On Feb. 28, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom fired back against claims that UM bungled its response to two recent sexual assault allegations and, in doing so, gave the alleged assailant a chance to flee.
"People are understandably angry that this perpetrator escaped," Engstrom said during a student forum on campus Tuesday. "I'm angry that he escaped. But he didn't escape because the university sat on information about sexual assault for a week."
During the past two months, UM has been made aware of 10 allegations of sexual assault involving UM students dating back to the fall of 2010. The most recent allegations stem from one male student's behavior during two separate incidents that took place in the early morning hours of Feb. 10.
That afternoon, a woman reported to UM's Office of Public Safety that a male student had forced her into a car. Engstrom said the woman told campus police that the man gave her alcohol and drugs. Campus police characterized the incident as alcohol related, not as a sexual assault.
"The female did not report a sexual assault. And to this day the incident has not been characterized as a sexual assault," Engstrom said. "Campus police, in consultation with the City Attorney's Office, that day determined the crime to be providing alcohol to a person under 21."
Engstrom said that UM only became aware of sexual assault allegations lodged against the same male student Feb. 17. That's when a second alleged victim told UM Dean of Students Charles Couture that the aggressor forced her to drink alcohol and then raped her. That rape allegedly occurred hours after the first woman said she was abducted and forced to drink alcohol.
Despite recent reporting to the contrary, Engstrom said there was no delay between the time UM first learned of the sexual assault Feb. 17 and when administrators emailed a safety advisory to the campus community. "The day that the sexual assault was reported, our dean of students took action," he said.
After learning of the allegations Feb. 17, the Missoula Police Department began monitoring the alleged assailant, Engstrom said. "But with no criminal charges filed by the victim, the perpetrator was not taken into custody...The perpetrator subsequently fled and left the country."