UW-Madison student from Edina, Minn. faces 15 charges for sexual assaults

- A University of Wisconsin-Madison student and Edina High School graduate is facing 15 felony charges and one misdemeanor charge in connection with multiple sexual assaults of other UW students. 

Alec Cook, 20, of Edina, Minnesota was charged on Thursday for five sexual assaults since March 2015. He was initially arrested for second degree sexual assault on Oct. 12 where he allegedly attacked a 20-year-old woman in his off-campus apartment.

The criminal complaint also details the experiences of four other victims who came forward after hearing of the Oct. 12 incident in the media. 

One woman reported being sexually assaulted by Cook 15 to 20 times while they were partners in a ballroom dance class during the 2016 spring semester. Cook’s other alleged victims were a woman he met at a birthday party, a woman he met in a human sexuality class and a woman he met during a psychology experiment.

In an interview, one of the victims told police she did not come forward sooner because, “I didn’t want to ruin his life. I felt ashamed to tell anyone, because I thought it would make him look bad. 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.”

One of Cook’s attorneys, Jessa Nicholson Goetz, told Fox 9 many of the details described in the criminal complaint sound like consensual sex and sexual activities. She says the criminal complaint describes women feeling uncomfortable after having sex and Cook being calm and caring – asking if they can hang out again and if they are okay.

Goetz also says the reports that Cook kept a journal detailing plans to stalk or harm women are false.

Cook is charged with seven counts of second degree sexual assault, three counts of third degree sexual assault, two counts of strangulation and suffocation, two counts of false imprisonment and one count of fourth degree sexual assault.

He has been suspended from UW-Madison and, as part of his bail conditions, has been banned from all UW-Madison property, according to the UW-Madison Police Department. 

UW-Madison campus leaders released a statement on Wednesday regarding the sexual assault reports:

To our UW–Madison Community,

We were shocked and saddened to learn that several UW–Madison students have reported being sexually assaulted by a fellow student.

Sexual violence is unacceptable in our campus and community. We’re committed to transparency and communication, especially in a case as serious as this one.

We want to start by sharing exactly what we know at this time:

The student has been arrested on multiple charges. Upon notice of his arrest, we acted immediately to place the student under emergency suspension. He is prohibited from being on campus.

The Division of Student Life and other campus units are assisting the Madison Police Department and UWPD in this investigation. University leaders are monitoring the case and receiving regular updates.

We take every report of a sexual assault seriously and are committed to building a campus free from sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. We encourage survivors to come forward to police, who have specially trained officers who can help. But it’s up to each survivor to decide whether to report, and to whom. If you’re not ready to report to police, students can also report a sexual assault to UW–Madison by contacting the Title IX Coordinator or the Dean of Students Office.

We provide resources to survivors regardless of whether they choose to report the incident. The Division of Student Life and University Health Services (UHS) can help direct students to options and services, including mental health counseling, medical care, victim advocacy and off-campus legal assistance. For more information on confidential resources and reporting options, visit www.uhs.wisc.edu/assault.

In addition to responding to reports, we continue to work with campus and community partners to prevent sexual assaults and hold those responsible accountable. Sexual assault, dating violence and stalking are public health concerns that affect both individual survivors and our campus as a whole.

These are serious allegations and we recognize the impact this news is having on our community. Please also know that we and many others here care deeply about you and continue to strive to create an environment where all of our students are safe.

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