Buried in the pages of the 2006 student handbook for Dominican College, a small Catholic institution in the northern suburbs of New York City, were five dense paragraphs about what would happen if a student reported a rape.
The college would investigate. That much is required by law. Evidence would be collected and preserved. And if the alleged rapist were another student, campus disciplinary proceedings would ensue, allowing both sides to speak before a hearing board.
The policy was tested in May 2006, with Megan Wright, 19, a freshman from New Jersey. After drinking heavily with others in a friend’s dorm room, she woke up in pain on a Sunday morning, with blood in her underwear. On Monday, she elbowed through a lunchtime rush of students to the glass office of director of residence life Carlyle Hicks to report that she had been raped by a man — or men — she could not identify.
But Wright found cold comfort in Hicks’ response.
“He didn’t seem to have a clue,” says Wright’s mother Cynthia McGrath, who attended the meeting. Hicks didn’t mention a word about a campus disciplinary process, says McGrath, or even ask if the shy redhead was okay. “Just a lack of concern, like he couldn’t be bothered.”
McGrath describes the meeting as the first of many discouraging encounters with Dominican College as Wright sought some sort of action from the school against the fellow students she suspected of gang-raping her. By late summer, Wright had withdrawn from Dominican and enrolled in a local community college to avoid running into her alleged attackers. By late fall, the police investigation had dead-ended. And on a Saturday afternoon in December, Wright kissed her mother on the cheek, went upstairs, and suffocated herself with a plastic bag.