The police report is chilling, but unfortunately standard: A young University of Washington student is chased around her apartment by an angry boyfriend, a black belt in martial arts, who threatens to "use a death move on her." After they break up, the harassment continues. In the police report she cites "ongoing harassing e-mails from her ex-boyfriend." A week after she filed the report, her boyfriend e-mailed to tell her he was going to be around campus. The woman asked the University of Washington Police Department (UWPD) for protection. Her request was denied.
In the wake of Rebecca Griego's murder on April 2, it is hard to believe that a young woman trying to protect herself from a violent ex-boyfriend would have trouble getting help. After the Virginia Tech massacre two weeks later, it is also hard to believe that university police would be anything less than overly cautious. However, following Griego's murder at Gould Hall, UW's Assistant Police Chief Ray Wittmier said that the incident would "probably not" affect how UW handles its internal security. Indeed, Wittmier—referring to this woman's request—told The Stranger, "to be able to make that happen, we'd have to be able to double or triple our workforce. The numbers aren't there." And this is exactly what UWPD told her. The woman, whom we're keeping anonymous for obvious reasons, says UWPD told her that her ex-boyfriend didn't present an immediate danger and that "they couldn't provide an escort" because "they [were] really understaffed."
What's most tragic about the UW Police's understaffing is that this woman's police report contains details eerily similar to Griego's story. A now infamous March 6 report recounts how "Rebecca started getting calls from [ex-boyfriend Jonathan] Rowan. Rebecca told Rowan she did not want to see him again. Rowan told Rebecca that she couldn't get away from him and that she was always going to need to be looking over her shoulder."
As we all now know, on Monday, April 2, at 9:30 a.m., Rowan walked into Griego's fourth-floor office in the University of Washington's Gould Hall and fatally shot her before turning the gun on himself.
According to a recent Seattle Police Department report, the UW student whose request for protection was recently denied "met [her ex-boyfriend] two years ago. They dated for approximately six months," breaking up after, according to her account in the police report, "he forced her to have sex with him." The report states that the woman's ex-boyfriend "contacted her via e-mail [and] apologized for the past and wanted to meet with her in person. [They] met for lunch that day." When the woman's ex-boyfriend "started making sexual advances at lunch, she told him she was not interested and said she was going home. [Her ex-boyfriend] insisted on walking her home." At her apartment, he began "making sexual advances toward [her] again. She told him she was not interested and he left her apartment. He continued to send her e-mails, including unwanted sexual advances and a threat to "ravage her." The woman told police she was "concerned because of [her ex-boyfriend's] forceful nature" and "death move" threat from their fight in the apartment.
Things became urgent for the young woman when, earlier this month, her ex-boyfriend notified her in an e-mail that he was going to be in the area of the school. It was then that she contacted UW Police, who told her an escort would meet her at the Husky Union Building on campus. She waited outside the HUB for nearly an hour for an escort who never came.
According to the woman, one of her professors stepped in and demanded UWPD station an officer outside of one of her classes for three days. They complied, but did not provide or offer any long-term protection. The woman's request for a campus police escort she could call as needed was turned down. The woman then experienced a humiliating follow-up interview when a UW police officer, who she says had not even seen a copy of her SPD report, questioned her about her ex-boyfriend in front of her professors, asking, "Did he rape you? Where did he rape you?" The woman says SPD was also critical of UW Police. According to the woman, the UW officer assigned to her case recommended that she e-mail her ex-boyfriend to end things. She says that when she told SPD what UWPD had recommended, an SPD officer was critical of UWPD's advice and told her that further contact would be "a very bad idea." (The SPD would not comment for this story.)
Due to UWPD's inadequate response, the woman's colleagues have since decided to take matters into their own hands. The woman, like Rebecca Griego, circulated a photo of her ex-boyfriend and asked, "If you see a guy like this, please tell me."
Several teaching assistants now escort the woman to and from her classes. One of the woman's escorts expressed his disapproval of UWPD's handling of the case: "Did the police fail her in this instance? I believe they did. But I don't think that it is just a problem [with] bad policing; it's a failure of the university as a whole to develop a sound approach for protecting women from this kind of harassment by men." The TA believes that the woman's ex-boyfriend could be a serious threat. "I'm concerned by what I've heard about the behavior of this guy. I'm not a psychological expert [but] there's enough there, in my mind, that there needs to be a response. Institutions have a responsibility to keep their students safe. She needs more support then she's gotten."
UWPD was not the only campus organization to inadequately assist this woman, she says. When she approached Student Services and several domestic-violence organizations looking for help and hoping to talk about her past abusive relationship, she says they didn't encourage her to go to the police. She describes the experience as "dismissive" and "intimidating," stating that she was actually encouraged not to get a restraining order because it would "make him madder and [he might] retaliate against [her]."
Ciara Murphy, the program coordinator at the Catherine Booth House, a domestic-violence shelter, suggests a different tact. "We have to start evaluating threats in a different way. The woman is the best judge of what he's capable of."
UWPD defends its actions. Assistant Chief Wittmier says that since Griego's murder, they have seen an increase in the number of domestic-violence cases being reported. Wittmier says the increase in domestic-violence reports is "really draining us" and has created "a higher workload." According to Wittmier, providing escorts to every concerned student isn't feasible. "Given the information we have, it would be hard to justify" assigning an escort or extra security to this woman. The only escorts currently provided by UWPD are for medical center employees walking to their cars, although the university does provide security escorts on their Bothell campus.
Perhaps the most troubling irony is that UW President Mark Emmert recently received extra security after receiving a threatening e-mail. The e-mail, sent from out of state by an unknown individual incensed by Griego's murder, asserted that Emmert "did nothing to protect [Griego] after she begged the university for protection. Her blood is on your hands." While e-mail threats to Emmert have been taken seriously, the young woman who is scared of her ex has still not received a security escort from UW police.
University spokesman Norm Arkans deferred to UWPD's assessment of the situation, but maintained, "When we are trying to protect people, the resource issue falls to the bottom of the list." He said they are committed to reimplementing a peer-escort service. "I'm sure we'll have something in place next fall," he said.