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Assault Alleged at VA’s Bridgewater College

(CN) - Bridgewater College in western Virginia deliberately brushed aside the sexual assault of a foreign-exchange student on campus, a federal complaint alleges.

The Italian national who filed the 24-page complaint Friday in Manhattan identifies herself by name, but Courthouse News uses pseudonyms in its article to refer to this woman and her alleged attacker.

Jane Doe says she was sexually assaulted in her dormitory on Feb. 5, 2014, because of the environment that Bridgewater perpetuated in failing "to properly deal with the five forcible sexual offenses that occurred in 2013."

Though Doe's Virginia-based classmate allegedly admitted to trying to force sex from her, Bridgewater "repeatedly discouraged plaintiff from filing formal civil and criminal complaints ... and otherwise sought to conceal this incident from the public," according to the complaint.

"As a foreign-exchange student, plaintiff did not know or understand her rights or the policies and procedures concerning the reporting requirements of such an incident," the complaint states.

Doe says she had to undergo several counseling sessions at Bridgewater over the next several months "before she could build up the courage and strength to report the sexual assault to the Bridgewater Campus Police" in May.

Though the school held a hearing for the alleged attacker, Doe says she was denied many of her rights with regard to the hearing.

She was not informed of her right to make a written statement, or review a written statement made by the man she accused, according to the complaint.

Doe was also not allowed to present witnesses or give her own testimony at the hearing, the complaint alleges.

It was furthermore "outrageous" for Bridgewater to include two students on the hearing panel, "considering the complex and sensitive issues presented to the panel," according to the complaint.

Though Doe says Bridgewater suspended her alleged attacker for a short time, she says he was allowed to return and that she was never notified of any charges made against him.

Campus police never reported the incident to Bridgewater Police, nor did they inform Doe of her right to do so, according to the complaint.

An East Village resident, the woman says she plans to finish her last semester of Italian college studies soon and then return to New York for post-graduate education.

The complaint names as defendants both Bridgewater and Doe's alleged attacker, as well as four school officials.

"These individual employees ... had an absolute legal obligation to assure that the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault of Plaintiff and its aftermath was handled properly from a Title IX standpoint," Facchetti's complaint states.

Doe's assault and lack of proper handling by Bridgewater staff, "effectively barred [Doe] from access to the educational opportunities at Bridgewater," the complaint states.

Doe says Bridgewater is "determined to sweep the sexual assaults under the carpet."

In addition to affecting Doe's grades, relationships, diet and sleeping patterns, the alleged assault has left Doe with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, according to the complaint.

She is represented by Donald Jacobs with Budd Larner in Short Hills, N.J.

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