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Friday, April 19, 2024

Former fraternity member accused of sexual violence by multiple women

Two UF students speak out

Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic depictions of sexual assualt and rape by coercion. Read with caution. 

A former Delta Tau Delta fraternity member has been accused by multiple women of sexual violence.  

The Alligator spoke to two female UF students who accused the same man of sexual violence. Their identities remain anonymous to protect their privacy and safety. One of the women came forward and filed a police report and a Title IX. There are more than two women The Alligator did not speak with who made similar claims over social media.

The Alligator’s three month investigation shows that the University Police Department investigated the fraternity member but ended the investigation on Jan. 20 due to the victim withdrawing her complaint. UPD Captain Rick Taylor and Detective Bonnie Boland declined to comment on the investigation. 

Delta Tau Delta Fraternity’s president declined to comment on the investigation, but said the man was a member of the fraternity until December 2021. The victim's accusations that sparked the investigation occurred while he was a member. 

A 20-year-old electrical engineering junior was the first to file an investigation against the man through Title IX and UPD.  

They went out, they laughed and they talked, she said. By the book, she thought everything went well.  

Not long after, she said she received the text everyone waits for after a good first date. 

When are you free again?

The UF student said she was excited for her second date with him in October.  

That evening, she said, she had her first kiss. What should have been a memory to treasure, she said, became a recurring nightmare. 

“We’re kissing and then all of a sudden he pulls me on top of him,” she said. 

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In the Title IX report, she accused him of pulling off her dress.

She told him she would not do anything else after having her first kiss, according to the report. Instead of stopping, he started making deals. 

It’s just your dress; you can keep everything else on and I’ll take off my shirt. 

Without much say in the matter, the report states he removed her remaining clothing and sexually battered her.

The victim said she remembers being stressed and unsure of how to make him stop. 

He eventually stopped, she said, and started to be romantic by picking her up, spinning her around and kissing her forehead. Confused and in shock, she said she didn’t realize she had been sexually battered until weeks later. 

“It really took a toll on me mentally,” the victim said. “I remember thinking: ‘I’m so smart, how could I have let this happen to me? I should have known better.’”     

Since the first victim came forward, at least three other women said they had similar unreported experiences with the same former fraternity member. 

The Alligator emailed, called and texted the accused man more than 10 times. The Alligator reached out to his lawyer listed as Kozlowski in the police report. The Alligator emailed Ron Kozlowski, a Gainesville lawyer who declined to comment on whether he was involved in the Title IX or UPD case.

Sexually explicit Snapchat messages and screenshots of an Instagram post were included in records given to The Alligator by UPD. 

The victim messaged the fraternity president, Ryan Erickson, over Instagram on Nov. 30. 

Screenshots the victim gave to The Alligator show she direct messaged him detailing the sexual violence.

“I’m horrified to hear about this and am so sorry … we do not take anything like this lightly, and if we ever learn about it, we take swift action to remove and disgrace the brother from the chapter,” Erickson wrote. 

His words were promising, but then he stopped replying, she said. After four days of silence, she told him she had to get the police involved.

He responded Dec. 10, accrediting his delayed response to a stressful exam, she said. He wrote the issue would become an external investigation, and he could no longer directly communicate with her, she said.

Any reports brought to the Interfraternity Council are taken seriously and reported to the appropriate offices, Reid Marlett, UF’s Interfraternity Council president, wrote in an email. But the council itself has no authority to bring repercussions to a fraternity for reports about a member. 

Individual chapters, however, may take action against an individual member, he wrote.

The victim said she knew she had to do something but was hesitant to go to the police without concrete evidence; she did not believe they would help.

Capt. Taylor said when students don’t report sexual violence until months or weeks after they occur, it becomes harder for UPD to investigate.

“If you see something, please contact us immediately,” Taylor said. “If you feel as though you are a victim, contact us immediately. Report it to us.” 

All sexual violence cases from last year involved a suspect the victim already knew, Taylor said. Perpetrators are often acquaintances or people met online and at bars.

The victim and fraternity member met on Bumble, an online dating application. On Jan. 6, three months after the violence, she filed a police report and Title IX complaint. 

When she told the police what happened, officers told her it wasn’t sexual assault. Police told her that what happened is known as sexual battery, according the state’s definition.

“I cried last night because I was like: ‘Oh my gosh I was raped,’ which is a scary thing to think about,” she said. 

Boland called the man in for questioning, but he refused to do so under his attorney’s advice, UPD Sergeant Chad Holway wrote in an email.        

The police investigation was closed Jan. 20 after the victim withdrew her complaint, Holway wrote. 

The victim said she decided to withdraw her complaint and just proceed with Title IX because this investigation would be quicker, not require a lawyer and need a lower level of evidence for conviction. 

She was also told by UF’s Title IX Coordinator, Russell Froman, that if there was a police investigation occurring at the same time as a Title IX investigation, usually the Title IX office has to wait until the police investigation ends. 

Even though she withdrew her complaint through the police department, the victim said she chose an option that would allow her to still prosecute the fraternity member later if she does not get her desired outcome through the Title IX process.

When a student files a complaint with a university’s Title IX office, it is assessed and then an investigation is opened, said Laura Dunn, a victims rights attorney and Title IX expert. 

When a sexual assault happens it could be reviewed at the criminal, civil or campus level, Dunn said. They all have separate legal proceedings with separate laws. 

Although common, sexual assault is the most underreported crime, she said. Anywhere from 20% to 25% of women experience assault in their first two years of college. 

“There are hotbeds of sexual assault, and they are fraternities and male sports teams,” Dunn said. 

Dunn encourages victims to get an advocate or attorney to advise them during the process. Repercussions for the accused depend on how strong the victim advocates, she said.

She has seen many cases where the assailant is let off with minimal consequences like retaking a sexual harassment course or writing an essay about consent, Dunn said. 

For her cases, Dunn fights for the assailant to be suspended until the victims graduate.

“Whenever I work with victims I strongly recommend that they directly ask in the hearing and throughout the process for the exact consequence they want because I don’t think schools tend to take it seriously and do enough,” Dunn said.  

Before approaching the school and police, the victim shared her experience on social media. Direct messages started pouring in, she said. 

A second victim reached out to her after reading her post on social media. 

The second victim said seeing the post brought back a wave of memories from her freshman year.

The 21-year-old health science junior said she had multiple encounters with the fraternity member back in 2019, all consisting of similar manipulative and coercive interactions. 

“It’s like he says the right things, but it’s not for the right reasons,” she said. 

A year after her traumatizing experiences, during quarantine in 2020, everything hit her all at once, she said. She decided to go to therapy.  

She harbors a lot of guilt and shame, but said with the therapy and time, it has gotten easier to talk about everything she went through. 

The second victim said she did not feel she was ever educated on what sexual assault really meant. 

“I think I was just kind of naive in a sense where I didn’t even really know that I was taken advantage of,” she said. 

The first victim’s story gained traction not only with fellow survivors but also with a group of fellow outraged students. 

“I’ve been hearing a lot from every source except for UF itself or any of the frats themselves,” said Isabela Estrada, a member of UF’s Women’s Student Association. 

The assault culture seems to be an unfortunately common trend at UF and nothing is ever done about it, the 20-year-old theater and ecology junior said. 

“If UF could actually be transparent about what’s happening … students wouldn’t have to find this out from social media accounts — meme accounts of all things,” Estrada said. “Are you kidding me? I can’t find out from the president of the student body, from the Delta president himself?” 

It’s a shame the victims have to go this route to have their story heard, she added. 

Contact Elena Barrera at Follow her on Twitter at @elenabarreraaa. 

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Elena Barrera

Elena is a second-year journalism major with a minor in health sciences. She is currently the University Administration reporter for The Alligator. When she is not writing, Elena loves to work out, go to the beach and spend time with her friends and family.

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