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Michigan State facing federal lawsuit over handling of alleged rape by three basketball players

Posted at 6:28 PM, Apr 09, 2018

Michigan State University is facing a federal lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan Southern District, accusing the school of not following federal guidelines in a reported rape.

The lawsuit was filed by an attorney for a student who claims she was sexually assaulted by three members of the men's basketball team in April 2015, a week after the team lost to Duke in the NCAA Tournament.

The team members are identified only as John Does in the lawsuit.

According to the allegations in the suit, the unidentified woman was an 18-year-old in her first year at MSU at the time of the assault. She says she was with her roommate at Harper's Bar in East Lansing when most of the MSU basketball team arrived at the bar sometime after midnight on April 12, 2015.

The woman alleges that one of the team members approached her and offered to buy her a drink. She says that after she accepted, the man asked if she would like to meet the "other guys" on the team.

According to the lawsuit, the woman accepted because, as a sports journalism major, interacting with members of the basketball team was of interest to her.

However, the lawsuit says that at no time did she indicate a romantic interest in any of the team members who approached her.

As the night progressed, the lawsuit alleges that one of the team members asked the woman to come to their apartment for a party. She says that as incentive, one of the players lied and told her that her roommate was already headed to the party.

According to the lawsuit, the woman contends she was having a hard time holding her glass, even though she had not had much to drink at that point.

The lawsuit says that, when the woman arrived at the the location of the purported party, it turned out to be one of the team member's off-campus apartment and that few people were actually present. The lawsuit also says that the woman's roommate was not among those present.

According to the lawsuit, the woman tried to text, but she was not able to control her thumbs to compose a text. 

It is at this point, according to the lawsuit, that the woman says the first player pulled her into a bedroom and told her "you are mine for the night." The woman says this made her uncomfortable and she made her way back into the living room, where, according to the lawsuit, her physical troubles continued and she realized something was wrong and that she might have been drugged.

The lawsuit contends that at this point, the second player offered to show the woman his basketball memorabilia in his bedroom, where she was thrown down onto the bed and raped from behind.

The lawsuit continues with the allegation that once the player, identified only as John Doe 2, finished raping the Plaintiff, the other two players, identified as John Doe 1 and John Doe 3, each came in and took turns raping the woman.

The lawsuit says the woman does not remember anything after that, until she woke up on a couch a few hours later.

The lawsuit then contends that the woman reported the rape to the Michigan State University Counseling Center, where, once they were informed the three alleged attackers were basketball players, the counselor's demeanor changed and that she told the woman that she needed another person in the room.

The lawsuit contends that the staff person told her that her options were to file a police report, or deal with the aftermath of the rape on her own. However, the suit also contends that the staff made it clear that, if she reported the rape, she would face an uphill battle and unwanted media attention.

The lawsuit also contends that staff members made comments to the effect of "we have had many other students in the same situation who have reported, and it has been very traumatic for them" and other comments 'implying' that it would not be in the plaintiff's best interest to report the incident to police, specifically "if you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish."

The lawsuit also contends that the counseling center did not advise the woman to seek STD or pregnancy testing, have a physical exam, or seek medical treatment. They also, allegedly, did not notify the woman of her option of reporting the rape to the Office of Institution Equity, or her Title IX rights, protections and accommodations.

According to the lawsuit, this caused thw woman to become so frightened that she did not report the rape and she did not seek help from the Michigan State University Sexual Assault Program for 10 months.

The woman was also not informed of her right to have a no-contact order put in place to keep the men out of her dorm, Brody Hall, where the woman says she would often see one or all three of the men in the dining hall.

The suit contends that the woman was so traumatized after the rape that she sought psychiatric treatment at Sparrow Hospital in October 2015, stopped attending classes and was forced to withdraw in the fall semester of 2015.

The suit seeks damages from the school and injunctive relief to have MSU put steps in place to prevent sexual assault.