Editor’s Note: The following story consisted of two months of reporting by Collegian staff. Names of rape victims are typically not revealed in news stories. However, the subject of this story granted permission to the publication to name her. Our decision to follow through with this story was to shed light on the process of reporting and resolving sexual misconduct allegations on campus.
She would see him everywhere.
The man she accuses of sexual assault studied in the same courses as her. His major was her major. Between classes, she said, his eyes were fixed on her as she walked by.
Though Chelsee Jacinto reported the alleged assault and subsequent frequent run-ins with her alleged attacker to the university’s interim Title IX coordinator, Erin Boele, she said nothing significant has ever been done. She alleges that he raped her as they worked on a writing assignment at his home.
Jacinto spoke to The Collegian about her experience. Although names of rape victims are typically not shared, she gave this publication permission to use her name.
The Collegian asked Jacinto for the alleged attacker’s name and contact information. She said she was not comfortable giving the information.
Jacinto said she reported the alleged rape to law enforcement but believed that wouldn’t help her. Jacinto said the traumatic situation led her to understand the tough situation victims of rape are often thrust into, including not wanting to report the case if there is a chance they won’t be taken seriously.
Jacinto’s story is like many others who have come out with allegations of sexual harassment and assault recently in and out of Hollywood, Washington D.C., and Sacramento.
“I understand now why people don’t report,” Jacinto said.
But the alleged attacker admitted to Jacinto via text message that, indeed, unwanted intercourse had taken place, Jacinto said.
That message was shared with Boele, said Jacinto, who believed the message was enough for her request that he undergo interim suspension. It was not.
“They choose to believe him even though he admitted I said ‘No’ to kissing, groping, touching and being carried,” Jacinto said.
Jacinto said the man also admitted he heard Jacinto say “No.” Despite that, he then said, according to Jacinto, that she had changed her mind on engaging in intercourse.
“I consistently repeated the same story over and over while he continually changed details of what happened,” Jacinto said. “And they chose to believe him.”
Soon after the alleged assault, and after Jacinto decided she could report it to officials at Fresno State, she found out how long and arduous the process would be. And, even tougher to come to terms with, Jacinto said, she realized that there was a chance her accusations would not be believed.
Her experience had led Jacinto to raise questions about the process at Fresno State. Is it enough to adequately address the needs of sexual assault or rape victims?
As it stands this semester, Boele is Fresno State’s only interim Title IX coordinator. Boele has several responsibilities, including overseeing compliance with laws related to sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence and stalking, according to the University’s 2017 Annual Security Report.
Despite the seemingly small number of staff trained to serve rape or sexual assault victims, Deborah Adishian-Astone, vice president for administrative services, assured The Collegian in a statement that the university is committed to meeting federal Title IX obligations to protect the victim students it serves.
Boele echoed those assurances.
“My main job is to be neutral, to listen and make both parties feel comfortable and give resources to both sides,” she said.
Following the alleged incident, the alleged attacker took Jacinto back to Fresno State, she said. Soon after that incident, Jacinto said she met with Lisa Risch, Fresno State’s only victim advocate.
Risch’s role is to provide services to those who experience sexual violence, dating and domestic violence, stalking and sexual harassment.
“I simply present options and support whatever decision they make,” Risch said. As the sole communicator between sexual assault victims and other resources, Risch said, she’d like to see more confidential support services for victims of sexual trauma.
According to the annual security report compiled by the campus police department, two rapes were reported on campus grounds between 2014 and 2016. Three non-campus rapes were reported.
Adishian-Astone said that, in addition to outreach, the campus’ Title IX coordinator investigated the reports of rape and closed the case on some of them.
“Only a limited number [of reports] have been appealed or had other procedural issues that delayed the timely resolution of complaints,” she said.
Jacinto said approaching the university’s Title IX coordinator felt intimidating. She said she felt intimidated not just by Boele but, by the process, too. That process included filing a criminal report – that took more than a year.
Boele said she does not mind arranging services that bring more comfort to students if interacting with her proves to be intimidating.
“It’s definitely not what I ever try to put across,” she said. “I try to be very honest in the process and very honest with where we’re at.”
Jacinto said the report she filed with Boele took several times to complete in order to make sure the incident was adequately and accurately reported.
“I asked Erin Boele to change the report three times because my statement written in her report was neither reflective of my experience nor accurate of my verbal and written statement that I gave her,” Jacinto said.
When documenting allegations of rapes, Boele said, she will interview a complainant and the alleged assailant. Both individuals then review the report and add comments. When the report was made to Boele, Jacinto said, she thought it was going to be from a neutral point of view.
“I asked her [Boele] to change it like three times,” Jacinto said.
But, Jacinto told The Collegian, her detailed accounts of the alleged rape were not included in the official reports. Instead, “Each report that came out discredited me more and more,” Jacinto said.
Jacinto said she told Boele that she pushed back and said “No” to alleged attacker. Boele suggested that maybe the student thought Jacinto was only kidding, Jacinto said.
Boele said sometimes a decision after a rape allegation is in the accuser’s favor, but other times it may not be. Then there could also be a split decision.
“I have to listen to both sides. Then I have to analyze what both sides are and come to a conclusion,” Boele said of the process.
Anyone at Fresno State who makes a sexual harassment sexual violence complaint – including rape – has several options.
Jacinto said she chose to open an investigation.
Regardless of the investigation’s results, Boele said, the complainant can pursue other legal action.
When someone files a complaint alleging rape or sexual assault, Adishian-Astone said, it is always treated with confidentiality. She said she could not comment on Jacinto’s case.
Risch said she wants victims to know she believes them if they come to her with allegations of sexual abuse – whether on campus or off campus.
“I believe them first and foremost, I’m here to support them and provide as many options and resources as needed,” Risch said.
Boele said the most important factor when opening up a rape case is to listen to both sides.
“Sometimes that’s really hard for individuals to understand,” Boele said.
It is fair to suggest it is hard, if not impossible, for a student to return to the life he or she once knew before filing a sexual assault allegation.
“I felt silenced even when I spoke and reported to Title IX,” Jacinto said.
Jacinto added that she felt that the university administration allowed the alleged rapist to attend campus with no “interim remedies” that protected her right to an “education in a hostile-free environment.”
Jacinto said she has six incomplete courses stamped on her academic record. She said her financial aid also took a hit due to the unfinished courses.
With all of that, she wonders if she ever got adequate attention and if those who have come before her have gotten better, or worse, protection following an alleged rape incident.
Jacinto said she thinks of those who came before her: Did they fare better or worse in Fresno State’s system of justice?