SANTA CRUZ -- A reported rape on the UC Santa Cruz campus that shocked a community already on edge has turned out to be a hoax, UCSC police said Thursday.
The attack was alleged to have occurred in broad daylight just after noon on Sunday, Feb. 17, just days after the shooting of a student as she waited for a bus.
The 21-year-old woman, who initially told police she was raped and physically assaulted by a stranger, now has admitted to campus police investigators that she fabricated the attack, University Police Chief Nader Oweis said.
News of the attack caused an uproar on campus, striking fear in students, prompting university officials to hold meetings about public safety on campus, and bringing the Santa Cruz Police Department in to assist with the investigation.
"The events of the last few weeks, including the dreadful shooting deaths Tuesday of two Santa Cruz Police Department detectives, have increased anxiety on campus and concerns about overall safety," UCSC Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway said in a message to students and faculty. "It is regretful that this false report heightened that anxiety. However, it is clear that vigilance is still necessary."
The woman, who was not a student, could face criminal charges for making a false report. Oweis said his department's report has been forwarded to the Santa Cruz District Attorney's Office, which will decide whether the woman will be prosecuted.
The woman told police why she made up the attack, though Oweis said he couldn't disclose that.
He also declined to say how the woman received the bruises she purported were suffered in the attack or if she inflicted them on herself.
The woman's allegations came in the wake of a number of violent incidents in Santa Cruz, including the murder of resident Pauly Silva outside a downtown bar on Feb. 9 and an armed robbery that left a UCSC student with a gunshot wound to the head two days later.
"It truly did create unease and fear," Oweis said of the false report.
Students who attended campus safety meetings held after the rape expressed concern about walking alone and they worried about security. A number of campus safety measures were put into place after the report of the attack, including increased patrols and a nighttime safety escort service on campus. Those efforts will continue for the time being, Oweis said.
Oweis emphasized the department takes sexual assault reports seriously and will continue to diligently investigate.
"We put a lot of hours into the investigation," said Oweis, who said his main concern was getting to the truth. "The evidence we had didn't corroborate her story."
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