Woman Claims Michigan State Athletes Raped Her & The School Discouraged Her From Speaking Out
An unnamed woman attending Michigan State University claims she was raped by three former men's basketball players, and that MSU discouraged her from reporting the assault, CBS News reported. In a lawsuit filed Monday, the woman, referred to as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, claims the school's counseling staff told her that she faced an "uphill battle" if she went to the police about the alleged assault. Asked about the accusations against the school, MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant tells Bustle the university "does not have a statement at this time."
The lawsuit claims that an 18-year-old female student met three former MSU basketball players at a bar in East Lansing on April 12, 2015, the Detroit Free Press reported. She later followed them to what she thought was a party at an apartment off campus, the Free Press explained. However, "upon arrival, there was no party as few people were present," according to the suit.
Jane Doe said she was feeling "discombobulated" and tried to "send a phone text, but she could not control her thumbs to formulate a text," according to the lawsuit. After that point, the lawsuit claims she was taken into the bedroom, where the three men allegedly took turns raping her.
The woman went to the campus' Counseling Center services a week after the horrifying ordeal, where she claims university staff discouraged her from going to the police. Staff told her that if she did report the rape to authorities, "she faced an uphill battle that would create anxiety and unwanted media attention," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit marks the third big sexual assault scandal MSU has faced this year. In February, former MSU doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual abuse. Two months later, Nassar's boss, William Strampel, was arrested on similar charges.
Prior to her alleged rape, the woman said she had "no intention of having any physical contact with any of the people present at the party," the lawsuit reads. The lawsuit also states she was having a difficult time holding her glass, though she says she didn't have a lot to drink. At some point during her assault, the suit claims, the woman blacked out and "does not remember anything else until she woke up on the couch a few hours later."
She took a cab home from the off-campus apartment, and about a week later went to the Counseling Center. That's when she told a female counselor that she was raped. The lawsuit claims that when the woman mentioned her alleged attackers were MSU basketball players, the counselor’s demeanor changed and she said she needed another person in the room with them. It's not clear from the lawsuit why someone else needed to be in the room, or who the person who joined them was.
"Plaintiff was so discouraged by the representations made by the MSUCC Counseling staff," the lawsuit continued, "she became frightened to the point that she decided she could not report the rape(s) to law enforcement."
The lawsuit claims the counselor told the woman she'd face unwanted publicity if she reported her case, "as had happened with many other female students who were sexually assaulted by well-known athletes.”
We've seen this happen before with cases like Brock Turner's, known in the media as the case of the "Stanford swimmer." There was also the Steubenville rape case, where a teenage girl from Ohio was ostracized after accusing her town's star football players of rape.
MSU has come under scrutiny in the past for the way it handles Title IX cases, which mandates that no student may be discriminated against because of their gender. According to the Detroit Free Press, the federal Office for Civil Rights determined in 2015 that MSU’s handling of several Title IX cases created a “hostile environment” for alleged victims of sexual misconduct. The office also found there was confusion within the athletic department about who should report sexual assault claims to the proper offices.
According to the woman's lawsuit, by October 2015 she had become "traumatized, depressed, and withdrawn to the point that she was admitted to the Sparrow Hospital outpatient psychiatric day program for intensive psychiatric treatment.” She claims that the school didn't offer her any academic assistance or refer her to the Title IX office, despite telling university officials she was suffering from trauma after being raped.