University Accused of Botching Rape Inquiry

     FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (CN) — A former University of Arkansas tennis player who was sexually assaulted by a 2012 Olympic track athlete in her campus dorm room says in federal court that the school botched her Title IX case and did almost nothing to make her feel safe after the alleged attack.
     Raymond Higgs, 25, was expelled from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville in January 2015 after a hearing found him responsible for sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the October 2014 assault of then 19-year-old Elizabeth Fryberger.
     On Monday Fryberger sued the university and its board of trustees claiming they mishandled the investigation and showed bias toward Higgs “because of ‘his status’ as a celebrated Olympic track athlete.”
     Higgs, an Olympic long jumper who represented the Bahamas in the 2012 London games, met Fryberger through an online dating app, according to her lawsuit filed in Arkansas Federal Court on Aug 22.
     The two had consensual sex on one occasion, but Higgs testified “that by early October, he realized plaintiff was not interested in a sexual relationship with him,” the lawsuit says.
     Fryberger says in her complaint that on October 20, 2014, Higgs threw her onto her dorm room floor and forcibly attempted to penetrate her “without her consent and against her protest” and also demanded oral sex.
     “After Higgs left the room following the assault, plaintiff requested a meeting with the university’s director of clinical and sports psychology, Dr. Michael Johnson, for the following day,” the complaint says.
     Fryberger says that what followed was an unreasonable response by university administrators “in light of the known sexual harassment and discrimination.”
     “Defendants had notice of Higgs history of prior violence” but “acted with deliberated indifference in the investigation and response to the allegation of rape by a female student against a male student,” the lawsuit says.
     Higgs had three prior arrested by university police, according to Fryberger’s lawsuit.
     Prosecutors declined to file charges against Higgs, citing insufficient evidence, but a Title IX hearing found him responsible.
     Fryberger says that even after the hearing committee expelled Higgs, he was still allowed to remain on campus and was granted a deferment for his expulsion date for the end of the semester after he would receive his diploma.
     University administrators later overturned that decision after questions from reporters, saying it had been issued “in error.”
     Fryberger’s lawsuit says that U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill after reviewing footage of the Title IX hearing summarized the questioning as “ignorant.”
     “U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who also reviewed the footage, said, “They [the hearing panel] came across as extremely uniformed, not trained.”
     Fryberger says the school failed to implement athletic policies setting procedure for trainers, coaches, and student-athletes who are victims of sexual assault to follow.
     She withdrew from school after the Spring 2015 semester and says she continues weekly therapy sessions as a result of the assault.
     “Defendants’ deliberate indifference resulted in risks to plaintiff’s safety and the loss of her ability to continue attending UofA.”
     Fryberger seeks damages for Title IX discrimination, violations of the Campus Save Act, and for trauma, emotional distress, fear and anxiety.
     She is represented by George Rozzell with the Rogers law firm Keith, Miller, Butler, Schneider & Pawlik.

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