Lawsuit claims Howard University shamed and did not help sexual violence victims
Howard University failed to quickly help five female students who were sexually assaulted or raped by students and employees at Howard in 2014, 2015 and 2016, a federal lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of five students referred to as “Jane Doe”s one through five, alleges that the victims — all current and former students — reported their sexual assaults to Howard University officials but that the school’s miscommunication and inaction resulted in two of the plaintiffs to leave Howard due to mental health and safety concerns.
Doe 1 and Doe 2 said they were both raped by the same male student, who was a resident assistant (RA) in their dormitory. The male student had allegedly transferred to Howard after being accused of sexual misconduct at UCLA. Doe 2 reported that she was raped by the assailant to Howard officials in October 2015 and left Howard because she felt unsafe and because she was “receiving no information or support from Howard,” the lawsuit claims.
Doe 2 claimed that the assailant had stalked and harassed her on campus and attempted to join student organizations she belonged to. The plaintiff also feared that her alleged rapist had access to her dorm room because he was an RA and could obtain a key to the room.
Despite her complaints, the assailant remained on campus as an RA following the reported rape in October 2015 and, allegedly, raped Doe 1 in their dorm in February 2016.
“If my case was handled the way it was supposed to be handled,” Doe 2 told BuzzFeed, and as alleged in the complaint, Doe 1 “would’ve never met her assailant. He would’ve been dismissed.”
The lawsuit alleges that six weeks after reporting the rape to Howard and receiving no response, Doe 1 took to Twitter to publicly criticize Howard’s mishandling of her complaint, resulting in a protest of more than 100 students on the Washington, D.C. campus.
Howard’s dean of students allegedly criticized her for going public with her complaints, according to the lawsuit.
“You embarrassed your family by doing that,” the administrator allegedly told the student.
The lawsuit claims that because of the Twitter storm other victims came forward to Doe 1 about their complaints over Howard’s handling of their reported sexual assaults.
The third, fourth and fifth plaintiffs all allegedly did not receive help from Howard in a timely manner as outlined by Howard’s Title IX policy, which says that the university will complete a Title IX investigation into reported sexual violence within 60 days. The lawsuit claims investigations into all of the cases lasted longer, with the shortest investigation lasting 165 days — more than two times the Howard Title IX policy.
Two of the students said they were suicidal after the alleged attacks and that one lost her job because of her depression and suicidal thoughts. When Doe 3 reached out to the Howard counseling center for a record of her report, a Howard employee allegedly told her “she should be careful with her records because people will ‘judge her’ for her file,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed sum for discrimination in violation of Title IX and retaliation in violation of Title IX.
“The university’s actions have exacerbated and extended, rather than corrected, the resulting interference with the educational opportunities of each woman,” the lawsuit says.