WASHINGTON - A disturbing new lawsuit claims a historically black college in Washington, D.C. failed to quickly handle reports of sexual assaults on campus made by female students.
The lawsuit alleges that five current and former female students reported rapes and sexual assaults by male students and employees of Howard University between 2014 and 2016, but there was inaction and the investigations were mishandled. READ THE LAWSUIT
“These young women experienced sexual assault and they were not supported by the university,” said Linda Correia, the attorney representing the students.
Some of the women claim they were harassed and confronted by their attackers after reporting the assaults.
In March of last year, protests broke out and there was a firestorm on Twitter after two of the victims discovered they were attacked by the same student.
“Our client’s perspective is that if the university had taken action on that first report, he may not have been on campus,” said Correia. “He may not have ever met our other client and she may not have been attacked.”
All five women claim their cases were investigated slowly, if at all. The lawsuit states the school did not provide appropriate counseling or accommodations to extend school deadlines after they were attacked.
“They have experienced depression, they have been suicidal and they expressed those things to the university and still the university failed to act,” Correia said.
Jane Doe 1 claims she was raped by a male student who was a Resident Assistant in her dormitory in February 2016. Six weeks after reporting the rape, the lawsuit claims Jane Doe 1 received no response or support. After social media posts, the lawsuit says Jane Doe 1 claims she learned Jane Doe 2 had allegedly been raped by the same man in October 2015.
The lawsuit says Jane Doe 2 let the university after she claims her report was not investigated ad that she felt unsafe.
The lawsuit claims that in response to Jane Doe 1 social media posts, Howard’s Dean of Student Affairs told her, “You embarrassed your family by doing that.”
Jane Doe 3 claimed that she had experience sexual and other physical abuse by a Howard police officer in November of 2014, according to the lawsuit. Jane Doe 3 claimed she asked for counseling services because she was feeling suicidal and was having a hard time coping with the alleged incident. He claims she never received the help she requested, and as a result, her grades suffered and she lost her job.
Jane Doe 4 claimed in the lawsuit that a male Howard student raped her in a campus dorm room in March of 2016. She said several days passed before she received a response. Jane Doe 4 said that she continued to see the student she accused of rape on campus. The lawsuit also says she suffered emotionally after learning the accused would be assigned the same dorm room as her. The lawsuit says she requested counseling services and a dorm change. The lawsuit says that in August of that year the school notified her that the accused had been suspended due to a sexual violence violation. Jane Doe 4 then claims she say he accused rapist on campus less than two months later.
Jane Doe 5 claimed in the lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted by a male Howard student in April 2015.. The lawsuit say that shortly after reporting the assault, she was informed that she was no longer able to graduate that semester as planned. The lawsuit say she requested to take her remaining classes at a community college but was not able to get a response from the school until an outside advocate intervened. The lawsuit says that over seven months later, she was able to graduate and that the man accused of assault was convicted of sexually assaulting another woman in D.C. in October 2016.
Crystal Brown, vice president and chief communications officer for Howard University, sent a statement saying:
Sexual assault is a critical issue on campuses across higher education. Howard University takes very seriously all allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and gender-based discrimination occurring on the University's campus or involving the University's students. Our commitment is evidenced by our rigorous enforcement of the University's Title IX Policy on Prohibited Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Discrimination in Education Program and Activities. The University has been, and remains, committed to diligently investigating any such allegations to ensure a safe and healthy community for our faculty, staff and students.
Out of consideration for the privacy of all individuals involved, and as a matter of practice, we do not comment on pending litigation.