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Michigan State University discouraged student from reporting alleged rape by athletes, lawsuit says

DigitalVision/Thinkstock
DigitalVision/Thinkstock

(LANSING, Mich.) — A student who claims three Michigan State University basketball players gang-raped her three years ago is suing the institution in federal court for “discouraging” her from reporting the alleged assault.

The civil lawsuit, which seeks both compensatory and punitive damages, was filed in the Michigan Southern District Court by the female plaintiff, referred to as Jane Doe. The suit names the university and the school’s staffers or counselors, who are referred to individually in the document as “Unidentified Roe” at the school’s counseling center.

ABC News’ attempts to reach Michigan State University reps were not immediately returned.

The document details what Doe claims happened the night of April 11, 2015, into the early morning hours of April 12, 2015.

After the Michigan State University Spartans lost to the Duke Blue Devils, 81-61, some players appeared “sometime around midnight” at Harper’s Bar, where Doe was drinking with her roommate, according to the lawsuit.

Jane Doe, then a freshman student majoring in sports journalism, said that three basketball team players eliminated from the tourney — referred to as John Doe 1, John Doe 2 and John Doe 3 — arrived and John Doe 1 approached her and “offered to buy her a drink,” according to the lawsuit.

She accepted, the lawsuit states.

Then the player introduced her to his two teammates, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the woman had no romantic “interest in any of the team members” and merely believed she was commiserating with them based on her sports journalism career ambitions.

The woman claims in the lawsuit that she was invited to attend a party at an off-campus apartment.

Once at the party, the woman claims she was pulled into a bedroom and John Doe 1 allegedly told her: “You are mine for the night.”

According to the lawsuit, the woman tried to play a particular song on a laptop when she noticed that “she could not manipulate her hands properly … [she] realized something was wrong and she thought she might have been drugged.”

She was allegedly shown some basketball memorabilia by John Doe 2 and she requested some water “because she was incredibly thirsty,” according to the lawsuit.

John Doe 2 brought her the water and took the freshman into his bedroom, where she assumed she would be shown more memorabilia.

But while she took a sip of water, the room went dark, she claims in the lawsuit.

Then, according to the lawsuit, the woman “was forcefully thrown face down on the bed, held in place so she could not move, while John Doe 2 raped [her] from behind.”

The lawsuit goes on to allege the victim was crying as the act happened but was incapable of moving or speaking.

“At no time did she consent to the sexual activity,” the lawsuit states.

Then, after John Doe 2 was finished with the alleged rape, the document states that John Does 1 and 3 then entered the room, held her down, “and took turns raping her.”

The woman claims that she awoke “a few hours later” on a couch inside John Doe 2’s apartment and called a taxi to take her back to her dorm room, where her roommate said that she had been looking for her all night “but could not find her,” the lawsuit states.

The two students spoke about the alleged rape, according to the lawsuit, and the woman confided in a friend as well.

Over a week passed until the friend escorted the alleged rape victim to Michigan State University Counseling Center to report the incident to a rape counselor, the lawsuit states.

Upon disclosing that the three alleged attackers played on the school’s basketball squad the counselor “suddenly announced to Jane Doe that she needed another person in the room” and her “demeanor changed,” according to the lawsuit.

A second member of the counseling center joined them, the lawsuit states, and the woman claims that she was given two options: to file a police report or “deal with the aftermath of the rape(s) on her own,” the lawsuit states.

She was also allegedly informed by the two counselors that filing a police report would yield unwanted media attention, the lawsuit states. The woman also claims she was told “we have had many other students in the same situation who have reported, and it has been very traumatic for them,” according to the lawsuit.

“If you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish,” the woman alleges she was told, the lawsuit states.

As a result, the alleged rape victim “became frightened to the point that she decided she could not report the rape(s) to law enforcement,” according to the lawsuit.

Moreover, the lawsuit alleges that the university apparently failed to inform Jane Doe of her rights to file a no-contact order to ban any kind of contact with the ballplayers — whom she she said she occasionally came in contact with at her dorm.

As a result, the woman didn’t report the incident for 10 months, the lawsuit states.

By then, the woman become “so traumatized, depressed, and withdrawn” to the point that she was admitted to a psychiatric facility for treatment, according to the lawsuit.

She quit school for a time and was refunded her tuition money, according to the lawsuit. She later returned, changing her major from sports journalism, a dream that had been “destroyed,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also claims that the school failed the woman by not informing her that she could report the incident to the Office of Institutional Equity nor did the school tell her about her Title IX rights — which grant her protections from sexual harassment.

The lawsuit goes on to accuse the university of treating its male athletes “differently than they treated non-athlete related sexual assault complaints.”

Beyond the damages the lawsuit is seeking, the alleged victim also wants Michigan State University to do away with an “unwritten, official” policy that the lawsuit characterizes as giving male athletes “unwritten permission to commit acts of sexual assault without consequence.

The lawsuit also wants to establish a way to do away with the university’s “fostered culture in which female victims are discouraged from reported sexual assaults when those assaults are perpetrated by male athletes, thus protecting the university, the male athletics programs, and the male athletes at the expense of the female victims.”

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