During March 2013, James Madison University student, Sarah Butters, went on a trip to Florida during her spring break. What was supposed to be a fun vacation away from school quickly turned into a horrifying incident of sexual assault when her three male friends allegedly took advantage of her one day.
The Huffington Post reports three fraternity members reportedly filmed a video of them groping Butters’ breasts—who was “blacked out” and topless at the time—as they passed her around on the men’s laps and attempted to take off her underwear in a bathroom. In the video, Butters can be heard not giving her consent to the men’s actions. She says, “This isn’t okay, this isn’t a good idea.”
Butters found out about the video during her trip and confronted the men about it, but they denied it. When Butters returned to school, she learned that the video was being shared and talked about on an online forum.
After going back and forth with the judicial affairs office, Butters later went on to file a formal complaint with the office against the three in January 2014. Due to the video and other evidence, the three students were found guilty of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The judicial affairs office, completely disregarding Butters’s horror at the attack, only gave the attackers the lenient punishment of “expulsion after graduation.”
The punishment bans the three men from campus after they receive their degrees and does not allow them to attend commencement. Two of the students were able to receive their degrees this school year and one of them will be able to attend during the 2014-15 school year. Meanwhile, Butters was forced to withdraw from the university after losing finical aid. Her grades were slipping because of her involvement in adjudication process.
Although the men did not go unpunished, Butters believes that “expulsion after graduation” is not enough. On April 30, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, claiming the university violated her rights under the Title XI and Clery Act. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Butters expressed her belief that the university’s punishment will discourage survivors of sexual assault from reporting their attacks.
“What is a girl going to think that I had video proof and I still have to see these boys on campus?” She continued, “How would she ever feel comfortable coming forward?”
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is reportedly planning an investigation. Also, a petition on Change.org has been posted, demanding justice for Butters.