va. last year, up from 11 the year before.
“We have recently adopted several new initiatives and policies aimed at fostering a culture of reporting and raising awareness of the issues,” Sullivan said. “The University takes seriously the issue of sexual misconduct, a significant problem that colleges and universities are grappling with across the nation. Our goal is to provide an environment that is as safe as possible for our students and the entire University community.”
The national leadership of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity said in a statement that the U-Va. chapter will comply with university and law enforcement officials during their investigation of the allegations.
“We do not condone violence under any circumstances; gender-based and sexual violence is particularly heinous,” Phi Kappa Psi executive director Shawn Collinsworth said in a statement. “It is antithetical to the morals and founding principles of our Fraternity, and we condemn it unequivocally.”
Collinsworth notes that prior to the Rolling Stone article’s publication there have been no criminal investigations or charges of sexual assault involving any members of the U-Va. chapter. He said that the fraternity’s leadership will be pursuing its own independent investigation into the matter.
“Phi Kappa Psi will fully cooperate with the administration of the University of Virginia in identifying and immediately eradicating any alleged or proven misconduct,” Collinsworth said.