A lawsuit filed against Virginia Wesleyan College claims the school did not do enough to protect female students from sexual assaults on campus and fails to adequately help them after they are assaulted.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a student raped on her third day of freshman orientation in 2012 who since has left the college.
A peer adviser invited the student to an on-campus party, according to the complaint. While at the party, she said was given a shot laced with drugs and then a member of the school’s lacrosse team raped her.
“She felt woozy. She felt like she was going to pass out, then the assailant got her, abducted her, took her to his room and brutally raped her over five hours,” said lawyer Jonathan Halperin of Richmond, Va.
Halperin said his client was left bruised and bloodied. The lawsuit claims she had physical injuries for weeks after the attack and suffered psychological issues long after that.
The student first went to school nurses two weeks after her attack, and nurses did not tell her how to report her rape to school counselors or police, according to the complaint.
Counselors were notified a month after the attack, but again no one advised the student on how to file a complaint with police, the suit said. Halperin said his client ultimately contacted police three months after she was raped.
Virginia Wesleyan administrators held a Title IX hearing in which the student’s claims were substantiated. Initially, the student who was found to have committed the rape was expelled from the school, documents show.
But a letter attached to the lawsuit shows the 1,300-student school affiliated with the United Methodist Church reversed course months later and allowed the student to withdraw so he could enroll elsewhere.
“The response afterwards was horrific,” Halperin said. “She wasn’t encouraged to report this and then, you know, the school’s response in changing the status of the rapist from sexual assailant to withdrawn so that he could go play lacrosse at another school, that’s outrageous.”
A statement from a school spokeswoman declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but said the college will vigorously defend itself.
“We have carefully reviewed the facts of this unfortunate incident and the allegations in Jane Doe’s complaint. While we sympathize with Jane Doe, the college denies any allegation of improper conduct,” she said. “The safety of our students is of paramount importance and something we strive to accomplish on a daily basis at Virginia Wesleyan.”
The college is not on the U.S. Department of Education’s list of schools with open Title IX sexual-violence investigations. In Virginia, the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia are.
Virginia Wesleyan will have until the end of October to file its legal response. At least two former students are referenced by name in the complaint but are not included as defendants in the lawsuit. They will not have a chance to respond to the allegations in court.
Halperin’s lawsuit said the school acted negligently in other ways, too.
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SOURCE: USA Today / WVEC-TV – Nick Ochsner