Massachusetts Daily Collegian

After justice, cautionary story remains

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Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Three years ago, four men arrived at the University of Massachusetts, encountered a female student that they knew and repeatedly raped her as she faded in and out of consciousness, incapacitated after a lengthy night of drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.

Emmanuel Bile, Justin King, Adam Liccardi and Caleb Womack are all guilty of raping the woman. According to her testimony in three separate trials, the men, who were not UMass students, arrived at her dorm without her permission, raped her, then left her in her room, alone and bleeding.

Liccardi then returned hours later and raped her again.

The first three men to stand trial – Bile, King and Liccardi – were all found guilty by respective juries. Bile is now serving an eight to 10 year prison sentence, while King and Liccardi are serving eight to 12 years. The fourth man, Womack, agreed to a plea deal Monday in Hampshire Superior Court, taking reduced charges in exchange for his admission of guilt. He will spend the next five years in the House of Corrections, and the following 10 years on probation.

Those are the facts of the case. The legal process, at least in criminal court, is now over, after three years. Some UMass students and recent arrivals to campus may have missed this story, while others may have forgotten it ever happened. Barring appeals from any of the four men, the case is now over.

But something horrible remains.

These men are now locked away, and while there is nothing that will ever make what they did better, “justice” has been delivered – at least legally. But what remains is the horrific idea that something like this could happen on a college campus – our campus – and three years later, there’s a pervading idea that the campus environment still isn’t as safe as it should be.

All four men arrived on campus in October 2012 in search of a party – any party. When they couldn’t find one, they found their way to the woman’s dorm, convincing a stranger to sign them into the Southwest Residential Area dormitory as guests. They walked up to the woman’s room, found it was unlocked and entered. They waited for her to arrive, which she did later with two friends. She was already intoxicated after drinking heavily at a dorm room party earlier that night.

The night progressed, and the woman began to remember less, according to her testimony in the first three trials. At some point, her friends left. Shortly after, the men turned the lights off. The woman said she couldn’t move and couldn’t tell them to stop. These men violated her trust.

It’s a devastating story, and a nightmare that happened here. It was real, and it shined a bright light on the paper-thin security that once existed at our residence halls. And while it’s important to note that each account of sexual assault should be addressed individually, the topic of sexual assault on college campuses has affected institutions nationwide as more victims come forward. It’s prompted an assessment of practices at schools such as Columbia University and prompted a bevy of Title IX lawsuits and investigations.

UMass – one of 55 institutions facing investigation over handling of sexual abuse complaints, according to the Associated Press – is no different, as the University says it has improved its student conduct code and improved its handling of sexual violence on campus. It also made sweeping changes to its residential security as well, overhauling the sign-in system, changing guest policies and spending nearly $2 million on security improvements.

These are necessary, yet reactionary changes. They were needed, but there is still much to be done.

Sexual assault on college campuses is a sensitive topic, but one that must be confronted.  More awareness must be brought to this troubling trend. Institutions must continue to implement policies that offer resources to victims of sexual violence, and communities must feel comfortable speaking out and addressing this issue.

Groups on campus at UMass, such as the Coalition to End Rape Culture, continue to raise awareness of this issue daily, but some students undoubtedly still feel fear on campus.

The woman in the 2012 gang rape recently filed civil lawsuits against the four men, as well as UMass and both the security monitor and resident assistant on duty the night of the rape. The story, and the painful memories, will be revisited again.

During witness testimony of Liccardi’s trial, the third of the four separate trials, UMass Police Department detective Derek Napoli took the stand. Napoli wrote the initial criminal complaint in this case, and testified to his involvement in the investigation. Napoli, who said he oversees the department’s investigation into sexual assault complaints, said that within three months of assuming that role, he investigated 10 sexual assault complaints.

This case was one of the few instances in which the woman was brave enough to come forward publicly.  Many more instances of sexual violence on college campuses will go unreported and undocumented.

It’s an epidemic that we, as a campus community, must not forget.

We must remember this story – and all its devastating aspects – as we continue to provide a safer environment for students and combat sexual violence on campus.

Mark Chiarelli is the Collegian editor-in-chief. He can be reached at [email protected]

7 Comments

7 Responses to “After justice, cautionary story remains”

  1. Bob on December 1st, 2015 10:20 am

    A safer environment? The students complain about most rules that are initiated. If they truly wanted safety, they would be on board with no alcohol allowed in dorms. This would eliminate 99% of the safety issues. Visitors on weekends cause most of the problems in the dorms, and have for decades. Now there are two policies that won’t change, but would make things safer.

  2. David Hunt 1990 on December 1st, 2015 10:47 am

    Let me first state that, as far as I understand the case, these men are guilty, were convicted, and should serve out their full sentence for the horrific crime they committed.

    But there are some other things too.

    She was, apparently, smashed. Again, being drunk is not a crime; getting so drunk you cannot stand up for yourself, or make good decisions… IS a decision. A bad one.

    Her friends LEFT HER in a room with, apparently, strangers? Seriously? They sure wouldn’t be MY friends after that.

    You walk into your room to find people there you don’t know, and you GO IN? Withdraw, go to the front desk, and call the cops. “Hello, campus police, my room’s been invaded by people I don’t know.”

    And lastly, security let them sweet talk themselves in? Did they get IDs? Anything? In my senior year I sweet-talked my way past security to surprise a woman I was interested in (I brought cookies to cheer her up). But I left my ID with security, told them the specific name of person I was visiting, and that I’d be back down if I couldn’t find her. I did find her, and the first thing I told her was that she needed to call the front desk to tell them all was well.

    I am making an assumption here that none of those things happened with the front desk.

    Again, let me be clear: this was a horrible crime and they’re now doing time. Good. And, ultimately, they need to bear the consequences of their acts. But there were multiple failures in the system itself, including some apalling lack of judgment on the parts of the women involved.

    To think that you can waltz through life without taking appropriate safeguards is insane. Is it fair? No. Get used to the fact that life is not utopia; there are bad people out there and to think you can skate through without taking responsibility for your own safety simply because it’s “a campus” is foolhardy at best.

    An anecdote from my time at The Zoo. The summer before my senior year a woman was found (IIRC) raped, murdered, and dismembered. As I attended that year, nobody was arrested for it. Yet people (esp. women) walked around with headphones on at night, totally oblivious to their surroundings without any situational awareness.

    I can see the same cocksure and carefree attitude in today’s U Mass students.

  3. Umass Grad on December 1st, 2015 8:07 pm

    Only took two comments to hear from a couple privileged males to put their valueless 2 cents in about this situation.

    Apparently rape happens because ‘you’re too drunk’ or ‘not paying attention to your surroundings…walking around campus with headphones in’ or better yet, because your friends leave you in your own dorm room!

    You forgot to add she probably looked like a slut and asked for it…

    Prime example of a male casting blame on the “lack of good judgement by women’ for a man’s disgusting decision to take advantage of a woman. Nice try adding comments about it being a ‘horrible situation’…how genuine of you.

  4. David Hunt 1990 on December 2nd, 2015 9:39 am

    @Umass Grad:

    OH. PU-LEASE.

    NOWHERE did I – or the other commenter – say “She asked for it.” Nowhere did I – or the other commenter – say that rape happens because you get drunk.

    It’s called PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. And I hold the rapists – who were arrested, charged, and convicted (and good!) – responsibile for their actions.

    But you know, Umass Grad, the “real world” is out there. Crimes get committed against people for no reason and no ill-deed on the part of the victim. There are bad people out there. Is it so much to ask that if you come home to your own residence and find people there you do not know, to say “Whoa, WTF, hey cops, get over here?”

    Apparently OTHER PEOPLE are responsible for YOUR safety.

    For your sake I hope not, but I predict a very rude awakening someday.

  5. Tony Dennis on December 2nd, 2015 12:39 pm

    good article by the editor

  6. Second UMass Grad on December 8th, 2015 6:20 pm

    Actually, David, your comments have only shown that you are making judgements on a story you don’t understand. The victim DID know these men. They texted before driving to campus, and she told them NOT to come. They arrived at the dorm, convinced a male stranger to sign them in as guests under HIS name, and then proceeded to await the girl’s arrival. She arrived home, expecting to be safe, only to be met by people she had told not to come.

    Also – what year did that murder occur? I tried to look it up, and couldn’t find any reference to such an event.

  7. David Hunt 1990 on December 10th, 2015 12:32 pm

    @Second: I stand corrected; I was under the impression they were total strangers. Even then, though… “Hey, get out of my room.”

    I graduated in 1990; it was the summer of 1989. Happened at what was then called the “dead mall” (for a lack of stores).

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