BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – The parents of a former University of Alabama student sued the school and the Tuscaloosa, Alabama sheriff’s department over their handling of the reported rape by their daughter, who later committed suicide.
In a federal complaint filed July 2, Michael and Cynthia Rondini say their daughter Megan, a pre-med student at the university, was raped during her junior year by defendant Terry Bunn Jr., who she met in a local bar.
The Rondini’s say Megan either became drunk or was drugged because she has gaps in her memory about the evening, but at some point, she was taken by Bunn in his white Mercedes to his home.
They say Megan repeatedly asked Bunn to take her back to her friends, but he refused and once inside his house, he demanded that she get on his bed.
The complaint states that after forcibly performing oral sex on Megan, Bunn “placed his hands on her hips, held her down, and forced himself inside her vagina.” Bunn sexually attacked, abused and assaulted Megan for 30 minutes against her will before passing out on his bed.
At this time, the complaint states that Megan became “frantic” because she realized that Bunn had locked the bedroom door. Megan sent texts to several friends telling them of her “terrifying” situation and begging for help. Megan escaped by crawling through a window onto the roof and jumping to the ground, where she waited for a friend to pick her up.
According to the complaint, Megan called her parents in the early hours of the morning telling them about the attack. Megan’s mother immediately got in her car to drive from Texas to Tuscaloosa while her father contacted the Women and Gender Resource Center at the university to make sure an advocate would be available to assist his daughter when she arrived at the hospital. An advocate did meet Megan at the hospital, but “abandoned” her while she was still being questioned by police officers.
The complaint states that Megan did everything she was supposed to do in reporting the rape because rather than going home to eat, sleep or bathe, she went to the hospital for a rape kit and to give a urine sample. Both items were delivered to the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Department to be used during their investigation.
However, according to the complaint, these items were never sent for testing to the forensic lab despite the fact that Megan “exhibited multiple signs that she had been a victim of a drug facilitated sexual assault.”
The only evidence gathered from the investigation, says the complaint, was that Megan tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease that she got from Bunn.
The complaint claims the rape was never fully investigated because Bunn comes from a wealthy, influential Tuscaloosa family who were major financial supporters of the University.
The young woman’s parents says defendant investigator Adam Jones, who interviewed Megan, focused on irrelevant questions unrelated to the sexual assault and he did not take any notes during the interview.
They say Jones treated Megan as a crime suspect when she told him that after she escaped from Bunn’s home, she took $3 from his car in case she needed to take a taxi and a pistol “for safety.”
Ultimately, they say, Jones concluded that because Megan had not kicked or hit Bunn, no rape had occurred.
Defendant Joshua Hastings, a sheriff’s deputy, interviewed Bunn after the assault, but, the Rondini’s say, he “failed to probe any details of the alleged sexual assault. Hastings made no attempt whatsoever to establish a detailed record of what happened that evening.”
According to the complaint, Hastings did not challenge inconsistencies with Bunn’s story and instead gave the “clear impression” that the police were united with him against Megan.
The advocate from the university assigned to help Megan, Beth Howard, also a named defendant in the lawsuit, allegedly refused to respond to Megan and her parents’ request for information on the case.
Three days after the assault, the complaint continues, Megan returned home to Texas where she was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD. Three weeks later, the Rondini family was told by the district attorney that the case would not be brought before a grand jury.
Despite this news, Megan decided to go back to college and tried to return to normal. Upon her return however, she discovered that Bunn was from a well-connected and powerful Tuscaloosa family, the complaint says.
The Rondini’s say Megan was fearful of seeing Bunn on campus even though he was not a student and although the University’s policy calls for “an environment free from sexual misconduct” and it would provide “accommodations, interim protective measures and support services,” none of these were offered or given to Megan, who no longer felt safe on campus and decided to leave the university.
The complaint says that once she returned home, Megan’s mental health issues increased and she started having panic attacks, a lack of motivation, feelings of worthlessness and she lost weight. On a health history form, Megan indicated that she had suicidal thoughts because she had been “raped, bullied by police, and changed university.”
Two days before committing suicide, Megan sent a text to a friend that said, “When all is said and done, I wonder what I could’ve accomplished if one man didn’t completely rip everything away from me.”
The wrongful death lawsuit also names Cara Blakes, who works as a counselor at the university, and Sheriff Ronald Abernathy as defendants. Megan’s parents claim defendants did not properly investigate the reported sexual assault and exhibited a “conscious indifference to Megan’s rights and welfare.” They are represented by Leroy Maxwell, Jr. of Birmingham.
The University of Alabama released a statement about Megan before the lawsuit was filed. It read, “The University of Alabama has been deeply saddened by the death of Megan Rondini, and we continue to offer our sympathy to her friends and family.
“Information published by news outlets this week has unfortunately ignored some significant facts,” the statement continued. “When Megan went to the hospital, a University advocate met her at the hospital to provide support and stayed with her throughout the examination process. Megan also received information from University representatives regarding services available to her on campus, including counseling through the University’s Women & Gender Resource Center. When she sought counseling and her first therapist identified a potential conflict as defined by her professional obligations, Megan was immediately introduced to another therapist, who provided care and support. Additionally, the UA Title IX Office was in contact with Megan, including offering academic accommodations and helping to streamline her withdrawal when Megan elected to return to Texas.
“Because the reported incident occurred off-campus, the University’s police department was not involved in the formal criminal investigation,” the statement said. “We hope these recent news accounts, which do not tell the full story, will not discourage others from reporting sexual assault or seeking help and support.”