Kyra Battaglia remembers the fraternity brother pushing her onto a bed, pulling off her clothes, fondling her, and shoving her face toward his crotch at a party last February.
Battaglia, a junior, also remembers how she felt reporting that alleged assault to the University, which in October found the accused not responsible.
“It was procedural — it wasn’t substantive at all,” she told the Campus Times in November. “They were just going through the motions to make sure they did everything right, but they didn’t care, necessarily, about the people involved.”
Battaglia is one of several students who told the Campus Times this past fall about their difficulties reporting sexual misconduct. She believes UR botched her hearing, and an appeal board last month agreed.
Details about Battaglia’s anxiety and depression medication were considered by the hearing panel, a move that violated the University’s sexual misconduct policy.
“The appeal board may return the matter for a new hearing if a procedural error occurred that was substantive enough to alter the decision,” that board wrote in a letter to Battaglia on Dec. 6. “There is evidence that this was the case.”
The accused, in his testimony, referred to the medication. It was discussed during the hearing. And the panel, in its decision, used the medication as a reason to discount evidence about Battaglia’s emotional state after the alleged incident.
‘Appeared to be frozen’
Battaglia drank one mojito before heading to the Fraternity Quad that night, according to a copy of her Public Safety case file obtained by the Campus Times.
She and a senior friend went to one house and, around 1 a.m., left for another. After a bit, the two headed upstairs to an open dorm room to escape the noise. There, they met the accused, a senior brother of the fraternity. The Campus Times will not be publishing his name.
He started to grind on her and asked if she was single.
“It looked to me that she was dancing to be friendly but didn’t appear to be really into it. When [he] reached out to touch Kyra, she would move so he couldn’t,” Battaglia’s friend told Public Safety.
Near 2 a.m., according to message screenshots included in the evidence for Battaglia’s hearing, her friend texted another of the fraternity’s brothers that she was on the bottom bunk of a bed and that she thought Battaglia and the brother were having sex above. According to the hearing decision, the panel found both parties agreed the two’s kissing on that top bunk was consensual. In her interviews with the Campus Times, Battaglia maintained that the brother had kissed her without consent.
Then the friend left the room.
At that point, the narrative blurs. Testimonies from Battaglia, her friend, and other witnesses contradict about the timeline of events.
The brother pushed up Battaglia’s shirt and grabbed her chest, the junior said in her deposition. He grabbed her hands and forced them to his exposed penis.
“I don’t even know how he got his pants off as it happened so quickly,” Battaglia said. “I was scared and didn’t know what to do but this was not what I wanted.”
Someone knocked on the door, and Battaglia told the brother he better answer it. Maybe she could get out. The visitor just grabbed a jacket and left.
She had been able to get her pants back on — the brother had pulled them down — but he closed the door again and started to kiss her. He pushed her back on the bed and fondled her. Then he flipped her off her back so that she was on top of him and began to push her head toward his crotch. She said no and kept turning her head away.
Again there was a knock. It was her friend.
“I entered the room to see [him] hovering over Kyra on the top bunk with his pants unbuckled,” the senior told Public Safety in a June deposition. “Kyra was on her back and appeared to be frozen. Her shirt was pulled up to her shoulders and her pants were pulled down. I immediately asked her something like, ‘Do you want this?’ And she looked me in the eyes and nodded her head ‘no.’”
How Battaglia got out of the room is unclear from the testimonies. Her friend said she told the brother to get off Battaglia. The friend said she turned around and walked away, thinking Battaglia was following, but then she realized she was not.
She found Battaglia crying in the room, alone, she said.
In Battaglia’s account, she had offered her phone number to satisfy the accused. He replied by saying he had gotten so many already, that he couldn’t guarantee he would remember her. She told him she was going to go, but he grabbed her in a bear hug and lifted her off her feet. He was backing them up to the bed when he stumbled and they both fell, she said. Battaglia said she ran out of the room and found her friend outside.
The accused, in a May interview with Public Safety, said he was never alone with Battaglia and that the encounter was mutual. He was temporarily suspended that month but is now back at UR.
‘Weren’t really transparent with anything’
After the incident, Battaglia would text her friend whenever she saw the brother.
“Kyra felt like everyone on campus knew what [he] did to her and she would often come to my dorm to feel safe as she couldn’t be alone,” the friend told Public Safety.
“I really think he should go home, she’s scarred,” the friend said in a text message the afternoon after the incident.
Battaglia went ahead with reporting the encounter, first to Title IX coordinator Morgan Levy and then to Public Safety. The process was later taken over from Levy by Kyle Orton, the assistant dean of students and director of the Center for Student Conflict Management. The center handles conduct claims.
Battaglia called the process “wishy-washy.”
The hearing was rescheduled three different times. She said she was told she couldn’t have a lawyer as an advocate in the hearing; the accused did. Multiple emails provided to the Campus Times show Battaglia playing digital tag with Levy, and Orton telling her a recording of the accused’s May interview would be made accessible to her — but giving her a two-page summary instead.
The hearing board, violating UR’s sexual student misconduct policy, allowed and then accounted for information about Battaglia’s mental health medication. It used that information as a reason to discount evidence about what happened right after the alleged assault — her emotional reaction, the board figured, could have been the result of her medication.
“The declarant and the respondent shall have the right to exclude their own prior sexual history with persons other than the other party and/or their own mental health diagnosis and/or treatment from admission in the hearing for purposes of determining responsibility,” the policy reads.
“It is impossible for us to conclude as to a specific root cause of her distress,” the hearing board wrote in its Oct. 26 decision. “Any one of several factors or a combination of things, brought up throughout the hearing, could have been the cause of her emotion. Examples include, but are not limited to, [Battaglia] recently started a new medication, she had consumed alcohol that evening, she and her boyfriend had recently broken up, and she had a sexual encounter with a person she just met. Therefore we do not find that the information regarding what happened immediately after the incident provides conclusive support for either [account of the encounter].”
Battaglia said the hearing board focused mostly on the witnesses — the majority of whom were brothers of the accused’s fraternity — and didn’t trust what she had to say. One of the two board members was accusatory, she said, and continued asking if she had said no.
“They weren’t really transparent with anything,” she said.
‘No process is infallible’
Both Levy and Orton said errors in the process are extremely rare, and couldn’t speak of any details regarding individual cases.
“Our hearing boards are trained annually and that although these cases can be complex, errors in procedure are rare,” Orton told the Campus Times in an email. “However, no process is infallible and we recognize that mistakes occasionally occur. The appeal process serves, among other functions, as a way to correct them.”
Hearing panels are made up of two members, usually pulled from a pool of five or six based on availability and whether they know any parties involved. Appeal boards have three members and, according to Orton, they can to uphold the original decision, alter it, or ask for another hearing.
Levy, replying to a question about students’ difficulties in reporting through her, said she wasn’t sure how respond “as we have had a steady increase in reports of sexual misconduct every year.”
She hopes students who find her unhelpful reach out and let her know.
Battaglia is still at UR, still reckoning with what happened to her. She doesn’t expect anything to change after her new hearing.
“I’m telling my story and I’m fighting this because it needs to be done in order to help others who are forced into situations such as this,” she said. “I’ll never be okay with what happened, but it did happen, and that doesn’t define me, because I’m so much more.”
This story is part of an ongoing CT series, “When the Process Fails,” covering students’ experiences reporting sexual misconduct to the University. Any student who has an experience they want to share is encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org, a private email unaffiliated with UR. Sexual assault resources can be found through RESTORE.