Catholic U. student recounts her struggles …

Washington Post

Catholic U. student recounts her struggles after reporting a sex assault


Erin Cavalier downed a couple of glasses of wine and a­ few shots of tequila, grabbed a water bottle filled with vodka and Sprite, and headed out from her dormitory to celebrate the end of her first semester at the Catholic University of America.

After polishing off the mixed drink, the 18-year-old from Northern California started drinking beer at a party. After midnight, in what she describes as a stupor, she asked if someone could help her walk to her room on the campus in Northeast Washington. A male student she considered an acquaintance volunteered. She says she blacked out.

Back in her room, Cavalier recalled, she regained awareness. The man was on top of her, she said, raping her. Cavalier said she was too drunk to agree to sex. “I never consented,” she said.

The man saw it differently, telling investigators that Cavalier was a willing participant in a sexual encounter after he walked her home and she signed him into her dorm. The man was never charged with a crime, and an initial D.C. police report said evidence indicated there was mutual consent. But that was not nearly the end of it.

What happened that night in December 2012 set off a chain of events that a year and a half later pushed the Vatican’s university in America into a fierce national debate over how colleges respond to allegations of sexual assault. In growing numbers, students such as Cavalier are stepping forward to force public scrutiny of an issue that has quietly affected colleges for decades.

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