Records Show No Consent in Douglas Case

Concerns over communication seem unfounded

During Tuesday's Faculty debate about punishment for D. Drew Douglas, Class of 2000, Faculty members said no one had any trouble calling it rape.

What some did have trouble with, Faculty in attendance said, was determining degrees of consent and miscommunication between Douglas and the woman he assaulted last spring.

In particular, some still had questions about the force with which the woman refused Douglas' advances--whether she sent nonverbal signals which may have blurred any clear message about consent.

But, according to court documents obtained yesterday by The Crimson, there seems to be little doubt about the events of last April 4.

Statements by a Middlesex County prosecutor--to which Douglas pled guilty under oath--show Douglas forced his way into the woman's room and onto her bed before the assault.

Instead of "miscommunication," the court documents reveal a situation in which the woman continually told Douglas to leave her House, her suite and her bed. Before entering her room, Douglas "slammed her against the wall" and began kissing her, even though she "told him to leave [and] was struggling to get away from him." His advances continued even as she repeatedly told Douglas to leave and tried to push him off her bed.

Douglas pled guilty to indecent assault and battery in Middlesex Superior Court on Sept. 24, 1998. Before the case went to court, the Administrative Board determined that a rape had occurred and recommended dismissal to the Faculty.

Douglas was also indicated in Middlesex Superior Court on one count of rape, though that charge was placed on hold. But even in convicting him of the lesser charge of indecent assault and battery, the court documents paint a story without the ambiguities that were raised during Tuesday's Faculty meeting.

Faculty Debate

The full Faculty voted by a wide margin todismiss Douglas, with 19 voting against and over100 for dismissal.

Some professors advocated a requirement towithdraw for five years--a lesser punishment thandismissal because students who withdraw are moreoften allowed to return to Harvard.

Some of those who proposed withdrawal "weremainly concerned with the problem of communicationbetween the two students involved in the case,"said Judith L. Ryan, Weary professor of German andcomparative literature.

"There was a discussion of mitigatingcircumstances--the possibility of miscommunicationand the admission [of guilt to the woman heassaulted and the Administrative Board]," Ryansaid.

Faculty Council members had the opportunity toreview Ad Board files about the case before votingto recommend dismissal. One council member saidTuesday the council had been unanimously fordismissal before reading the documents, but after,five supported withdrawal instead.

In addition, one senior administrator said thatan article in Tuesday's Boston Globe wasreferenced during the debate, which was closed tothe public.

That article stated that, before the assault,"the two students were lying in bed for about fourhours. They had been friends for some time, andhad been drinking for much of the evening."

Ryan said yesterday that some Faculty felt thewoman's behavior had created an ambiguoussituation prior to the assault.

"There might be other forms of communication.It was the kind of non-verbal communication thatmight have caused some sort of confusion in themind of the young man," she added.

Other administrators confirmed that the debatefocused mainly on gradations of consent.

"Most of the main points were not in dispute,"President Neil L. Rudenstine said. "It was reallya question of how to weight the different pieces."

Another senior administrator said that someprofessors still viewed this as a "hazy"situation. "It was friends who were together," theadministrator said. "He may have assumed one thingand she another."

He said that several people supporting therequirement to withdraw held the position "that itwas consensual," the senior administrator added."I think it was a substantial element of [theircase]."

The Court Account

The court's account of the incident is takenfrom the hearing in which Douglas pled guilty toindecent assault and battery. In the courtrecords, the prosecutor reads an account of theincident, after which Douglas is recorded assaying, "I admit to committing the crime."

According to the account, both students hadbeen friends for a year. On April 3, the night ofthe incident, the woman saw Douglas while on adate with another man.

The victim told The Crimson yesterday that shewas "feeling the effects of alcohol" that night.

Court documents state that the three attended aparty together. Afterwards, as her date walked herhome, Douglas began walking along with the pair.

The other man left her at her dorm, but Douglas"told her he wanted to go home with her," andstayed behind, prosecutors told the court.

"She told him that wasn't going to happen andwas attempting to get into her door," theprosecutor told the court. "The defendant wasblocking access to the card key [reader] sheneeded to use."

He followed her into the dorm and up thestairs. "She repeatedly told him that he was notgoing to come in," the document states. "Thedefendant kept telling her that it's his choice;she did not have input into that decision."

Outside her room he threw her against the wall,pushed her dress and grabbed her buttocks. He alsobegan kissing her, the prosecutor said.

"[She] told him to leave [and] was strugglingto get away from him," the documents said.

She managed to open the door to her suite, butdid not shut it in time to prevent Douglas fromfollowing her inside.

"Once she was inside, although annoyed that thedefendant was still there, because she was afriend of the defendant, [she] wasn't particularlyfrightened," the prosecutor said. "She told him toleave; she was going to bed."

She lay down fully clothed on the bed and beganto doze off. "She next became aware that [Douglas]had removed all of his clothing and had gotteninto bed with her," the document reads.

Once in bed with her, he proceeded to sexuallyassault her, though the court document does notdescribe any penetration. Some time later, theprosecutor said, Douglas left the bed.

"These are essentially the facts as they relateto this incident, Your Honor, although theincident continued," the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor said the woman assaulted byDouglas found a handwritten note under her doorthe next day apologizing "for pressuring her,forcing her to engage in these activities."

"On April 20, she had another conversation withthe defendant in which he again admitted that hehad not been under the influence of alcohol, thathe had forced her to do things she had not wantedto do and apologized," the prosecutor told thecourt.

Still Controversial

The woman sexually assaulted by Douglas saidthere was never a doubt that a rape occurred.

"I am not an accuser," she said. "To mostpeople on the faculty this was a clear cut case.That minority is merely twisting things to servetheir own ends."

The five professors who presented the motionfor requirement to withdraw said they never statedthat the sexual advances were consensual.

"We never said nor implied that the sexual actin question was consensual, and we clearly statedthe opposite in front of nearly 200 colleagues,"said Daniel T. Gilbert, professor of psychology.

While the five professors refused to discussthe details of the case or their reasoning, in aletter to the editor sent to The Crimson, theywrote that they thoroughly reviewed the materialsavailable before making the motion to requireDouglas to withdraw.

The five Faculty were Gilbert; MallinckrodtProfessor of Applied Physics William Paul;Associate Professor of Government Louise M.Richardson; Associate Professor of ComputerScience Margo I. Seltzer '83 and Professor ofGreek and Latin Richard F. Thomas. They wrote thatthey concluded he was not a threat to thecommunity.

"It is the details of the case that led to ourmotion," they wrote in the letter. "It is easy toimagine rapes that warrant the most severe penaltywe can confer, if not more. It is our belief thatthis rape does not fall into that category."

"The solution lies in education, not our mostsevere penalty for the first individual to admitto his wrongdoing," they wrote.

Ryan said others in favor of dismissal,including herself, recognized that the woman hadrefused Douglas's advances several times.

"She told him 'no' from the very beginning,"Ryan said. "I think that weighed very heavily inpeople's minds."

But she said that, while discussion was focusedon this issue, she thought many Faculty memberswere aware that a case that, according to mediareports, might be more violent--presumably that ofJoshua M. Elster, Class of 2000--could be comingbefore the Faculty in the future.

She said many worried that this case crossed a"threshold" required for dismissal.

The senior administrator said some professorsquestioned whether Douglas's civil liberties hadbeen violated by the Ad Board process.

"If he had a lawyer present, he might not haveconfessed," the administrator said.

The woman assaulted by Douglas said yesterdaythat the continued debate over consent andmiscommunication has reopened old wounds.

"[The account in Tuesday's Boston Globe] makesthe events sound like a harmless date after whichI was 'upset," the woman wrote in an e-mailmessage. "I was upset...because I was raped in myown bed against my will."

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to thereporting of this story.