Jul 6, 2021
An Associated Press (AP) story that sparked a new investigation into a years-old college sexual assault has finally led to an arrest warrant. Police and prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged Ian Cleary, 28, of Saratoga, California, with sexually assaulting Shannon Keeler when they were both students at Gettysburg College in 2013.
On the final night of her first semester, Keeler was raped by an upperclassman who reportedly stalked her at a party, snuck into her dorm, and attacked her while she pleaded for help. Despite providing investigators with the names of witnesses who saw the suspect stalk her, the phone number of a friend who saw the upperclassman follow her home, and the name of the hospital where, accompanied by her lacrosse coach, she underwent a rape kit, no arrest was ever made in the sexual assault case.
While Keeler always held out hope that justice would eventually be obtained, many years passed without any progress. But then, one day while on a weekend getaway with her boyfriend, Keeler checked her unread Facebook messages. One burst of messages from six months earlier was haunting:
– “So I raped you.”
– “I’ll never do it to anyone ever again.”
– “I need to hear your voice.”
– “I’ll pray for you.”
The messages were from Ian Cleary, the suspect whom, eight years earlier, Keeler had identified to authorities as her rapist.
The AP subsequently published the story, ‘So I raped you.’ Facebook message renews fight for justice. The publication notes that despite Keeler following all of the protocols designed to prevent campus sex assaults or address them when they happen, the justice system failed her – as it fails most college rape survivors – completely.
As the AP reported, despite a renewed focus on sexual violence in the #MeToo era, and the various student protections provided under Title IX, victim advocates and the limited crime data available both indicate that very few campus rapes are ever prosecuted.
As Dordulian Law Group’s partner organization, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), confirms, only one in five college sex assault victims ever report to police. And as the AP noted in its story, when survivors do have the courage to come forward, prosecutors often hesitate to take cases where victims either had been drinking or knew the accused.
But as we discussed in an earlier blog, the vast majority of rapes are committed by predators who are known to the victim.
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that:
“It has bothered me over the years that I was never able to do anything,” Keeler, now 26, told the AP. “If you’re not going to help me, who are you going to help? Because I do have evidence.”
The AP’s initial report was published on May 17, 2021. On June 29, the outlet confirmed that an arrest warrant had been issued for Ian Cleary.
However, as the AP indicated, police have not yet located Cleary, who has reportedly lived in Europe in recent years. Efforts to track him down could stretch across the country and overseas.
The AP’s story also stated that a cellphone linked to Cleary rang unanswered in the days leading up to publication, and that number did not have voicemail. Messages left at phone numbers associated with Cleary’s father in California and mother in Maryland were not immediately returned to the AP.
While the arrest warrant is an indication of some progress in her pursuit of justice, the obstacles faced by sexual assault survivors remain all too familiar to Keeler.
“While I am moved to tears by this result, which I have waited for (for) over seven years, I am mindful that this moment came because I went public with my story, which no survivor should have to do in order to obtain justice,” Keeler said in a statement issued through her attorney.
As authorities continue searching for Cleary, it’s unclear whether or not Keeler will ever see her case go to trial. The affidavit filed along with the arrest warrant accuses Cleary, then a junior and a goalie on the ice hockey team, of following Keeler home from the party, sneaking into her room, and sexually assaulting her.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ian Cleary is urged to immediately contact the Gettysburg Police Department. Tips and information can be submitted via the department’s online reporting system, or by calling 717-334-8101 during business hours. The after-hours phone number is 717-334-1168.
As the AP reported, Keeler’s Rape Kit was either lost or destroyed. Despite Keeler undergoing the invasive and often traumatic experience that is a rape kit, the evidence gathered on the night of the assault will never be able to be used to convict Ian Cleary. It’s an unfortunate and unacceptable outcome that, as we’ve noted in previous blogs, is all too common.
In order to increase sexual assault reporting (and, in turn, sex crimes prosecutions), the civil statute of limitations on rape cases should be eliminated. The #EndRapeSOL movement is an effort to help survivors come forward at the appropriate time, on their own terms. The statute of limitations on criminal rape cases has been eliminated in California, but not for civil cases. We encourage all Californians to contact their elected officials and assert support for removing the civil statute of limitations on rape cases through swift legislation.
As the Bill Cosby sexual assault case demonstrates, the criminal justice system is not always a reliable avenue for rape survivors seeking justice. But it’s also not the only avenue, which is why ending the rape statute of limitations for civil cases is so important. Survivors of California sexual assault have the option to pursue a civil claim seeking financial compensation regardless of whether or not a criminal case is brought.
Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is founded by former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian. Dordulian has devoted his career to representing survivors of sexual assault. As a prosecutor, he accrued over 100 jury trial victories, helping to obtain life sentences against some of the state’s most heinous sexual predators.
While representing survivors as a sex crimes prosecutor, Dordulian came to realize that, when pursuing justice, in many cases victims require additional resources beyond expert legal representation. Accordingly, when he founded his own private practice, Dordulian established a premier Sex Crimes Division to handle all sexual assault cases.
DLG’s Sex Crimes Division is led by a group of handpicked professionals known as the SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts). Dordulian created the SAJE Team to offer survivors of sexual assault additional resources that may be critical in helping to reduce stress and improve overall well-being when navigating the legal system. DLG’s four-tiered SAJE Team provides 24/7 all-encompassing support for survivor clients:
With DLG, sexual assault survivors have 24/7 access to a unique form of multi-faceted representation and support. In addition to the SAJE Team’s important offerings, DLG’s 98% success rate and history of recovering more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts for clients is proof of the dedication and personalized commitment we apply to each and every case.
Contact us today online or by phone at 818-322-4056 to learn more about how DLG can help you file a civil claim and recover maximum financial compensation following a sexual assault. At DLG, we listen to and believe survivors, and we’re ready to fight as your dedicated advocate whenever you choose to pursue justice.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.