Behind the systems: Facebook post accuses former Western student of sexual misconduct
This story is the second section of a four-part investigative project from an advanced reporting course taught by Betsy O’Donovan. We contacted DeShaun Dowdy multiple times to set up an interview to provide him a chance to respond to the allegations being made in this series. Dowdy declined to comment.
On Dec. 30, 2018, Bellingham resident Lindsay Noel made a Facebook post accusing DeShaun Troy Dowdy, a Western student, of being a “sexual predator and dangerous.” She included several pictures of Dowdy, as well as a screenshot of a similar post she made in December 2015.
Noel made her first post about Dowdy after he showed up to an event she was helping with at the Wild Buffalo. Noel said she recognized him from a warning post a friend had made, and notified security. As the night went on, Dowdy stuck around.
When people began to flood into the dance floor, Noel said Dowdy came up behind her, grabbing her shoulders and whispering in her ear. She said Dowdy was stumbling and slurring his speech, and as he tightened his grip, he told Noel how pretty she was. As Noel broke free from his grip, she pointed out her boyfriend in the crowd, and Dowdy left shortly after.
At the request of a friend, Noel made her 2018 post public, and after a few days, it had been shared more than 1,900 times, with more than 800 comments collecting on the post. People began to share personal experiences with Dowdy in the comments, and others started to send private messages to Noel.
In the comments, many began to ask how Dowdy was able to attend school at Western despite the outpouring of stories piling up since 2014.
Read the other stories in this series
Editor’s Note: One of the two women whose stories are told in this series has asked to remain anonymous for fear of their safety. We have granted them anonymity because of the stigma attached to sexual violence.
Content Warning: sexual assault.
On March 22, 2014, Claire Jones met a few friends at the Up & Up Tavern for drinks. Jones, a recent Western graduate, had broken up with her boyfriend just a few days earlier, and wanted to meet with some friends to decompress.
Jones said she and Dowdy were in the same improv class at the Upfront Theater. When he showed up to the bar, he joined Jones and her friends for a drink.
Claire’s friend Nathan Thomas was also with Dowdy and Jones at the Up & Up. Thomas, who was also involved in the improv community, had met Dowdy through the same classes at the Upfront and the scene where Dowdy was a consistent presence.
According to a police report, after having a few drinks, Jones began to cry, and decided to leave the bar. Feeling emotional about her recent breakup, she said she wanted to compose herself before heading home.
As she started to walk home, Jones ran into Dowdy outside. He repeatedly suggested they go back to his place, according to the police report. Jones said no, but did not feel like she could leave because she didn’t want Dowdy to see she lived nearby. After he asked several times, Jones agreed to walk to Dowdy’s apartment.
Thomas said he remembers Dowdy being pushy about walking Jones home that night.
‘“He is so persistent in getting what he wants,” Jones said. “[He] will not take no for an answer.”
According to the police report, Jones said when they got to Dowdy’s apartment, they sat down on his matress, which was resting on the floor. After talking for about 15 minutes, Dowdy asked Jones to smell his nose. Jones said she was confused, and asked Dowdy what he meant. After he repeated himself, Jones leaned in, and Dowdy grabbed her waist and began kissing her.
“I shut down in moments of crisis [and panic],” Jones said. “I just remember being like I have to get out of here now, this is getting so bad.”
Jones said she froze for a few seconds, but once she pulled away, Dowdy apologized repeatedly, and she left. A few months later, Jones ran into Dowdy at an art show. She said Dowdy apologized, and she told him she accepted his apology.
“I was taught that when someone apologizes to you, you forgive them,” Jones said. “So I told him that I forgave him and I thought that would just make it go away and, like, make me feel better, and it just never did.”
Jones filed a police report with the Bellingham Police Department on Aug. 19, 2015. She said she waited to report because at first she didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone what happened.
“The aftermath of getting assaulted by someone who you think is your friend [is difficult],” Jones said. “I didn’t tell anyone because I was so ashamed. I was really embarrassed. I was like they’re going to blame me [because] I was drunk.”
Between 2013 and 2018, there were a total of 39 reports involving Dowdy filed with the Bellingham Police Department and Western’s University Police.
Reporting contributed by Julia Phillips.