UAF rape victim speaks out following investigation completion

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has completed its investigation of a campus rape case. Citing confidentiality rules, the university will not comment on the September 2016 case, but the victim is again speaking out.

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Former University of Alaska Fairbanks student Jessie Wattum, who first went public with her story in October, said the university’s investigation backs her claim, that a male student had sex with her in the Bartlett Hall dormitory, while she was incapacitated by alcohol.

“And he knew that I was not able to give consent,” Wattum said. “He knew that and he did it anyway.”

Police also investigated the case, but the district attorney declined to prosecute. The state must prove sexual assault occurred “beyond a reasonable doubt”, a higher hurdle than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard used by the university. UAF will not confirm it, but Wattum said she was recently notified by the Dean of Students that the student she says raped her has limited access to campus.

”She emailed me saying that he had been trespassed from all the dorms,” Wattum said. “He wasn’t allowed to live on campus anymore, and he wasn’t allowed on campus before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m. So that was his punishment for raping me.”

It’s not clear if this is the university’s final action in the case. UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes cautioned that there can be interim measures prior to any formal discipline, and both parties have input along the way.

”Both the complainant and the respondent had the opportunity to meet with the Dean of Students and discuss the case, discuss their thoughts,” Grimes said. “There’s appeal rights for both complainant and respondent as well.”

Grimes could not provide a timeline for completion of the case.  Wattum said she and her twin sister both withdrew from UAF following the incident and have relocated to live with family in California. Wattum said she plans to return to UAF, despite one concern.

”I have to deal with seeing him, and it really showed me how much UAF cares about their rape victims,” Wattum said. 

Wattum said she’s decided not to sue the university because of legal costs. UA regent John Davies of Fairbanks, who chairs a board Title IX committee, maintains the university has followed policy-dictated procedure.

”There was an investigation, there was an adjudication and there were consequences,” Davies said. “And it’s my belief that all of those followed both our regent policies and national Title IX policies.”

UAF overhauled its Title IX program in recent years, after coming under federal scrutiny for failing to properly adjudicate sexual assault cases. Davies said regents are working to insure university policies precisely conform with findings of a federal office of civil rights investigation, and have agreed to fund open Title IX positions.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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