Oregon State Accused of Tolerating Rape

           EUGENE, Ore. (CN) – Oregon State University and its head football coach Mike Riley tolerated a culture of sexual violence and discouraged rape victims from reporting the assaults, a second woman claims in court.
     Riley was hired away from Oregon State last year and now is head football coach at the University of Nebraska. In her federal lawsuit Monday, Kristin Samuelson claims she was drugged and raped at a party when she was a freshman in October 1999, and woke up in the same apartment where Brenda Tracy claims she had been gang raped the year before.
     In a long interview last year, Tracy told The Oregonian newspaper that she had been gang-raped by Oregon State football players and recruits in 1998. A Corvallis police report identified four suspects then, two of them OSU players, one a high school recruit and one a community college recruit who was on probation for armed robbery.
     Tracy claimed two of her rapists were OSU players John Carlyle and Jason Dandridge.
     Samuelson says the man who raped her is Carlyle’s cousin.
     After Tracy’s allegations made national headlines last year, Carlyle denied her rape allegations to the New York Daily News.
     All four men in Tracy’s case were arrested and charged with sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration and sexual abuse, according The Oregonian and other newspapers, but dropped the charges when Tracy refused to cooperate. Tracy told the Oregonian that she did not press the case because she was on the verge of suicide.
     Both women’s tales are similar: slipped a drug in a drink and awaking semi-paralyzed to find themselves being raped, but unable to move.
     Samuelson says in her lawsuit that she learned only in November 2014 that Tracy claimed to have been raped at OSU, and that the school had treated Tracy as shabbily as it treated her.
     Samuelson says she awoke “naked and alone” on Oct. 10, 1999, in an off-campus apartment “where some OSU football players lived.”
     When she reported the rape to OSU’s sexual assault counselor, on Oct. 11 or 12, Samuel says, the counselor told her: “(a) maybe plaintiff had said ‘yes’, (b) a rape kit was worse than the assault itself, (c) ‘these things are hard to prove’, (d) it would be blamed on plaintiff, (e) plaintiff should not have been drinking, gave her meeting times for Alcoholics Anonymous, and then had no further contact with plaintiff, and upon information and belief, took no further action. No one else from OSU contacted plaintiff thereafter about the assault or, upon information and belief, took any other action either.”
     The counselor’s actions made her feel “even more shame, humiliation, and emotional distress than she had felt after being assaulted,” and “dissuaded [her] from seeking any further help from OSU, and consequently did nothing more to hold her perpetrator accountable for his crime,” Samuelson says in the complaint.
     She says OSU had been put on notice about the football program, and the shortcomings of its own policies, when Brady reported the gang rape to it the year before.
     Samuelson says the rape reduced her from being a good student who’d earned 15 college credits in high school to a “distraught, isolated, anxious and depressed” young woman who failed out of her freshman year of college.
     She claims the university had a financial motivation to brush sexual assault under the rug. In 1998, Samuelson says, the school “had a budget shortfall and enrollment was down 12 percent from the start of the decade.”
     She claims that Lois Krzesewski, then-adviser to OSU President Paul Risser on the Commission for the Status of Women on Campus, told The Oregonian that school officials had ordered her not to “discuss the particulars of Brenda Tracy’s case,” to avoid jeopardizing funding from donors.
     Samuelson says she learned from the Oregonian in November last year that she had suffered the same thing as Tracy, in the same place. She claims that when Tracy reported the gang rape to police, who arrested the four men, coach Riley responded by suspending two of them for one game.
     Samuelson says Oregon State failed to address the “hostile and sexually violent culture toward women permitted by OSU’s football program,” did not implement effective policies to prevent sexual assault, did not properly educate students, coaches and faculty about consent and sexual assault, refused to properly investigate assault allegations, did not appropriately discipline football players based on the severity of their actions, and refused to provide services to students who had been assaulted.
     “Larry Roper, vice provost for student affairs in 1998 and 1999, said, ‘Sex assaults were murky’ and ‘We had no idea back then how to conduct an investigation,'” the lawsuit states, citing an Oregonian report. “He also said, ‘It wouldn’t happen today. We’d expel them both,’ referring to Calvin Carlyle and Jason Dandridge, OSU’s football players,” whom Tracy claims raped her.
     In the same article, Krzesewski was quoted as saying: “‘There was a lack of reporting when it came to sex assaults on campus. We had a real problem, and everyone knew it.’ OSU’s female students, including plaintiff, did not know it,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, OSU’s personnel made plaintiff feel as if it was her problem.”
     Samuelson seeks $7.5 million plus punitive damages for civil rights violations and constitutional violations. She is represented by Katherine Heekin in Portland, who declined to comment.
     Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing at Oregon State, told Courthouse News the university was “greatly saddened to hear of this experience that Ms. Samuelson had in 1999.”
     “Ms. Samuelson says she was assaulted by a non-student assailant that she says is related to the assailant in Ms. Tracy’s case,” Clark said. “We are not attempting to question Ms. Samuelson’s recollection of assault. We are not calling her recollection or integrity into question at all. But we disagree and refute the claim in the lawsuit where she says that the university’s decision to not expel the assailant in Ms. Tracy’s assault led to her own assault one year later by a non-student relative.”
     Clark said the university has instituted programs since the late 1990s to help survivors of sexual assault and harassment, including counseling and psychological services, requiring every freshman to take a course in sexual assault awareness and risks of alcohol abuse, and requiring that all student athletes participate in these programs every year.
     The school also created a sexual assault and advocate position “as a single source of information that a survivor of harassment and sexual violence can come to and seek clarity of all the services that are offered at Oregon State and in terms of reporting the matter and seeking services in the larger Corvallis area,” Clark said.
     “We want to provide someone to help the survivor navigate the difficult times that are occurring and receive the most immediate and complete services possible,” Clark said.
     As for monetary damages, Clark said: “We’re very sensitive to the fact of her reported assault and will do what we can to assist her as a former student in providing service such as counseling. We want to assist her in this matter. What we are not able to do as a public university accountable to taxpayers and tuition-paying students is pay monetary settlements. We’re not in a position to pay monetary damages where the university is not obligated to do so.”
     Clark said there was a big difference between campus responses to sexual assault when Samuelson and Tracy were students, compared to today.
     “What was occurring in the university system and in policing in the late 1990s was very different from today, Clark said. “Universities 15 to 20 years ago did not enforce a code of student conduct off campus. We do today and have for many years. The investigations into acts of violence such as Ms. Samuelson or Ms. Tracy reported were not something that a survivor would go public with against a university 15 to 20 years ago. Then, those cases were not investigated or taken to trial by district attorneys. That is different today. So today, the university helps the survivor navigate the many agencies they need to go through in reporting their cases.”
     Tracy told The Oregonian that the woman who administered the rape kit long ago inspired her to become a nurse, a job she holds today.
     Tracy acquired a second job in July: as a consultant for Oregon State, working with the school to prevent sexual violence and support survivors.

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