By Hoda Kotb Correspondent
NBC News

It’s supposed to be the best four years of your life. But five young women “Dateline” spoke to say that for them, college turned into something very different.

Five college students who say they were sexually assaulted on campus. But this is a story of how their universities handled their cases. When each of these women reported being attacked by a fellow student, did their schools act quickly or strongly enough?

Annie, Kate and Samantha, went to the University of Virginia, Georgetown and William and Mary. All three say they were raped by fellow students their freshman year of college. All three reported the alleged assaults to school officials.

Annie: Right away I wanted to go through the adjudication process the school has to offer. I’m like, let’s get it going now.  I want him out.”

Samantha: I was hoping that he would—they would force him off campus, and force him off campus quickly, and that he’s never be able to come back. 

Students reporting acquaintance rape often turn first to campus officials: these allegations are hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court because it’s often one person’s word against another. Many schools hold formal court-like hearings where panels of faculty and students determine whether a student is responsible for sexual misconduct and recommend how to discipline a student who is found responsible.

Samantha says after filing a police report, she was told William and Mary officials would get in touch with her promptly. But she says a few days later, she hadn’t heard a thing.

Samantha: Actually I had to contact the Dean’s Office myself and just say, “Yes, I was raped.  Why haven’t you guys called me yet?”

Hoda Kotb, Dateline Correspondent: And what did they say the hold up was?

Samantha: There was just a lot of busy stuff.  And it took them a while to write up the report.  Apparently some very serious things had happened that week.  And I felt like screaming, “Well hello, I was raped. Is that not serious enough for you?”

Samantha, Kate and Annie all say they were discouraged by university officials from moving forward with their cases, claims school officials deny. All three students say they pushed their schools to hold hearings anyway.

All three were found responsible for sexual misconduct.

Samantha’s alleged assailant was dismissed from William and Mary, but given the opportunity to reapply after a year. In the end, he did not.

Georgetown initially decided to expel Kate’s alleged attacker, but after he appealed, the punishment was changed to a one year suspension.

Kate: Expulsion would be too harsh. Like that I wasn’t important enough to say “You don’t belong here.”

Annie’s alleged assailant wasn’t expelled or suspended from UVA — instead he was ordered to stay away from Annie, and required to attend counseling.

Annie: It was disgusting.  It was, you know, it said that anything that I was worth, I was worth a restraining order?

All the more infuriating, Annie says, when compared to UVA’s strict academic honor code. Students are automatically expelled if they violate it, by say cheating on an exam.

Kotb: Everyone knows that if you cheat, you’re out.  If you steal, you’re out. If you lie, you’re out.

Annie: If you rape, you graduate.

After Annie’s alleged assailant graduated from UVA, she sued him in civil court, and a jury found him liable for gross negligence. He is asking the judge to throw out that verdict.

The men accused of attacking Annie, Samantha and Kate have all denied any wrongdoing. And none of them was prosecuted.

Each year, about 4,000 U.S. college students report to school officials that they’ve been sexually assaulted. What happens after they file those reports has stirred controversy at campuses across the country: Dateline took a closer look at the case of one young woman— Stacy, at Ohio State University.

Stacy: I know that this nightmare will follow me for the rest of my life.

Stacy’s freshman year at Ohio State back in 2001, started out as you might expect — football games, all nighters, a little too much partying and plenty of friends.

Stacy: I loved my roommates.  Everything.  My grades were up.  Everything was going as planned.

Kotb: Really?  What kind of grades did you get your first semester?

Stacy: Around a 3.5.

One of the guys Stacy hung around with freshman year was Jeremy Goldstein, a wrestling star from her high school back in Cleveland. Stacy acknowledges she had consensual sex with Jeremy once in October. But she says what happened the night of February 22, 2002 was completely different.

That night, Stacy came back from an off campus bar— a little buzzed, she says, but not drunk—and met up with Jeremy for a smoke outside his dorm. Stacy says he’d left his cigarettes upstairs, so she agreed to go to his room. But she says she told him she wasn’t interested in anything physical.

Kotb: Is there any way Jeremy could have misunderstood when you went up to his room that night?

Stacy: No.

Kotb: Is there any way he could have thought—

Stacy: Not a chance.

Kotb: She’s coming up here and we know what’s going to happen.

Stacy: No way.  Not a chance. I said, “We are not hooking up, right? You know that right?”

Kotb: And he said?

Stacy: Oh of course.  My roommate’s up there.

But his roommate was passed out cold. Jeremy started to kiss her and at first she let him, but Stacy says the former wrestler turned violent, pulling down her pants, and penetrating her with his hand, and biting her neck, all while he had her pinned down. 

Stacy: My hands above my head.  Pulling my ears with his teeth.  Telling me how much I was enjoying it, although I was gasping in pain. And right away he was—started raping me.  And I told him several times—I don’t know what words I can use and what words I can’t.  But, “Get the fuck off me.”

Stacy says the third time she yelled so loud his roommate stirred and Jeremy got off of her. She says she walked back to her dorm, feeling numb. The next day, she went to a university official and reported she’d been raped.

Kotb: How tough was it, Stacy, to get those words out?  I was raped? 

Stacy: I couldn’t even say the word rape for a very long time.  Months.

The official wrote up Stacy’s allegation and called the police, who asked if she wanted to file a criminal report. Stacy told them she wasn’t sure and didn’t do so.

During the spring semester, Stacy tried to get back to her classes and her friends. The whirr of college life was going on all around her, but Stacy says she didn’t feel a part of it.

Stacy: There’d be nights that I would just turn off every light in  my room, even the TV and just lay there.

By the week before final exams, Stacy says, she was in danger of failing all her classes.

Stacy: I withdrew from classes, every class spring quarter.  Because if I wanted to get a "D" in any of the classes, I would have to get 100 percent on every final.

Kotb: Was there a low point that you just said, “That’s it, I need to do something and I need to do it now”?

Stacy: I was angry because as far as I knew, Jeremy Goldstein was going on about his life as if nothing had happened. And I was just sitting in my room in the dark, metaphorically and literally. And that, to me was not justice.

Stacy took incompletes in her classes. But before she left school that June of her freshman year, four months after she says she was raped, she decided to go back to the police and file a criminal report. As the criminal investigation of Jeremy Goldstein got underway, Stacy says she wanted the university to take action against him too — to have him expelled. Starting in the fall of her sophomore year, she says, she had several conversations with the official in charge of campus hearings, but she says those talks went nowhere.

Kotb: You went to the head of judicial affairs to say what?

Stacy: Say I want a school hearing.

Kotb: And he said what?

Stacy: "If I were you it would be in your best interest to wait until the criminal proceedings were over."

But justice was moving slowly through the criminal courts. And at Ohio State, no further action was taken on Stacy’s case all through her sophomore year.

Then, at the end of her sophomore year, Jeremy was indicted for rape by a Columbus grand jury. Stacy says she came back to school the next fall, a year and a half after the alleged assault, determined to push for his expulsion. And that’s when she says a rape counselor she was seeing happened to mention something university officials had never told her:

Just three weeks before Stacy says she was assaulted, another student had filed a complaint against Jeremy Goldstein.

Her name is Jamie, and freshman year at Ohio State, she lived in Baker hall, where Jeremy Goldstein lived too. Jamie says she and Jeremy had never even kissed, but she says one night as she was getting ready to go to a party with him, Jeremy suddenly attacked her.

Jamie: He was laying on top of me.  And holding me, holding my arms.  He could hold both of my arms with his one arm, so he could use his other arm to get his clothes off and try and take my clothes off.  And I struggled.  And he was, like, laying on my legs, too, so like, I couldn’t really kick him.

Jamie says Jeremy pulled down her pants, talking to her all the while.

Jamie: [He said] “You want me and you know you want this.” 

And I was like, “No, Jeremy, I don’t.  This is not what I want.” 

He’s like, “Yes, you do.”  I was like, “No, it’s not.”*

Like Stacy, Jamie says Jeremy bit her neck and ears and penetrated her with his hand. She says he tried to have intercourse with her but was unable. The next day, Jamie reported the incident to her resident advisor. She also filed a police report, but decided not to press charges. She says she didn’t want to go through the ordeal of a trial, and she didn’t push to have Jeremy expelled, but she did want officials to get him away from her.

Jamie: I wanted action taken as soon as they could get it done.  And I wanted him out of the dorm.  I didn’t wanna have to see him.

Dorm officials met with Jeremy and Jamie and determined that Jeremy was responsible for sexual misconduct he was put on disciplinary probation— and was moved to another co-ed dorm right next door.

That’s where Stacy says Jeremy assaulted her just three weeks later.

And soon, there was another complaint — one filed by three women a few weeks after Stacy says she was raped. “He got close to my face pointing at me and pushing me, calling me all those nasty names,” reported one student. “He pushed me against the wall.” wrote another. A third was the most blunt: “This guy should not be around any of the girls on this floor, and for that matter guys either... It’s not safe.”

Soon after those reports, Ohio State officials did remove Jeremy from university housing on a drinking violation. He moved into an apartment building just off campus and he was still free to go to classes, to parties and into many Ohio state dorms.

And that’s how things stayed for the next year and a half until Stacy’s junior year. She says the whole time, she lived in fear of her classmate Jeremy Goldstein.

Stacy: Terrified. Peeking your head in front of every corner. At the start of a new quarter, “Oh my gosh, do I have class with him? Where does he live?” And walking on one side of the street just because you think he probably is walking on the other.

Stacy has sued Ohio State, arguing the school should have moved more quickly to expel him. University officials declined our repeated requests for an on camera interview. But in court papers responding to Stacy’s lawsuit, they say they did nothing wrong.

University officials point out that Jamie never asked to have Jeremy expelled. And they say it was Stacy, not them, who decided to delay the school hearing so it wouldn’t interfere with the criminal proceedings. They say it was difficult to assess the credibility of both young women because Stacy acknowledged that previous sexual encounter with Jeremy, and Jamie said she’d gone to a party with Jeremy just after the alleged attack.

And campus officials point out that in the end they did take decisive action against Jeremy Goldstein.

On September 23, 2003 a year and a half after Stacy and Jamie reported being sexually assaulted by Jeremy Goldstein, and with a criminal rape charge pending, a one-day hearing was held at the university judicial affairs office. That same week, he was expelled from Ohio State.

Kotb: Essentially they did everything they could cause, they expelled him and that’s the most they can do. Isn’t that enough?

Stacy: Too little, too late. Ohio State could have prevented this.

Prevented it, Stacy says, by taking stronger action against Jeremy after the first sexual assault allegation.

Daniel Carter, vice president of victims rights group Security on Campus: It’s offensive. And it’s dangerous. And it’s something that if parents recognized was going on, they would be demand they would be up in arms demanding changes.

Daniel Carter has helped Stacy and raise complaints about their universities with the U.S. department of education. He says many schools try to keep rape allegations very quiet.

Carter: A college or university often times is very afraid of what will happen to their enrollment, questions from parents:  questions from contributors. It looks bad for the college.

Sheldon Steinback, lawyer at American Council on Education: I don’t think universities are in anyway looking to conceal what’s happening on campus.

Steinback, a top lawyer at the American council on education which represents universities across the country, did not comment on the Ohio state case, but he says in general, it’s important to remember how difficult it is for universities to get to the bottom of acquaintance rape allegations. Often, both the accused and the accuser have been drinking.

Steinback: When only two people are in a room and there isn’t any physical evidence, that would dramatically demonstrate what has transpired, it is very hard to move forward..

Kotb: When someone is found responsible of sexual misconduct, why don’t they just kick them out of school like that?

Steinback: In many instances they do.

Kotb: Well, in some they don’t.

Steinback: People’s assessment of what is just and fair, in many instances that’s in the eyes of the beholder.

And universities are concerned not just about the victim’s rights, but also about the rights of students who could be falsely accused.

Steinback: They are both their students and they have a moral and legal responsibility to both students.

As for Jeremy Goldstein, he denies he raped Stacy and he denies the allegations made against him by the other women at Ohio State.

But last year, he pleaded guilty in Stacy’s case to sexual imposition, a misdemeanor described in the state code as having sex when “the offender knows that the sexual contact is offensive to the other person” or when the other person is so impaired she can’t appraise the situation.

Following state guidelines, the judge sentenced to Jeremy to two years probation, and ordered him to undergo an evaluation for sexual aggression.

But that’s not quite the end of the Jeremy Goldstein case. In fact, this story ends where it began, on a co-ed college campus.

In 2004, Jeremy applied, and was accepted, to Bernard Baruch College in New York City.

Officials at Ohio State told dateline the transcripts OSU sent to Jeremy’s new school included no information about his expulsion, or about the reports filed against him by female students. They say OSU’s policy is not to release disciplinary records unless the school receives a specific inquiry.

Kotb: You know Jeremy Goldstein is in college in NY. Do you think about him, what he’s doing?

Stacy: Scares me because in my mind it’s a whole new batch of women that don't know him or his history.

Stacy’s lawsuit against Ohio State is still pending. She has now transferred to Kent State University, and expects to graduate in the spring.

The University of Virginia, where Annie went to school, has now strengthened its policies against sexual assault on campus.

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