Woman Faults St. Louis University’s Response to Sexual Assault

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – St. Louis University kicked a woman off its field hockey team after she complained that another student had sexually assaulted her, and it urged her to keep quiet about the attack, the woman claims in Federal Court.

     Joan Roe also says the university provides better medical care for injured male athletes than it does for female athletes.
     Roe entered SLU on a field hockey scholarship as a freshman in August 2006, but developed back pain that September. Instead of giving her immediate attention, as it would to a male athlete, SLU physicians gave her pain pills and made her continue practicing, Roe says. In November, 42 days after she reported the injury, an MRI revealed she had a herniated disc and narrowing of the spinal column.
     On Oct. 26, 2006, Roe says, she was sexually assaulted by another student at a fraternity party. Five days later she told the team’s co-captain about the assault, who reported it to SLU officials.
     Roe says she was called into a meeting the next day, and told school officials about the assault. She says the officials told her that she was relieved of her team obligations “while she dealt with the trauma.” But Roe says she was never asked if she wanted to leave the team, which she would have declined.
     She claims that SLU officials referred her to a general counselor, not the rape crisis specialist who made herself available to the school; failed to share the information with the plaintiff’s professors or her academic department advisor; failed to encourage her to report the assault to authorities, as university policy dictates; failed to encourage her to reveal the identity of the attacker; failed to encourage her to tell her parents, also in violation of school policy; and failed to encourage her to speak to a clergy member, despite the school’s claims that it provides a safe, Jesuit environment.
     Roe claims SLU officials concealed the assault from her parents, even after they called to discuss her slipping grades.
     On Nov. 15, 2006, SLU kicked her off the field hockey team because of her academic performance and because she had been suspended on Nov. 1. Roe says SLU never told her she was suspended on Nov. 1 and SLU officials told her parents she was in good standing with the team in conversations between Nov. 1 and Nov. 15.
     While at home in Hawaii that year for Christmas holiday, Roe says she finally told her parents about the assault. Her father tried unsuccessfully several times to contact SLU President Fr. Lawrence Biondi about getting a medical withdrawal to minimize the academic damage to her records, but SLU originally refused to grant it.
     After receiving no response from Biondi and other SLU officials, Roe says she turned to the Jesuit Conference, which arranged a meeting with Biondi, who later granted the medical withdrawal. Roe says she spent the next semester in counseling and now attends the University of Hawaii.
     Roe demands damages, a ruling prohibiting SLU from treating female athletes differently from male athletes and requiring SLU to institute a comprehensive policy for dealing with sexual harassment that includes crisis response and victim assistance, a zero-tolerance policy for violations and an annual, independent review of the policy. She is represented by Steven Kuhn of San Juan Capistrano.

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