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Was it a Sex Show or Rape That People Watched?

March 21, 1991

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ The president of a college fraternity where a woman reported she was sexually assaulted on the lawn says several people watched without intervening because they didn’t think it was an attack.

Chi Phi Fraternity President Benjamin Schomburg said he, another fraternity resident and a security guard even walked within 20 feet of the man and woman on the ground but decided to leave them alone.

Several others watched the couple from a window inside the University of Wisconsin frat house during the estimated 10 minutes between when the two were noticed and when police arrived and the man fled, Schomburg said.

″The reaction between all of us was, ’not the brightest thing to do, and definitely in poor taste, but let’s give them some privacy and go inside,‴ Schomburg told The Associated Press.

City police spokeswoman Dorothy Spicer said an unusually large number of officers and a lieutenant went to the house March 10 because they received a call that a sexual assault was in progress.

Police have declined to identify the witnesses, the responding officers or the person who called police. The fraternity has advised its members not to talk with the media, Schomburg said.

The initial police report quoted witness accounts that 25 to 30 people stood around the couple and cheered them on, but follow-up interviews have since refuted the report, Ms. Spicer said.

Detectives refused Wednesday to allow an AP reporter to see the report.

Police reports are usually open for public inspection but Ms. Spicer said this report was being kept secret because it was part of a continuing investigation into ″a sensitive crime.″

Some students and university administrators have expressed outrage at the lack of action by onlookers among the 200 students who attended the party at Chi Phi.

″The continuing violence against women is deplorable,″ Dean of Students Mary Rouse said Wednesday, noting two other sexual assaults were reported in the same week near the campus’ fraternity row.

″Sexual assaults not only occur when there is a fighting, struggling victim, but also occur when women are too incapacitated or in too much shock to respond at all,″ she said.

Police continue investigating the 18-year-old woman’s allegations but say they have been unable to identify the man.

Ms. Spicer confirmed that police have determined that some people at the party watched the couple engaged in sex and one even said, ″Can you believe what those two are doing ... what’s going on out there?″

She and the fraternity have declined to estimate the exact number of onlookers.

Schomburg said he, fraternity resident assistant Craig Stephenson and an unidentified security guard hired to monitor the party went out to investigate when they spotted the couple on the lawn.

″It did not appear to be a sex assault as such. There were no aggressive actions,″ Schomburg said.

″I saw two people having sex, but I saw nothing unusual about the sex they were having. It did not look like a sex assault,″ Stephenson added.

Stephenson said shortly after he returned inside the house the couple got off the lawn and tried twice to re-enter the party together, but were refused.

″He had his arm around her. They seemed friendly,″ Stephenson said.

A few minutes later - or seven to 10 minutes after witnesses initially saw the event - police arrived and the man left and the woman stayed at the house and reported she was sexually assaulted, Schomburg said.

Schomburg and police said that someone in the neighboring fraternity called police, but could not or would not identify the individual or say why he felt police were needed at the scene.