A recent Carleton graduate, who says she was raped twice on campus, has filed a lawsuit against the College. In a lawsuit filed Monday, May 2, in federal court, the woman says she suffers from posttraumatic stress, depression and anxiety, symptoms she attributes not only to rape, but also to an institutional process that she claims was fraught with pitfalls. Her story includes Goodhue dorm rooms, class deans, and, she alleges, several violations of federal and state law.
In a campus-wide email on May 3, Dean Carol Livingston responded to the lawsuit, saying “as a general practice, Carleton does not comment on pending litigation.”
“Sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct have no place at Carleton and are not tolerated. These are real problems in our society, and the College works diligently to raise awareness with students and other community members about all types of sexual misconduct and to stop them before they occur. When we receive complaints,” she said in an all-campus email, “we take them seriously and have strong systems in place that provide a safe community.”
According to the lawsuit, the woman was raped by a fellow first-year student after the annual freshman/senior party in September 2011. It says she struggled for the next four years to overcome emotional and institutional challenges. When the woman’s academic performance began to deteriorate, administrators turned down her requests to accommodate her emotional struggles, the lawsuit alleges.
“Carleton placed the burden on [her] to get over the rapes, act as if nothing had happened, and focus on her studies instead, without offering her the meaningful help, services, or accommodations to which she was entitled,” the lawsuit says.
The suit claims Carleton’s Community Board on Sexual Misconduct, which adjudicates cases of sexual misconduct, violated its own policies. It declined to suspend or expel her attacker, and instead, administrators encouraged a painful face-to-face meeting between the woman and her attacker, the lawsuit says.
The woman was raped a second time in spring 2013, by another student, following a party on the first floor of Watson, the lawsuit says. It goes on to say administrators dissuaded her from filing a complaint against her attacker because “he was a senior and would graduate and be gone from the college in two months.”
The lawsuit suggests broader problems than the case’s particular details. It accuses Carleton of disregarding its own alcohol restrictions, allowing intoxicated women to become easy prey. It also claims administrators and SHAC staff members were inadequately prepared to help students who had been sexually assaulted. The lawsuit says Carleton violated several policies and laws: Title IX, which, among other things, protects students from sexual assault; the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates academic accommodations for people with disorders such as PTSD; state liquor laws; and Carleton’s own alcohol and sexual assault policies.
Among other things, the lawsuit would require Carleton to punish sexual misconduct with a minimum two-term suspension, step up its efforts to curb underage drinking, offer better training to College employees, and give more funding to the SHAC.
Similarly, St. Olaf student Madeline Wilson ’16 recently launched a campaign against St. Olaf’s Sexual Misconduct Policy after the school found her sexual assault complaint unfounded, according to articles in the Star Tribune and Northfield News.