UMass Student Concocts Sexual Assault for “The Cause”

A University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass) student who reported being sexually assaulted during a November anti-rape student rally has admitted she made up the attack.

The UMass student told police that a man with a knife attacked her during the Nov. 16 rally, according to The Daily Press of Boston University. The rally was organized by UMass students to express their outrage over two rapes and another assault reported on campus in November. The student’s attorney provided investigators with a statement, signed by the student, saying that the attack never occurred. Cuts on the woman’s face were self-inflicted, according to UMass Chief of Police John Luippold, Jr. The school did not release the woman’s identity.

UMass officials have decided not to bring charges against the student. However, the recent attacks have created a climate of fear around campus and the job of at least one university administrators is in jeopardy. Approximately 15,000 “shriek alarms,” small devices that emit a loud noise when a string is pulled, have been made available to students and staff. The school has expanded campus policing, escort and shuttle services, installed a new security phone and hosted a lecture on violence against women, according to the report. Meanwhile, members of the Student Government Association have requested that the Dean of Students, Jo-Anne Vanin, be removed from her position.

“The administration’s inactivity has potentially jeopardized the safety and well-being of students on this campus,” Jeffrey Howe, president of the UMass Student Government Association, told The Daily Press. Jared Brooslin, Student Government Association secretary of public policy, claims Vanin withheld important information about the alleged attacks from SGA members and that she has not attended campus rallies and forums to discuss safety issues.

“The student body doesn’t feel she was doing her job in advocating for the students during the time of the assaults,” Brooslin said.

The SGA has taken a vote of no-confidence in Vanin and Howe said that the group is “willing to pursue this to whatever level we need to push” to ensure Vanin’s removal.

The incident mirrors a faked crime at St. Cloud State University last year, in which a gay female student, Jennifer Prissel, claimed she was attacked by two men after leaving a vigil for Matthew Shepherd, the gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten to death. Prissel claimed that the two men shouted anti-gay slurs while punching her face and cutting her chest. Five community churches held a vigil against hate crimes, and the university set up an “Anti-Hate Reward Fund” to reward anyone who gave information leading to the capture of the attackers. The fund raised $3,565.19 and, with the university matching contribution 2-1, the fund rose to approximately $11,700. Prissel later signed an affidavit that stated the crime was false, but the university filed no charges against her.

Dr. Michael Teague, a forensic psychologist who works full-time with the Raleigh Police Department, says that such faked crimes are very often a cry for attention. The “victim” could be going through a lot of stress and faking a crime is their way to deal with a problem in their life, he said. The person in this case could also have a dependent personality and rely on a group – in this case, other students participating in the rally – for support.

“How else could you be more part of a group than by being a victim of the crime?” Teague asked.

Similar hoaxes occurred over the last two years on the campuses of Miami University of Ohio, Eastern New Mexico University, Duke University, the University of Georgia and Guilford College (see Clarion, Volume 2, No. 8, July 1998,