Milwaukee’s Marquette University has been sued in federal court by a rape victim who accuses the college of mishandling her sexual assault case and attempting to discourage her from making a police report. The lawsuit, filed by a former nursing student at Marquette, also claims school officials failed to prevent the assault from happening, the Marquette Wire reports. To protect the plaintiff’s privacy, she is being referred to as Jane Doe in court documents.
Sexual Assault Lawsuit Says Marquette Failed Victim
Submitted to a Wisconsin federal court on August 24, 2017, the former student’s complaint revolves around an alleged rape that took place in 2014, along with the questionable actions she claims Marquette took in the assault’s wake. Court documents say the victim, then a sophomore, began receiving threats over text from another student in August of that year. Confronting the man, who she considered a friend at the time, the plaintiff “was very clear […] that she did not appreciate the offensive and rude and somewhat threatening text messages he sent,” according to an attorney in the case. A few days later, the two met up again, early in the morning on August 24, 2014. Doe, who was intoxicated at the time, says the male student raped her.
Marquette, however, was less than willing to help, according to the student’s claims. After informing her parents of the assault, the family went to the University’s Department of Public Safety for guidance. Instead of support, Doe writes, school officials tried to stop the family from reporting the rape to the police. Confused and distraught, Doe eventually learned from another student that her alleged rapist had been stalking her the previous year. Subsequent investigations by Doe’s legal team found even more troubling evidence.
Marquette Let Alleged Attacker Back On Campus, Plaintiff Claims
According to Doe’s attorney, Marquette had suspended her alleged attacker, referred to only as KW, for misconduct toward another student, but the University quickly reversed its decision, allowing the man back on campus. Interviewed by Fox 6 NOW, the lawyer laid out her claim that Marquette had failed to prevent Jane Doe’s assault: “Marquette University knew and had reason to know this student, KW, was a danger on the Marquette campus and they let him back on campus.”
Reporting a rape is often extremely challenging for victims, who can be burdened by guilt and shame. Some victims fear victim-shaming, believe the criminal justice system will dismiss their claims or worry about being retaliated against by their abuser. Others suspect that the lengthy process of criminal justice system will only lead to “re-victimization.” The majority of survivors do not report their assaults to the police, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Student: University Retaliated After Charges Were Filed
Doe made the choice to step forward, reporting the assault to Milwaukee’s Police Department. An investigation began and soon the police had a warrant for KW’s arrest. Marquette, though, refused the requests of law enforcement officials, who wanted to arrest KW on campus. Instead, the suspect was arrested elsewhere, at which point Doe urged prosecutors to file charges.
KW was ultimately charged for the rape of Doe and withdrew from Marquette in September. That’s when Marquette struck out against Doe, court records allege, retaliating for her choice to involve the authorities. Citing a sub-par grade in one of her prerequisite courses, the University tried to pressure Doe into leaving the school, she says. When that strategy failed, Doe continues, the school put her on academic probation, noting her GPA of 2.62. Normally, Marquette marks the cutoff for academic probation at a GPA of 2.5, the lawsuit claims. A school-appointed counselor took a dismissive, even insulting, tone, Doe says, calling her to ask questions like, “Hi, how are you feeling about being raped?”
These tactics had a clear motive, Doe’s attorney told reporters. The University’s goal was “to intimidate Doe in an effort to cause her to leave Marquette, protect Marquette against legal action and discredit Doe as a complainant.” An added consequence, the lawyer says, is “to deter future sexual assault victims from pursuing charges.”
Title IX Makes Schools Responsible For Rape Response
Doe struggled to handle the trauma of being raped and, allegedly, dismissed by the officials at her school, but her grades began to suffer. She left Marquette of her own accord earlier this year and is now enrolled at a community college. The criminal case against KW went to trial, where he was acquitted.
It’s important to note that Doe is not pursuing KW, the man she says raped her, in her case. The point of her lawsuit, attorneys note, is to hold Marquette accountable. The complaint accuses the University of violating Title IX, a federal law that provides all students, regardless of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, equal access to the academic environment.
In the wake of a sexual assault, Title IX obligates academic institutions to stop the unacceptable behavior immediately, prevent it from happening again and adequately remedy the effects of any wrongdoing. Alongside her Title IX claims, Doe is hoping to hold Marquette liable on counts of negligence and emotional distress. She has asked for $1.5 million in compensation.