Sexual assault lawsuit expands against Howard University

Many are saying Howard University has not responded accordingly.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - A lawsuit against Howard University, claiming that it responded poorly to accusations of sexual assaults, is now expanding, after a sixth woman joined the complaint. This woman said she was sexually assaulted by another male student.

This woman said her attacker was already on the university's radar, because he had previously sexually assaulted another student. However, this student was allowed to stay on campus "which provided him the opportunity to assault" her and another student.

This woman, referred to as Jane Doe 6 in the court documents, also claimed that the university has responded slowly, as more than 500 days have passed since the assault was reported, without any resolution.

The Lawsuit

The latest lawsuit was an expansion of a federal complaint from May, in which the first five accusers spoke out. Just as with the May lawsuit, the latest filing said the university is liable because it violated their Title IX rights. 

Title IX is a civil rights law which holds colleges and universities responsible "when they are deliberately indifferent to known acts of sexual assault and sexually hostile educational environment." 

The lawsuit alleges that Howard University responded improperly in six main ways

1) "Failed to timely investigate known complaints of sexual assault on campus"

2) "Failed to provide academic accommodations to complainants." 

3) "Failed to provide access to counseling services for victims of sexual violence"

4) "Demeaned and treated hostilely victims of rape"

5) "Failed to provide a safe educational environment for students who complained of sexual assault or harassment" 

6) Failed to protect against or prohibit retaliation when students asserted their rights under Title IX.

The Other Accusers

The lengthy lawsuit, tells the story of six different woman struggling with sexual assaults on campus, in between 2014 and 2016. The women are referred to as Jane Doe 1-6. 

The following descriptions are according to the latest lawsuit:

Jane Doe 1 filed a report in February, 2016, in which she said she was raped by an RA in her dorm. Six weeks after the she reported the rape, she said she was frustrated with the lack of response or support from the university, and so she started a "Twitter Storm," criticizing the university's handling of the situation. 

Jane Doe 2 came forward in response to the tweets, saying that she too was raped by the same RA. This young woman reported the incident five months earlier in October, 2015. This student said she had to leave school, as a result of her attack. 

Jane Doe 3 reported her case of sexual assault in November, 2014. She said that she "had experienced sexual and other physical abuse" at the hands of a Howard Police officer.

In the aftermath of the incident, this student said she was depressed and suicidal, "having  an extremely hard time coping with the rape." This student requested counseling from the university, but claims that Howard failed to provide this for her. 

In one especially troubling story, this student said she contacted the Howard Counseling Center in August, 2016, in order to get the record of her report. She claims that a Howard employee told her she "should be careful with her records because people will 'judge her.'"

Jane Doe 4 reported that she was raped in March, 2016. According to the lawsuit, she said a male student raped her in a campus dorm.

In the aftermath, she requested "academic accommodations to extend deadlines in three of her classes." The university gave her a form letter to provide to professors, requesting the extension, but said they could not "push" professors to do so.

This woman also alleges that the university failed to adequately keep her attacker away from her during the investigation. She was told by the university that a "stay away order only prohibited him from approaching her directly and did not require the accused assailant to leave the area or change his direction because she was physically present." 

Jane Doe 5 reported that she was sexually assaulted in April, 2015 by a male Howard student. In the court documents, her attorneys said she was "passed around from administrator to administrator," when she was trying to get academic accommodations, in response to her attack. 

The investigation into her attack also lasted 228 days to complete, more than three times the amount of time mandated by Howard's policy. 

In October, 2016, the alleged attacker in her case was accused and convicted of sexually assaulting another woman in D.C. 

Jane Doe 6, the latest woman to join the lawsuit against Howard University, reported that she was sexually assaulted by a male student in April, 2016. According to court documents, she provided "witness information and supporting documents," as a part of the report. 

According to the lawsuit, this student was told in August, 2016 by a school dean that the alleged assailant had other sexual assaults against him, and therefore "should not be on campus much longer." At this time, the alleged assailant remains on campus, and the investigation remains open, some 500 ays after it was opened. 

In June, 2017, the woman learned that "Howard knew months earlier that her assailant had several cases of sexual violence against him and yet he still remained on campus, which provided him the opportunity to assault her and another student." 

Timeline of Incidents:

November, 2014 - Jane Doe 3 reported to Howard that she had "experienced sexual and other physical abuse" at hands of police officer.

April, 2015 - Jane Doe 5 reported that she was sexually assaulted by a male Howard student. 

October, 2015 - Jane Doe 2 reports she was raped by a male Howard student, who was a "RA."

February, 2016 - Jane Doe 1 reports she was raped by a male Howard student, who was a "RA."

Six Weeks Later - Jane Doe 1 takes to Twitter, complaining of Howard's handling of case; Jane Doe 2 sees the messages, and joins the legal effort against Howard. 

March, 2016 - Jane Doe 4 reported that a male Howard student raped her in a campus dorm.

April, 2016 - Jane Doe 6 reported that she was sexually assaulted by a male Howard student.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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