Duke reviewing sex assault policies amid allegations against Fairfax


 Duke University says it’s trying to determine what the school’s sexual assault policies were nearly two decades ago and if those procedures were followed.

Last week, Meredith Watson came forward alleging she was assaulted by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax in 2000 when they were both students at Duke. Watson also claims she was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at the university. 

Duke said it first learned of Watson’s allegation she was assaulted by a basketball player on Friday and that it was investigating her claim.

“We are in the process of gathering information to determine what policies and procedures were in place during the time period in which these events are alleged to have occurred, and whether they were activated and followed,” Duke’s Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations Michael Schoenfeld said in a statement Monday.

Kathy Hodges of the Durham Crisis Response Center said that, in 2010, many schools began revising procedures to become more proactive when handling assault claims on campus.

“They are required to do a lot of Title IX work, which is fairly new around sexual assault and making sure students who are survivors of sexual assault have adequate access to services and protection on campus,” Hodges said.

Hodges said DCRC works closely with Duke University’s Women’s Center to advocate for assault survivors.

“We work with students. Either they’ve called us and have set up an appointment, or we have met them at the emergency room when they’ve gone for a sexual assault evaluation,” she said.

Duke’s current policy encourages students to reports sexual assaults to the Office of Student Conduct and outlines how those allegations are handled.

According to the Duke’s most recent review, the OSC received 189 reports of sexual misconduct during the 2017-18 school year. Most of those reports were closed or resulted in nondisciplinary action.

Ten of the cases were referred for investigation, and of those, three resulted in students suspended for sexual violence, the report states.

Watson’s attorney said when Watson reported her alleged assault by a basketball player to a dean at Duke, she was discouraged from pursuing the claim further.

On Monday, Watson, through her attorney, continued urging Fairfax to step down from his position. She is the second woman to accuse Fairfax of sexual assault in the past week.

Watson’s attorney issued a statement Monday saying she is willing to testify in front of Virginia legislators if they held a hearing for Fairfax’s impeachment.

After Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson reported that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax raped them, Fairfax said he wanted “due process”. Impeachment hearings would have provided just that.  It turns out that Mr. Fairfax does not want due process; he wants to assault the character of his victims in secret, not in public, and certainly not under oath. Meredith Watson asks the Virginia Legislature to hold hearings, regardless of what they are called, and to reject a secret and delayed proceeding. Both victims of his sexual assault have agreed to testify and they will produce witnesses and documents to show their honesty and good character.  Please do not allow these women to be further victimized by delay and defamation.

Fairfax has denied the allegations and said he will not resign.

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