Allegations of sexual assaults prompt investigation at University of South Florida

University of South Florida president Steven Currall says school officials are looking into accusations of sexual assaults involving current and former students. 

Dozens of women have recently spoken out about a pervasive culture of sexual assault within the campus’ Greek community. The allegations come after one former student shared her story on her Twitter account last week. 

The 23-year-old says the attack happened back in 2017. She says her attacker, at the time, a friend and member of the Sigma Nu fraternity, preyed on her after a night of partying when she’d had too much to drink. 

She says when she tried to speak out about what happened to her after the attack, some of her own sorority members told her they didn’t believe her and a report to the Tri Delta sorority president went nowhere.  

Campus police public information officer Audrey Clarke says they have not yet opened an investigation into the allegations because no one has filed a formal complaint. Clarke explained that a complaint would have to come to them directly from a victim and not from a third party. 

“Sexual batteries reported to the police department are thoroughly investigated, and if charges warranted, arrests and referrals to the Hillsborough County State’s Attorney Office will be made," Clarke told FOX 13. "Our officers are trained to minimize the trauma victims experience by working closely with USF Victim Advocacy.“

She said anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault is encouraged to report the attack to University Police or a Title IX report through the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity.  

A USF spokesman explained the university offers students a wide range of resources for victims, including the confidential Center for Victim Advocacy and the USF Counseling Center. USF also offers education and training programs for students, faculty and staff designed to raise awareness and prevent sexual violence.

Now three years later, a Twitter account was created in June sharing stories by several women who have come forward claiming to be sexual assault victims. Dozens of women have shared similar stories of assaults at the hands of other students.  Several even claim to have been assault by the same Sigma Nu fraternity member.

The backlash has prompted thousands to signed a petition calling for the suspension of USF’s Sigma Nu Fraternity

It’s all caught the attention of university authorities. Dean of students Danielle McDonald says she’s reported the incidents to the university’s Title IX office. 
On Wednesday, Currall called the allegations troubling and said the appropriate authorities are looking into the allegations. 

“In light of the information recently shared on social media, I believe it’s important for us to reexamine our processes and outreach initiatives to ensure that we are responding effectively to allegations of sexual violence,” said Currall in a statement. “I am deeply troubled by these serious allegations and have personally confirmed that these cases are under review by the university offices that are best positioned and trained to respond.  Our processes are intended to provide support and resources to victims and also the level of due process rights all of us would expect to receive.”

Hundreds have also signed an online petition calling on the university to put a freeze on recruitment and expansion of Greek life on campus until “drastic steps are taken to ensure the safety of its members.”  

USF’s president of the Interfraternity Council Brett Purcell responded with a lengthy statement on Twitter in part, “While we can’t change the past, we acknowledge the lack of education in recent years to address sexual assault in the community... We have failed our members and the community as a whole and for that we are sorry.”

USF’s Sigma Nu chapter also responded in a tweet, saying they were shocked by allegations and unaware of any impropriety. 

The director of communications for the fraternity’s national chapter also released a formal statement on Twitter saying it’s working with USF officials to investigate the claims.