Lawsuit claims Howard University was unresponsive, failed to help 5 sexual assault victims

Lawsuit claims Howard University was unresponsive, failed to help 5 sexual assault victims (ABC7)

A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Howard University alleges the school severely mishandled several sexual assault allegations in the past three years.

Five women, who are current or former students of the university, claim their cases, which were reported in 2014, 2015 and 2016, have remained unresolved by Howard.

According to the lawsuit, Howard has failed to investigate each case within a 60 day period and has not provided adequate support for each victim, which the lawsuit states is in violation of the women's Title IX rights.

The cases allege the women were sexually or physically assaulted by male students or employees of Howard University, including a Resident Assistant (RA) and campus police officer.

Two victims allege they were raped by the same RA in an on-campus dorm and due to Howard's negligence to resolve the first victim's case in October 2015, the RA was able to remain on campus and allegedly sexually assaulted the other woman five months later in February 2016.

The lawsuit states another victim claims she was "extremely depressed and suicidal" following her alleged sexual and physical assault by a campus police officer in November 2014, and Howard provided no assistance in arranging counseling services, leading to dismissal from her job.

In March 2016, one victim says she was raped in her dorm room by a male student who lived in the same residence hall. The woman claims she asked about counseling services and requested to move to another dorm for safety reasons. She alleges Howard failed to respond to multiple requests to protect her from her assailant, who remained on campus following the alleged assault.

Another one of the victims says she received a letter from Howard stating she was unable to graduate as planned, following her reported rape by a male student in April 2015. Due to personal safety reasons, the woman requested to finish her classes at a local community college over the summer in her hometown. The woman claims it took the university nearly seven and a half months to accept her credits in order to graduate. Then, in October 2016, the woman's attacker was convicted of sexually assaulting another woman in D.C.

The suit alleges the university violated Title IX and "Howard’s failure to promptly and appropriately investigate and respond to these assaults furthered sexual harassment and a hostile environment, denying Plaintiffs and other female students, access to educational opportunities."

On Thursday, a Howard University spokeswoman released a statement related to the lawsuit. Read it in full below:

"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."

In April 2016, Howard students rallied on campus in protest of the university's handling of sexual assault cases weeks after one of the victims in this current lawsuit came forward with rape allegations.

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