SPOKANE, Wash. (CN) – A Gonzaga University student says that when she reported she was raped by a fellow student, school officials “questioned her in an insensitive, accusatory, and inappropriate manner,” refused to protect her from the man, and said they could not hold a disciplinary hearing for him because she “had gone outside of the University system” to seek a protective order from the Superior Court.
Jane Doe claims Gonzaga’s rude treatment violated its own policies and forced her to leave the Catholic college. She seeks damages for harassment, discrimination, emotional distress and civil rights violations, in Federal Court.
“Gonzaga engages in a common course of conduct when responding to allegations of sexual assault that discourages reporting, encourages women to suffer in silence, and re-victimizes women who choose to come forward,” Doe says.
She says she reported the rape to Gonzaga’s Sexual Assault Response Team in 2007. She claims that afterward the rapist, identified only as John Doe, tried repeatedly to contact her online, and even hid in stairways waiting for her.
Jane Doe says she “began having nightmares that Mr. Doe would break into her home.” She says school officials blew off her requests for action, and the Dean’s office told her “there was not much the school could do.”
Jane Doe says she was forced to go outside the university to seek protection. She obtained a temporary protective order from Spokane County Superior Court. But she says, “A Campus Security officer stated that the security office could not enforce the order because the box ‘school’ was not checked.”
Doe says she “met with Kassi Kain, Director of Judicial Affairs and Student Conduct, and asked for an order barring Mr. Doe from communicating with her,” and also sought Kain’s help on other occasions.
“On October 31, 2007, Ms. Doe informed Ms. Kain that she wanted to proceed with disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Doe,” the complaint states. “Ms. Kain was frustrated that Ms. Doe had gone outside of the University system in seeking the Order of Protection and told Ms. Doe that the Order of Protection would prevent Gonzaga from holding a disciplinary hearing.
“Gonzaga officials refused to schedule the hearing unless plaintiff modified the Order of Protection. This position contradicted the position of Campus Security, which had refused to enforce the Order of Protection, claiming it did not apply to the school premises.”
Doe claims that Gonzaga officials who knew her assailant “prejudged the situation,” and that school officials, including Kain, had concluded in advance that “Ms. Doe fabricated the sexual assault because she was upset about Mr. Doe breaking up with her and dating other women.”
She adds: “The hearing panel’s questions probed into inappropriate details including relative size of the parties’ respective anatomies and their past sexual conduct. During Ms. Doe’s painful recitation of how Mr. Doe raped her, board members frequently interrupted her to ask inappropriate, irrelevant, and offensive questions. For example, hearing officer Sima Thorpe used repetitious and caustic questioning, sarcasm, and emphatic hand gestures to intimidate Ms. Doe during the hearing. Ms. Thorpe improperly indicated that she believed Ms. Doe was at fault by constantly asking, re-asking, and re-wording questions and demanding to know ‘Why didn’t you kick him? If you realized what was occurring at the time, why didn’t you get up? Why didn’t you push?’ Board members also suggested that Plaintiff may have filed her complaint out of jealousy.”
Jane Doe says: “The board members’ conduct and questioning re-victimized Ms. Doe and indicate a lack of proper training for sexual assault and misconduct hearings. The most basic training on rape and sexual assault emphasizes that not every sexual assault survivor resists her assailant; that many rape survivors are paralyzed with fear during the attack; and that sexual assault survivors in general respond in a variety of ways, all of which are considered ‘normal.'”
Jane Doe says that Gonzaga found that John Doe had not violated its sexual misconduct policy, and denied her appeal. She left the university in 2008.
She claims that since she left, Gonzaga has changed some policies to make it even more difficult for rape victims. The changes include “adding a male Jesuit Student Life case manager who ‘screens’ sexual assault complaints and often meets with the victims at the hospital.”
Jane Doe is represented by Beth Terrell with Terrell Marshall & Daudt, of Seattle.