By Isabel Lohman and Shoshana Dubnow
University of Missouri-Kansas City’s timing and nature of communication about an alleged sexual assault in late February were scrutinized by students at a protest in March.
A UMKC student was allegedly raped by a 22-year-old Colorado man in her residential hall on the night of Feb. 23
Students did not receive a text or email alert about the incident from police or the university until March 3.
This led to a series of events as UMKC officials were criticized for their handling of the incident. See the timeline here.
The problem was further confounded when John Martellaro, the UMKC media relations director, spoke with University News, UMKC’s student newspaper, about how the incident related to dorm security concerns.
“This is not necessarily a security issue because the victim went out willingly with the suspect. It was after socializing that she was taken advantage of, or raped, whatever you might call it,” Martellaro said in the interview.
Martellaro later apologized to the newspaper. “Let me be clear: rape is rape, and it is a terrible crime,” he said, in a letter to the editor.
Around 60 students held a protest on March 8 criticizing the university’s handling of the situation, according to The Kansas City Star.
Vice Chancellor Mel Tyler apologized to the students and arranged a meeting with them after the listening session that was scheduled for Monday, March 13.
23News reached out to UMKC for a statement regarding its decision to withhold information from the student body.
A spokesperson said that the school’s policies are sensitive to the victim and involve complex procedures, which is why investigations often begin with students’ knowledge.
“In hindsight, campus leaders agree they should have communicated some basic information sooner and they will revise communication protocols accordingly in future situations,” the spokesperson said.
The suspect “was arraigned on March 1 on charges of first-degree rape,” according to the statement.