A Tulane University Police Department officer allegedly made sexual advances toward a junior and possibly knocked him unconscious with a taser and sexually assaulted him in his room last month, but the university has remained quiet on the incident.
The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the officer escorted him to his dorm after a party, forced his way into the student’s dorm room and allegedly attacked the student in a struggle, reported the Tulane Hullabaloo, the student newspaper. The student said he felt a sharp pain in his neck when he woke up the next morning and saw two holes in his neck. He also said he had no recollection of what happened.
The student waited three days to report the alleged assault, and the officer was fired after the allegations surfaced, the Hullabaloo reported.
Tulane spokesman Michael Strecker, citing school policy, refused to comment on the alleged assault because no charges have been filed.
“All university employee personnel matters are confidential,” Strecker said. “Disclosures of such matters are subject to legal restraint. For the university, at any level, to comment on an allegation of criminal behavior by any individual first requires some official police action, such as an arrest by the New Orleans Police Department.”
Tulane students say the allegations cast a shadow over a school and region already recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.
“The assault was a terrible incident, not only for the one student who was involved, but for the entire Tulane and New Orleans community,” said Tulane junior Morgan Lavan. “Our reputation hasn’t been the best lately, and this event only serves to prove certain stereotypes about the lack of safety in New Orleans and the amount of corruption in our system.”
Though the alleged victim said he had been drinking, Lavan said the student should not be held accountable in any way for the alleged assault.
“Saying he could be at fault for being drunk is not at all valid,” Lavan said. “No matter how drunk you are, you are supposed to put your trust in a police officer to do what is right, whether that is to make sure you get home all right, or arrest you for being belligerent and ridiculous.”
When a police officer commits such a heinous crime, the whole community is affected, said Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Gina Scaramella.
“We have had cases where police officers are committing this type of crime,” Scaramella said. “The community counts on police officers to have moral integrity, and when the community’s trust is breached, it can have a significant effect.”
Only 38 percent of sexual assault victims report the incidents, according to a 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice, . Scaramella said the Tulane student’s hesitation to contact authorities may have been complicated by the officer’s perceived power.
“When the perpetrator has a position of authority, it makes [reporting a sexual assault] more difficult for the victim to come forward,” she said.