Mass. woman sues Brown University over handling of rape investigation

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A Massachusetts woman filed a lawsuit Nov. 24 against Brown University for grossly mishandling her sexual assault case.

The woman, who formerly attended Providence College, claims the university failed to properly investigate when she reported being raped by three Brown football players. The suit comes nearly two years after the university launched its investigation into the incident, which ended with a decision by a grand jury not to indict the assailants.

She met two of the football players at a bar in downtown Providence in November 2013. After taking just one shot of alcohol, she felt “drugged” and her “arms and body felt limp,” the police report stated.

They left the bar and one of the men brought her back to a Brown dorm, where she alleges three students — all Brown football players — sexually assaulted her over an “extended period of time,” according to the court documents.

The woman reported the incident to the Providence Police Department and filed a complaint with Providence College, which soon banned two of the students from its campus, the Brown Daily Herald reports.

Upon seizing the students’ cell phones, the Providence Police Department found significant evidence. According to court documents, a text message from the morning after the assault reads,”yo like classic (student c) tho…no invite just walks in and starts raping her.” Another phone held explicit photographs of the woman and one of the football players taken on the night of the assault.

Nearly five months passed before Brown University asked the two students at the center of the investigation to leave campus, although all three were eventually dismissed from the football team. More than seven months passed before Brown’s associate dean of student life informed her that the university would lead an “inquiry” into whether any of the students connected to her case violated the school’s Code of Student Conduct.

Over the past few years, she repeatedly requested “response and redress pursuant to Title IX” but was told that Brown would proceed “only under the student disciplinary code,” the Brown Daily Herald reports. In response, she successfully filed a complaint against the school with the Office of Civil Rights, which is currently pending.

On June 21, the university told the woman that it never completed its investigation and that it had “abandoned all disciplinary action against the three Brown University football players,” according to the suit.

Two of the football players returned to campus this fall, while she dropped out of Providence College. She was “in fear for her safety and well-being on campus and in the general Providence area,” the suit states. 

Her lawsuit alleges that she did not receive an “equitable grievance hearing, which subjected her to a hostile education environment and denied her access to educational opportunities,” according to the court documents. The suit seeks an amount of monetary damages, as well as an acknowledgement that the school violated the woman’s rights.

“I don’t know how a school can do nothing with this kind of evidence,” one of the woman’s attorneys, Wendy Murphy, told the Boston Globe. “I’m literally speechless. I don’t have an answer.”

In response to the suit, Brown spokesman Brian Clarke told the Herald that “Brown takes every allegation of sexual misconduct seriously, including the allegations made by Jane Doe.”

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