Rape Investigation Rocks Elite University's Lacrosse Team


March 27, 2006 — -- Forty-six players of the No. 2 ranked Duke University lacrosse team have submitted DNA samples to police amid allegations of sexual assault at an off-campus party during spring break.

Police are investigating the claim of a woman who says she was raped, beaten and strangled at an East Campus party hosted by the Duke lacrosse team on March 13. According to a search warrant, the woman was hired to perform as an exotic dancer for a small gathering, but she and her companion dancer found themselves surrounded by dozens of men while performing in the master bedroom.

The women began to leave and chose to return only after one of the suspects came out to their car and apologized. The women said they were immediately separated when they returned to the house. The alleged rape victim said she was pulled into the bathroom and told, "Sweetheart, you cannot leave."

According to the warrant, the woman later called police from a nearby grocery store.

In a statement, Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead said: "Physical coercion and sexual assault are unacceptable in any setting and have no place at Duke. The criminal allegations against three members of our men's lacrosse team, if verified, will warrant very serious penalties."

All but one member of the lacrosse team submitted DNA samples, but according to a search warrant obtained by ABC's WTVD-TV in Raleigh-Durham, Durham police are interested in only three men. No charges have yet been filed, but police have promised to "expedite" the DNA samples, according to Susan Kauffman, of Duke University's Public Affairs office.

The last member of the lacrosse team was not asked to submit a DNA sample because he was African-American and the alleged victim said the perpetrators of the crime were white.

The scandal has shaken the decorated lacrosse team during the height of its season. The university has already forfeited two games in response to the ongoing investigations, including Tuesday's game against Mount St. Mary's.

"Several players who were present acknowledge ... that they did hire private party dancers and that underage drinking occurred," said Duke University's director of athletics Joe Alleva. "The judgment of the team members to host and participate in this event is inconsistent with the values of Duke athletics and Duke University and is unacceptable."

The scandal has also prompted reaction from area residents, who gathered this weekend to demonstrate against sexual violence. About 100 activists protested for a third day in front of the house where the crime apparently occurred. The house is owned by Duke University and rented by lacrosse team players.

The university recently bought more than a dozen homes in the area in hopes of bettering relations with members of the community who had complained of raucous activity by the university's students.

"Whatever that inquiry may show, it is already clear that many students acted in a manner inappropriate to a Duke team member in participating in the March 13 party," Brodhead said.

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