First-year student tells story of sexual assault

Olivia Doak

Trigger Warning: This article contains a graphic depiction of sexual assault and violence with the consent of the survivor.
First-year Ella Roadruck said she was sexually assaulted in her dorm room on Thursday, Feb. 11.
Roadruck said the person she accused of assault came to her room to watch a movie. He told Roadruck to sit next to him on the bed. Hesitantly, she sat next to him, and he started to kiss her. Roadruck said she told him to stop, but he continued and pushed her on the bed where he partially undressed her. 
Roadruck fought back by kicking him, and that’s when she said he put his hands around her throat and strangled her until she was unconscious. 
After some time, Roadruck said she woke up and wasn’t able to breathe because he was on top of her and sexually assaulting her. Roadruck then told him her roommate was coming back soon. 
When she told him this, Roadruck said he slapped her and said, “I’ll have to finish this later.” He refused to leave until the roommate returned. 
“I was scared for my life,” said Roadruck, who agreed to speak with the Observer. “I honestly didn’t think I would survive the assault.”
In shock, Roadruck didn’t tell anyone what happened right away. 
“It was really hard and I didn’t know how to respond,” said Roadruck, who has since filed a Title IX report with Augustana. “I was worried that if I told someone that no one would believe me and that people would turn against me.”
The next night, Roadruck was walking back from the Gerber Center with friends when she slipped and fell on ice and dislocated her knee. An ambulance was called and she went to the hospital with her roommate.
After she got her knee looked at, she decided to ask for a nurse and told her what happened the night before. She had a neck CT scan done and the doctors looked at the bruises around her neck.
“The doctors told me I could’ve died,” Roadruck said. “Luckily, I didn’t have any permanent damage.”
While she was at the hospital, Roadruck asked if she could also get a rape kit done. 
“In that very moment, I don’t know what drove me to ask for it,” Roadruck said. “It just felt like something I needed to do.”
Shortly after, Roadruck told her floor what happened. Sophomore Grace Tarpey, Roadruck’s floormate, said the girls in the wing now carry pepper spray, go to the bathroom with a buddy and keep the hallway lights on at all times. 
“Now people are getting pepper spray and carrying things like that around with them just to feel safe on the floor,” Tarpey said.
Initially, Roadruck said she wasn’t planning on doing anything about what had happened to her. Since then, she’s filed a formal complaint with Augustana’s Title IX committee and said she is involved with a separate investigation by the Rock Island Police Department (RIPD). Roadruck is waiting on the state’s attorney to approve or deny her case, which will dictate whether it will go to trial. 
Roadruck currently has an emergency order of protection against the person she said assaulted her. She will also go back to court in two weeks to request a two-year restraining order.
However, Roadruck said she’s frustrated with how long the process, both with Title IX and the investigation with RIPD, will take.
Title IX investigations typically last 90 days. But the investigation separate from the school could potentially be much longer. According to what the hospital told Roadruck, because of the backlog on DNA testing in Illinois, the results from the rape test won’t come in for at least nine months. The RIPD told Roadruck that they likely won’t be able to question the person accused of the assault if he has a lawyer, and if he doesn’t willingly submit DNA then a subpoena will be needed to obtain it, which also takes time.
Between the two separate investigations, Roadruck is looking at a process that won’t be complete for one to two years.
“The school is, right now, doing what they can from what I can tell,” Roadruck said. 
Augustana’s Title IX team cannot share any details about specific cases in order to protect the confidentiality of the survivor and do a thorough investigation. But for some students, a lack of information feels like a lack of action on behalf of the school. 
“I don’t know of anything that the school has really done other than send an email,” sophomore Kathryn Benshish said. “Otherwise, we don’t really know what they’re doing, which is kind of upsetting. It seems like there’s not much action.”
Roadruck gave the Title IX team the emergency order of protection on Monday, Feb. 22. According to Roadruck, the Title IX committee said once she gave them the order, two investigators would reach out, and she expressed impatience that it hasn’t happened yet. 
“It can be hard to have patience for the process, but it’s important to do so,” said Keri Rursch, assistant vice president of communications and marketing. “Keeping such matters confidential is our obligation, our responsibility and the right thing to do.”
Word of what happened spread around campus. Students responded by using their voices and expressing their frustration with the college. 
Students have been emailing the dean of students and posting content related to the incident on social media. Since then, the dean of students and student government sent emails to campus in response to student anger.
Tarpey said she felt dissonance both on the floor she and Roadruck live on and in the larger campus community.
“It was just very eerie to be out on the floor and in the hallway. There was just deafening silence,” Tarpey said. “And it’s similar to campus in that you can tell that there’s just a lot of unrest at the moment, whether that be from people online or in person, people are very unhappy with the situation.”
On top of it all, the incident occurred the first week Roadruck moved on campus. She deferred her first semester. That Monday and Tuesday she had orientation, Wednesday was her first day of class and Thursday was the day she said she was assaulted. 
“When I came to Augie, I was hoping the experience … was going to be a fresh start,” Roadruck said, “and then this all happened within the first week.”
But one thing that surprised Roadruck was how much support she’s received from the student body.
“I’m getting messages from sororities, seniors and people I don’t even know just reaching out and giving me support.” she said. “Rather than everyone turning against me and calling me a liar, this unconditional support is completely different.”
From what she’s seen on social media, Benshish said that the student body has been overall supporting Roadruck. 
“Everyone that I’ve seen has just been offering their support for the survivor and trying to raise awareness and call for action,” Benshish said.
Even though she said she appreciates the support from her peers, Roadruck said it’s also been overwhelming. 
“Sometimes I don’t know if I can handle it,” she said. “But I want to stay. I just got here. My college experience shouldn’t be determined by this.”
Ultimately, Roadruck said she is determined not to give up on her case.
“I’m a very optimistic person, so right now my outlook is that things can only get better.” she said. “To know that I could be preventing someone else from going through what I went through, it makes me feel good. Even though it’ll be hell going through it, it’ll be worth it in the long run.” 
Click here for access to resources or further information about Title IX.