Investigator in scandal under fire for remark

Originally Published: February 9, 2004
Associated Press

DENVER -- A woman leading an investigation into recruiting practices at the University of Colorado said Monday she will not resign, despite suggesting that women put themselves at risk of rape by attending alcohol-fueled sex parties.

"I was under fire in the Legislature and we didn't crawl up in a little ball," former lawmaker Joyce Lawrence said in a telephone interview from her home in Pueblo.

On Friday, immediately after her appointment to the investigative panel by the university president, Lawrence told a reporter: "The question I have for the ladies in this is why they are going to parties like this and drinking or taking drugs and putting themselves in a very threatening or serious position."

On Monday, Lawrence said she had not meant to suggest alleged victims bore some responsibility.

"It seems to me that there seems to be a nexus between alcohol and sex but that is not to cast any aspersions on women who drink and are sexually assaulted in the sense that any man would ever be exonerated from his responsibilities," she said.

Lawrence and another former lawmaker, Peggy Lamm, have been chosen to investigate allegations that the university used alcohol and sex parties to entice top recruits. Three women have also filed federal lawsuits against the school, saying they were raped at or after a December 2001 off-campus party attended by football players and recruits.

Prosecutors declined to file assault charges, but have since decided to re-examine the case. Prosecutor Mary Keenan also gave a deposition in one of the lawsuits, saying the school ignored her demand to halt the parties.

Gov. Bill Owens, speaking on a radio talk show, said Lawrence and Lamm were good choices to lead the commission. He also said Lawrence, a fellow Republican, raised a reasonable question.

"There are lots of questions," Owens said on KOA-AM radio.

Regina Cowles, president of the National Organization for Women, had questioned the selection of Lamb and Lawrence even before Lawrence's comment because neither woman is an attorney or a victims' advocate.

"The comments she made are unacceptable," Cowles said. "They show an unreasonable bias against victims of assault and rape. CU should shake her hand, thank her for her time and send her away."

Peter Steinhauer, chairman of the Board of Regents, did not return a call or e-mail seeking comment. He has said the board will monitor the committee, including appointments of its remaining members. It is expected to total from five to eight members.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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