Advocacy group slams emphasis on alcohol, not rape culture, in LSU student’s death
An organization that aids survivors of sexual trauma said there’s too much focus on the bar that served alcohol to a 19-year-old LSU student the night she was allegedly raped and later fatally struck by a vehicle. Instead, the group wants to see more scrutiny into the culture that condones sexual assault when alcohol use makes consent impossible.
Police say LSU sophomore Madison Brooks had been drinking at Reggie’s in Tigerland before she left the bar in early hours of Jan. 15 with four males, two of whom allegedly raped her before she was dropped off at a subdivision south of campus. Brooks was killed a short distance away when police say she walked to Burbank Drive and was hit by a car. The driver, who contacted 911 from the scene, was not cited in the accident.
Booking records indicate Brooks had a blood-alcohol content level of .319, almost four times the state’s legal level for intoxication.
Surveillance video led to the arrests of three men and a juvenile. Two were charged with third-degree rape, which implies Brooks was not capable of consenting to sex. Attorneys for the men accused of rape say cellphone video proves the sex was consensual.
Prosecutors have since said they intend to elevate the charges to first-degree rape, according to The Advocate. A first-degree rape charge can be applied when two or more people are perpetrators of the act. The crime is punishable by life in prison, compared with up to 25 years for third-degree rape.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control has moved to suspend the bar’s liquor license. LSU President William Tate issued a statement that called for swift action against establishments that serve alcohol to underage students.
Morgan Lamandre, executive director of Sexual Trauma and Response (STAR), issued a statement Wednesday saying the organization is “disturbed by those in our community who are placing blame almost entirely on businesses serving alcohol to minors rather than on the perpetrators who raped her.”
“Alcohol is not the cause of rape,” the statement said. “Perpetrators use alcohol as a weapon to facilitate rape. If someone who was not a rapist had taken Madison out of the bar on January 15, 2023, she likely would have been brought somewhere safe – and would still be alive today.”
STAR previously worked under a contract with LSU to help the school address deficiencies in its process for handling sexual assault and harassment on campus. The group was hired after a USA Today investigation in 2020 revealed multiple instances of rape had gone unreported or ignored with the knowledge of university administrators and athletic department leaders.
Before the fall 2022 semester, LSU notified STAR that it would not renew its contract to provide sexual assault and harassment training to campus employees. Instead, the university said it would handle such training in-house through its revamped Title IX office. An external probe conducted after the USA Today story broke found that LSU’s Title IX office was understaffed and operating in conflict with LSU’s legal counsel.
In light of Brooks’ death, STAR plans to back a proposal in the Louisiana Legislature that calls for education in K-12 schools on consent and healthy relationships. The group has also made its resources available for people in need of support. Its hotline, 1-855-435-STAR, is available around the clock.