Duke Suspends Lacrosse Season After Rape Allegation

The season for Duke's nationally ranked lacrosse team has been suspended following accusations of a racially motivated rape by some of the players. An exotic dancer who is black says she was raped by three white players. Jessica Jones of member station WUNC reports.

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There was a tense meeting today at Duke University in North Carolina. The school's president met with a group of students angered by his response to the alleged rape of an exotic dancer at an off-campus party. The accused are members of Duke's lacrosse team. The team's remaining games have been cancelled. The exotic dancer, who is African-American, told authorities that she was attacked after some team members taunted her with racial epithets. As Jessica Jones of North Carolina Public Radio reports, the incident has revealed simmering tensions between the University and the city of Durham.

JESSICA JONES: This morning at a popular café that is just across from Duke University's tree- lined campus, almost everyone was talking about the alleged attack. Carrina Barnet Lorow(ph) is a Duke freshman. She's sitting at a table with family members.

CARRINA BARNET LOROW: You know, I'm sure a lot of them are thinking that, you know,their parents are going to take, be able to take care of this one, and, you know, obviously we'll see where the legal process takes it. But, you know, it's just that attitude that, you know, we're privileged and, you know, we don't have to play by the same rules as everyone else.

JONES: It costs about $44,000 a year to attend Duke. That's $3,000 more than the median yearly household income in the city. The incident has sparked a series of protests both on and off campus over the last week. Barnet Lorow is from Durham. Her cousin, Kirsten Turner Dolby(ph) lives there, too. Turner Dolby says what's most disturbing is that according to police, team members yelled racial slurs at the dancer before three of them then raped and sexually assaulted her.

KRISTEN TURNER DOLBY: Racism in Durham is tough. And now it's racial and sexism, and classism. It just makes me sad that the university and the city can't figure out a way to learn from each other instead of just perpetuating this racist, classist divide.

JONES: The party took place the night of March 13th at a house off campus that was rented by two of the lacrosse team's captains. They denied the rape happened, and Duke's president, Richard Broadhead, says the team captains personally apologized to him yesterday for throwing the latest party.

RICHARD BROADHEAD: Students have acknowledged the private party dancers. They have acknowledged that there was underage drinking at the party. I would say about it that the behavior was bad behavior, foolish behavior, immature behavior and inappropriate behavior. But from there to what is alleged is still a very, very serious step.

JONES: Broadhead says the university has been aware that in the last three years more than a dozen players have been charged with misdemeanors mostly for drunk and disruptive behavior. But Durham's District Attorney, Mike Nifong, says this time the lacrosse players didn't just make bad judgments.

MIKE NIFONG, Host:

The nature of this crime goes so far beyond the normal, already abhorrent nature of a rape because the added elements of the racial hostility is thrown in, that it's really necessary for me as the chief law enforcement officer, if you will, in this community to make the statement that as citizens of Durham we do not tolerate this kind of behavior here.

JONES: Police have taken DNA samples from 46 out of 47 members of the lacrosse team. The player who was not tested is the only African-American member of the team, and Nifong says he's not a suspect. Once the results of the DNA tests are in, the District Attorney says he'll decide whether or not to file charges. For NPR News I'm Jessica Jones in Durham, North Carolina.

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