Local

Read: DA releases statement on alleged sexual assaults at UMass fraternity

“The last thing in the world we want is for victims of sexual assault to feel they have no place safe to go for recourse."

UMass Amherst students protest outside the Theta Chi fraternity house on North Pleasant Street on Sunday. McKenna Premus/Daily Collegian
Theta Chi house

After hundreds of students gathered in front of a fraternity house at UMass Amherst on Sunday to protest alleged incidents of sexual assault, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office released a statement Wednesday saying it takes the allegations “seriously.”

Prosecutors, however, said they couldn’t confirm or deny if they were investigating any incidents at the Theta Chi house.

According to a letter from UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, reports surfaced on social media alleging a sexual assault occurred involving the frat. No survivors or witnesses had come forward as of the letter on Monday, he wrote.

Advertisement:

A protest took place just after noon on Sunday, and about 300 students gathered in front of the Theta Chi house. Members of the fraternity ended up calling police for assistance.

Protesters allegedly threw things at the building, damaged a fence, and tried to get inside the house.

A Change.org petition calling for the fraternity to be disbanded or suspended had nearly 23,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

“The last thing in the world we want is for victims of sexual assault to feel they have no place safe to go for recourse,” Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said in a statement. “Prosecutors and victim witness advocates in our office have extensive training to help us all better understand the unique needs of, and therefore better respond to, survivors of sexual assault.”

Read the full release from the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office: 

In recent days, students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst protested after allegations of a sexual assault at a fraternity circulated on social media. It is the practice of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office to neither confirm nor deny investigations into alleged criminal matters. 

However, it cannot be overstated how seriously the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office takes allegations of sexual assault, and how vigorously it investigates and prosecutes such cases.

Criminal investigations into alleged sexual assaults are most commonly initiated by local or campus police departments. The District Attorney’s Office works collaboratively with the investigating agency in gathering and evaluating evidence. Each victim-survivor is assigned a specially-trained victim witness advocate in our office who will guide them through the process. If the evidence gathered supports criminal charges, the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes the alleged perpetrators in court to seek justice for sexual assault victim-survivors.

However, it is also possible for victim-survivors to report their cases directly to the District Attorney’s Office if, for any reason, they do not feel comfortable reporting directly to a police department. In that case, they can meet directly with an assistant district attorney who specializes in the prosecution of alleged sexual assaults, and/or with a specially-trained victim witness advocate who can explain the criminal process and discuss options for going forward.

“The last thing in the world we want is for victims of sexual assault to feel they have no place safe to go for recourse,” said Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan. “Prosecutors and victim witness advocates in our office have extensive training to help us all better understand the unique needs of, and therefore better respond to, survivors of sexual assault. We are deeply committed to employing a trauma-informed approach and ensuring victims are heard throughout the process.”

“We know that sometimes an important step in healing from the trauma of a sexual assault is to see the alleged perpetrator called to account. We also understand that some victim-survivors are suspicious of authorities because they fear they will not be believed or their cases will not be handled properly,” said Northwestern Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Suhl. “Our office has a proven history of successfully investigating and prosecuting cases of campus sexual assault. We want to assure survivors of sexual assault that we are here to support them if they choose to come forward.”

The district attorney’s office regularly collaborates with several local agencies committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault. These agencies offer confidential services to survivors who may not be ready to report to law enforcement. We encourage survivors to reach out to these agencies in our area: the Center for Women and Community at UMass, Safe Passage in Northampton and the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition in Greenfield. 

To reach out to the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, call 413-586-9225.

Jump To Comments

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com