A student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been accused of stalking and sexually assaulting dozens of women, and is expected to be charged with over 30 counts related to sexual assault. Think this story can't get any worse? The student, Alec Cook, kept at least one journal at home which contained the names of potential victims, TIME reports.
Cook, a 20-year-old from Minnesota, was first arrested after an attack on Oct. 12. But after that report, dozens of women came forward with their own stories of assault at his hands, on campus and at his off-campus apartment. The second woman to come forward said, “I saw the news story and was empowered by another girl being able to tell what happened to her, that I thought I could now finally tell," according to The Washington Post.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that one victim dated Cook from January to February, and believes he drugged her drink in February before sexually assaulting her.
Police have four solid cases against Cook, with multiple other investigations in the works for attacks dating back to last year. One case has no less than 15 counts of sexual assault associated with it; the victims has said that Cook touched her inappropriately throughout a ballroom dance class they took together.
Police think that Cook is likely responsible for even more unreported attacks due to his list of victims, which police say details how he met each one, what he likes about them, and what he wanted to do to them—ranging from sexual desires to murder. Cook has been banned from campus, and is expected to be charged with more than 30 criminal counts on Thursday, including felony sexual assault, false imprisonment, and strangulation.
Chris Van Wagner, Cook’s lawyer, suggested that while many accusations have been made, there has been nothing proven. “On behalf of Alec, we will have plenty to say, at the proper time and in the proper forum. But keep in mind that not everything you hear is true, and that in the past few years, several grave accusations in similar cases were later proven groundless.” And how many rapists were released after a slap on the wrist? (The answer is too many.)
According to the Post, Van Wagner is disturbed by what he calls the “media firestorm” on social media, where multiple individuals have written open letters to Cook. Van Wagner claims that this prompted others to come forward. “Much of what has been reported on there has been, for lack of a better expression, character assassination of my client,” Van Wagner said, with no regard to the assassination of his victims' sense of self. "Those things are horrible things to be accused of..." he added—and yeah, they are horrible. That doesn't mean he didn't do them.
On Friday, Dean of Students Lori Berquam issued a statement denouncing sexual violence. “This is a serious case and the university is responding,” Berquam said. “We are committed to providing supportive and prompt responses to students who have experienced sexual assault.” She went on to offer many options for students that are victims of assault, which is more than many schools have done of late. “Students have many options and services available to them on and off campus, including mental health counseling, victim advocacy, off-campus legal assistance, and access to the criminal and campus disciplinary systems. Services are available to victims regardless of their choice to report the incident and several are available at no charge.”