Allegations of assault and rape made by four female University of San Francisco students prompted the arrest of 21-year-old USF senior Ryan Caskey last Thursday. Caskey was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department on campus in the early evening and is currently incarcerated at the SF County Jail awaiting arraignment, when he will enter a plea of guilt or innocence.
Each of the reported rape incidents took place in on-campus residence halls over the last several months according to USF Director of Public Safety Dan Lawson. All of the alleged victims were female students and acquaintances of Caskey. One of the female students came to Lawson with her testimony on Feb. 10, and from there Public Safety was able to investigate, conduct interviews with other alleged victims, and make a case to present to SFPD. SFPD was contacted Feb. 11, and after reviewing the case, they took Caskey into custody the following evening.
Because of confidentiality required by the justice system, Lawson is not able to release many specific details about the case to the public. This ensures a fair trial if Caskey eventually faces a trial by jury and also protects the confidentiality of all parties involved. Lawson could not clarify when or where the alleged rapes took place, or whether date rape drugs were said to have been used.
The four alleged victims are currently receiving counseling for their trauma. Their identities are being protected for their own privacy.
Senior politics major Erin-Kate Escobar, who did not know the alleged victims, said she felt “so proud” of the women who came forward to testify about what had happened. “I feel empowered by their strength; I don’t know if I would have been as strong,” she said. Many cases of sexual assault and rape go unreported because the victims don’t know if they were really raped, or think they might have partially been at fault. Rape and sexual assaults are among the most unreported crimes; the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.
Lawson emphasized that the nature of the rapes were “acquaintance rapes” as opposed to “stranger rapes,” a distinction that should be less fear-inducing to the community. He said, “Many people in the community are fearful when they hear that a rape has occurred. Their understanding is that somebody was waiting behind a bush or climbed in through a window – a complete stranger.” Lawson added, “[An acquaintance rape] is not any less severe. But it is important to remember that [Caskey] knew all of the victims, and they knew him.”
According to RAINN, 73 percent of rape victims know their assailants.
Many students at USF have reacted with an expectable amount of outrage. A group of about 12 concerned students gathered Monday night to develop a list of requests for the administration to increase awareness and education about sexual assault and rape. The requests focused on educating students about what defines sexual assault.
Erika Carlsen, a senior politics major, attended the meeting and said that education about sexual abuse should be sustainable, an integral part of orientation to college. These students plan to solicit feedback and concerns from more students at a meeting on Thursday in Parina Lounge at 11:30 am. After gathering this information, they plan to draft a letter to the administration that addresses these issues.
Maggie Mullens, a senior sociology major who attended the meeting, was concerned that more students were not discussing this matter more seriously. “I’m furious that the average student isn’t more furious,” she said. She was also concerned about the University’s policy of being what she called “intentionally vague,” only releasing the most basic information to the student body, who she felt had the right to know the whole story. Lawson justified that this was standard protocol and he had been specifically asked by the SFPD to not release any more information than was necessary.
Caskey was in his fourth year at USF, majoring in politics. In addition to his studies, he was also serving as a cadet in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
He is now on interim suspension from the university, which stipulates that he not attend classes, take part in any USF-affiliated activities, reside in his apartment in Loyola Village, or enter any part of the campus until further notice. If Caskey is found not guilty or has his charges dropped, the university may reevaluate the situation and permit him to re-enroll in his classes and on-campus housing.
If he is found guilty on the charges, he could face between three and eight years in state prison for each count of rape, according to California Penal Code Section 261.
The Department of Public Safety continues to investigate the case and is leaving the door open for any more victims to come forward, whether related to this case or any other.
Lawson said he hoped the University community will look at this as a warning to exercise more caution in the future. “Use this as a learning moment,” he said. “Bad things happen sometimes, even on a very safe campus – and this is a very safe campus… What matters is how we’re prepared to react to it and prevent it from happening in the future.”
To Escobar, the best way to prepare against this is more education about rape and sexual assault. “I want to see students want to be educated,” she said. “We need to make it part of our curriculum.”
Lawson recommended simple measures to help prevent rape. “We don’t ever want to say that a victim is at fault in these situations,” Lawson said. “What we do want to say is there are ways to avoid being put in those circumstances… Keep an eye on your friend and take care of each other – that’s what we want to promote.”