Howard University failed to help five students who were raped by fellow students and employees in 2014, 2015 and 2016, a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the women claims.
The five current and former students say the historically black Washington, D.C. institution reacted with "deliberate indifference" to the sexual assault reports and failed to follow its own policy of investigating sex assault claims within 60 days.
In one case, a woman says she was raped in February 2016 by a fellow student who was a resident assistant (RA) in her dormitory. After she reported the alleged attack, the RA still had access to a key to her room. She then learned that another female student had reported to the school in October 2015 that the same male student raped her, the suit says.
"Howard's failure to investigate and effectively resolve [the first alleged victim's] complaint meant the assailant remained on campus as an RA and raped [the second alleged victim] over five months later," the suit says.
Women File Suit Against Howard U Over Handling of Rape Cases
The suit, in which all five victims are anonymous, claims that the male attacker transferred to Howard from University of California, Los Angeles, after a student there accused him of "similar sexual misconduct."
The student in the February 2016 case turned to Twitter to write about the alleged rape after she says Howard did not help her. According to the suit, the Dean of Student Affairs criticized her for going public.
Howard U. Students March After Reported Sex Assault
"You embarrassed your family by doing that," the administrator allegedly said.
Two of the students said they were suicidal after the alleged attacks.
The suit seeks an undisclosed sum for discrimination in violation of Title IX and retaliation in violation of Title IX.
"The university’s actions have exacerbated and extended, rather than corrected, the resulting interference with the educational opportunities of each woman," the document says.
Howard University gave the following statement to News4:
"Sexual assault is a critical issue on campuses across higher education. Howard University takes very seriously all allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and gender-based discrimination occurring on the University’s campus or involving the University’s students. Our commitment is evidenced by our rigorous enforcement of the University’s Title IX Policy on Prohibited Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Discrimination in Education Program and Activities. The University has been, and remains, committed to diligently investigating any such allegations to ensure a safe and healthy community for our faculty, staff and students.
"Out of consideration for the privacy of all individuals involved, and as a matter of practice, we do not comment on pending litigation.
Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.