Opinion | #MeToo: unmasking Chapman’s spurious Title IX facade

The Panther has independently corroborated the evidence and the university’s response stated in this column. To read a response column from the university, click here.

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David Mandel, senior business administration major

Just over a year ago, I reported my boss, a former resident director in Residence Life and First Year Experience, for sexually assaulting me twice at Chapman University.

After a grueling investigation — 296 days from beginning to end — Chapman defended my assailant and found him not responsible, despite a plethora of incriminating evidence.

I can acknowledge that the details of my case are complicated, as they are with sexual violence. What is not complicated, however, is that Chapman’s Title IX process is dangerously flawed. At best, Chapman officials dismissed corroborative evidence implicating my assailant. At worst, they willfully distorted probative evidence in a shameless attempt to protect the university. Either outcome is unacceptable. I cherish the opportunities that this school has afforded me and I seek Chapman’s continued well-being, which is why I will not stand for this.

For others to understand how I arrived at these conclusions, I’d like to share a specific piece of evidence that the investigator and officials baselessly dismissed. The following is only a sliver of the evidence presented in my case, but it’s important to share in order to demonstrate the veracity of my statement that the university minimized most of the evidence I brought forward.

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Photos courtesy of David Mandel

My perpetrator had enough foresight to communicate with me through a non-traceable Google Voice number, an incognito method used to coerce me into his room for sex. In these text messages, he admitted to one of the instances of sexual assault. But Chapman used the anonymity of the number as an excuse to find my perpetrator not responsible for months of sexual harassment and two separate incidents of sexual assault.

When I submitted a screenshot of an unsolicited picture that my perpetrator had sent me of sex toys in his apartment, located clearly next to his Chapman ID card, the investigator told me that the photo looked staged. When a simple Whitepages search revealed that this Google Voice number was registered under my boss’ name, the investigator concluded that anyone could have acquired the number and falsely ascribed ownership to my boss. When I presented the investigator with text messages from my boss’ confirmed cellphone that seamlessly transitioned into messages received from the Google Voice number, they suggested that I could have been texting myself from that number.

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Photos courtesy of David Mandel

No matter how compelling my case was, the investigator and officials never seemed to seriously consider the possibility that I was telling the truth. They strategically sidestepped the proof I presented to avoid reaching the “preponderance of evidence” criterion necessary to hold my assailant accountable, and instead, initially operated under the assumption that I was falsely accusing my perpetrator.

I was astonished at the outcome of the investigation. It has become apparent to me that those involved in the Title IX process at Chapman are more concerned with preserving the university’s reputation than ensuring students’ well-being. Sexual assault allegations must be prosecuted seriously and competently to ensure that victims, not perpetrators, are protected. Going forward, I hope Chapman will place principle over profit, and value righteousness over reputation.

I want to tell my story – not to attract sympathy, criticize the university or villainize the entire Chapman administration. Chapman has given me more than I can imagine: the opportunity to become a leader, make new friends and pursue my passions. I am speaking out because I want to see Chapman develop a culture of empathy for victims, instead of silencing them to their plight. I care about our community, and I hope that, instead of distrusting victims’ stories of assault, we will take positive action to conduct thorough investigations regardless of whether it tarnishes the university’s reputation.

We need to question authority when necessary, listen to those who have been silenced and stand up for what is right – regardless of the consequences. To the community of survivors at Chapman: You are not alone. If you have experienced something similar to this at our university, and you want to talk about your experience, I encourage you to speak out. Chapman may hear you, but it may not listen. I will, and so will a community of perpetually silenced individuals. Together, we are stronger.

1 Comment

  • […] people care about things when it affects them or someone they know. For example, we just published a guest column from a graduating senior who wrote about his experience being sexually assaulted by h…, and about how the school sided with his assailant. That blew up (it’s still blowing up) because […]