Investigation of 2015 Rape at UVa Highlights Controversial Question: Drunken Hookup or Assault?

After a recent Washington Post article, the University of Virginia is in the spotlight once again for how it handles sexual assault in the midst of party culture.

On August 23rd, 2015, UVa student Haley Lind woke up in her bed remembering nothing from the night before. The second year volleyball player was out with friends celebrating the infamous Block Party and blacked out. All she knew was that something was wrong.

“I felt like I had been violated in some way, but I didn’t know what it was,” she explained in an interview with The Washington Post.

Piecing together parts of her night through the use of friends and other athletes at the same party, what happened became more apparent to Lind.

Lind and an anonymous first year athlete had been seen flirting with one another at an off-grounds house party. The two ultimately engaged in sexual intercourse in the bathroom where Lind was later found wearing nothing but her shoes. While Lind believed she was too intoxicated to consent to sex and was consequently assaulted, the first year athlete, also drunk at the time but remembering everything from the night prior, felt that he did nothing wrong.

Blurred by alcohol, the case between Lind and the athlete stirred questions. Was their encounter a drunken hook-up or assault? What sort of action should UVa take?

After Lind’s volleyball teammates voiced their concerns to a female assistant coach, the coach reported the alleged assault to the University through the online tool “Just Report It.” Haley Lind then met with Dean Nicole Eramo, who handled the rape case made infamous the year prior by the retracted Rolling Stone article. Eramo decided to initiate action with Charlottesville Police and the prosecutor’s office onSeptember 15th.

For the entirety of their first year of college at the University of Virginia, both Haley Lind and the anonymous male athlete worked with officials to find an answer to the controversial case. In May, UVa investigators Maureen Holland and Suzan Garson released a 96-page report. Holland and Garson reasoned that the male athlete did not violate the University’s sexual assault policy.

The policy explicitly states that “incapacitation means that a person lacks the ability to make informed, rational judgments about whether or not to engage in sexual activity. A person who is incapacitated is unable, temporarily or permanently, to give Affirmative Consent because they are mentally or physically helpless, asleep, unconscious, or unaware that sexual activity is taking place.”

Because Lind was able to converse with others, walk upstairs to the bathroom where she had sex with the male athlete, and then unwrap the condom for him to use, the investigation concluded that the male athlete should not be charged.

The investigation involving the Charlottesville Police Department has been suspended. The freshman athlete was not charged with a crime and most likely will not be in the future. The prosecutor, Warner “Dave” Chapman, stressed how difficult it is to handle these uncertain cases involving alcohol.

“An incident affected by alcohol or other substances of abuse means the clarity of the evidence can be affected, and that can translate into, at times, a decision that a matter can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said to The Post.

Regardless of the investigation’s conclusion, what happened between Lind and the anonymous athlete stresses a highly controversial issue affecting colleges everywhere. The boundaries between consent and assault are continuously blurred by the inebriating effects of alcohol, leaving individuals questioning what consent really means.

What should have been the beginning of an exciting college career for two varsity athletes rapidly developed into a nightmare for these individuals and the University of Virginia.

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