SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – A teen who says she was brutally raped and held captive for hours on a Catholic school-sponsored trip to Europe claims the assault was deemed something that “happens all the time.”
J.L. and V.L, and daughter M.L., sued the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City and the associated dioceses and Catholic schools in Salt Lake County District Court.
Court documents detail how an unidentified intruder held M.L. captive for several hours in 2015 in a hotel room in Germany, where he raped and taunted her.
Defendant Marcella Burden, a teacher and former principal, was the sole chaperone on the trip.
M.L, the lawsuit states, was assigned to stay in a separate annex than her peers during the final leg of the trip, at ParkHotel Rudesheim in Rudesheim am Rhein.
Burden did not perform any curfew checks, safety checks or bed-checks of M.L., the lone female in the group, during the stay, the family claims.
On the final night of the trip, the lawsuit states, M.L. packed her suitcase and went to bed for the night.
A male intruder later awakened her, according to the family.
“Initially somewhat bewildered and cloudy from being awakened, M.L. lay still for a moment thinking that she might be dreaming. Quickly, however, she realized that it was, in fact, happening and that she was in peril,” the 23-page lawsuit states.
“Alone, frightened, and defenseless, M.L. closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep hoping that the intruder was simply looking to steal her money or property and would not harm her,” the complaint continues.
Though she resisted, the man “quickly subdued and then brutally raped M.L.,” according to the lawsuit.
The attacker stayed in the room “for several hours,” taunting M.L. and blocking her from escaping, the family claims.
Outlining her terror, the lawsuit goes on: “With each passing hour, the tormented girl’s thoughts raced: How did the intruder get in? Had he already been hiding in her room when she returned that evening? Would he grope or rape her again? Or worse, would he try to kill or silence her?”
The man eventually left and M.L, uncertain if he lurked nearby, sent a text message to a friend in the United States.
That friend contacted M.L.’s parents, who connected with Burden.
Burden located M.L., but allegedly made no effort to secure medical treatment, file a police report or notify hotel security.
“Perhaps overwhelmed or just eager to return to Salt Lake City rather than undertaking an appropriate response to the inconvenient and inopportune tragedy at hand, Burden spent a short time surveying the scene and then instructed M.L. to gather her belongings and prepare to board the bus to the airport with the rest of the group,” the family claims.
Before instructing her to board a flight home, Burden told M.L., “Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time,” according to the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, M.L.’s parents say Burden repeatedly assured them via text messages that the situation was “completely under control,” and that everything was “just fine.”
Upon arrival in Utah, Burden told the parents that M.L. was “a little upset” but that “nothing serious” had happened before she hurried off, they claim.
Burden later told J.L. and V.L. that she did not know where M.L.’s room in Germany was located, nor her room number, the lawsuit states.
A subsequent rape evaluation showed that M.L. suffered injuries consistent with a violent sexual assault, according to the lawsuit.
Reports also separately surfaced that Burden bought and drank alcohol with students during the trip.
When the family asked why defendants Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and Juan Diego Catholic High School shielded the chaperone, the school’s principal, non-party Galey Colosimo, told J.L. and V.L. that Burden “had a contract” and could not be fired, according to the complaint.
The family says Burden was later assigned as a temporary instructor in one of M.L.’s classes, causing her severe distress and an “emotional and psychological setback.”
The family added that the ordeal “was entirely avoidable and would have never occurred but for a pattern of jaw-dropping negligence, mismanagement, and acts of reckless and willful indifference.”
The parties could not immediately be reached for comment.
The family seeks punitive damages for negligent hiring and training, breach of fiduciary duty, and emotional distress.
They are represented by Jonathon Tichy with Prince, Yeates & Geldzahler in Salt Lake City.