Duke University has suspended games of the men’s lacrosse team, which was ranked number two in the nation, while allegations of gang rape involving members of the team are investigated. An African-American student at neighboring North Carolina Central University told police she was raped for approximately half an hour by three white members of the Duke lacrosse team on March 13 at a party in a house rented by three team captains. She and another woman had been hired to perform at the party as exotic dancers. In addition to rape, the woman is alleging that she was physically assaulted by the players, and subjected to racial slurs, according to ABC News. The alleged victim, a mother of two children, was working at an escort service to finance her education, according to InsideHigherEd.com.
Though all team members deny the accusations, both a nurse trained to handle rape victims and a physician said that their examination of the student found symptoms consistent with sexual assault, according to the Associated Press. In addition, a police search of the house where the alleged crime took place found personal items belonging to the woman, including her false fingernails, which she says broke off when she was struggling to break free as a team member strangled her, according to the News York Times. White team members (only one of the 47 team members is African American) were required to provide DNA samples, but District Attorney Mike Nifong says that even if the DNA tests prove inconclusive, he had enough other evidence to believe that a crime did occur, the Associated Press reports.
The alleged assault has roiled both the campus and the community. Students, faculty, and Durham residents marched on Wednesday, planned before the rape charge to coincide with Sexual Assault Prevention Week at the university, protested the incident, and other protests have been held outside the lacrosse house.