This past spring, a young woman walked into Boise Weekly HQ with a story to tell. She said she'd been to nearly every media outlet in town but no one was interested in pursuing what she described as a gang rape that occurred at North Idaho College in 2013, but which school officials refused to investigate. When asked to back up her claims, she delivered a thick file of papers containing emails and reports—covering months of back-and-forth communications with college administrators, internal conversations among staff members at the community college and surveillance records from residence assistants at the dorm where she lived—all received by her through public records requests.
After several conversations with BW News Editor George Prentice, the young woman—who was 17 at the time of the alleged assault—described her ordeal and unsuccessful attempts to get the incident addressed by the appropriate officials. However, when we were prepared to go forward with her story, she decided she'd rather not participate. Then, a few months later, we heard from her again. She wanted to work with us to investigate her situation, but not until after the federal lawsuit she intended to pursue against NIC—alleging the college violated federal law by not following up on her claims—was filed. That happened on Sept. 22.
On Page 7, Prentice draws on the copious records compiled by the alleged victim, as well as interviews with her and her former roommate, the young woman's Boise-based attorney and education officials. NIC administrators would not comment on the specifics of the case as it is a pending legal action.
Stories like this one are perilous for everyone involved. For the alleged victim, they carry the risk of being revictimized. For school officials they are potentially damaging to careers and reputations—likewise for the journalists who present them.
That's also why stories like this one are important. The statistics on college rape and sexual assault are shocking. While 23 percent of female undergrads will experience rape or sexual assault, only 20 percent of alleged victims aged 18-24 will report their attack to authorities. We think that's reason enough to listen to the ones who do come forward.