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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Five more people sue EMU for mishandling of sexual assault reports

Eastern Michigan University's King Hall
Wikimedia Commons

Updated September 9, 2021 at 5:32 p.m.:

Five more people are suing Eastern Michigan University over its handling of sexual assault reports at the university. This new lawsuit brings the total to 24 plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges that university officials created a “sexually dangerous environment,” and alleges officials failed to investigate reports of sexual assault.

Many of the allegations focus on a former Title IX coordinator and several fraternities on campus.

In a statement, an EMU spokesperson says the university is still reviewing the lawsuit. 

We just received the complaint earlier today. It is lengthy and we have not had time to review it in its entirety. Until we are able to do so we are unable to respond to any specific items raised. However, it must be emphasized that the Eastern Michigan University campus is very safe. EMU, like all universities, is required by the federal government to track incidents of serious crime and to post that data publicly. The most recent report, the 2020 Annual Security Report, is posted on the University's website for everyone to access. It includes safety data going back three years. The data reflect the overall safety of Eastern's campus. Serious crimes reported at Eastern are lower than some universities in Michigan, and similar to the safety data reported by our peers. As we have stated throughout these proceedings, the descriptions of these assaults are heart-wrenching. The University shares in the survivors’ – and the community’s – frustration and anger that any student should experience sexual violence. However, contrary to the allegations made in the initial complaint, the University is, and has been, steadfast in its commitment to respond to, and investigate, reports of sexual misconduct. Any accusation that the University covered up crimes of sexual assault is false. The University's Title IX office took its responsibilities very seriously and worked diligently in those situations in which it was contacted about a sexual assault, to show compassion, express concern, and actively support survivors, while encouraging them to pursue an investigation if they were interested and willing to do so. We continue to encourage anyone on our campus who has experienced a sexual assault to speak with our Title IX Coordinator, so the University can provide support to the survivor and conduct an appropriate investigation.

Original post: May 27, 2021, 2:56 p.m.

Eight more women says Eastern Michigan University officials either discouraged them from reporting on-campus rapes, or actively worked to cover them up.

This is is the second such lawsuit EMU is facing. In the prior lawsuit, brought by the same attorneys, eleven women identified only as Jane Does make similar claims.

The eight women in this latest lawsuit, identified only as Jane Does, detail horrific sexual assaults at the hands of other EMU students. And they accuse the school of working in various ways to either discourage them from reporting their assaults, following through on Title IX investigations, or going to law enforcement.

“EMU officials were aware [of] and constructively approved of its campus rape culture by purposefully disregarding reports of rape, misleading rape victims, and discouraging them from reporting their assaults to Title IX or law enforcement,” according to the lawsuit.

“For at least six years, EMU has purposely concealed its culpability by either manipulating the investigation process or knowingly concealing sexual assaults.”

This lawsuit also specifically names some EMU Greek organizations as willing participants in a campus rape culture. It alleges those organizations permitted, and in some cases encouraged, sexual violence. A number of the alleged rapes took place in fraternity houses, and in one case a violent sexual assault was apparently part of a hazing ritual for a sorority pledge.

Several men who were accused of rapes at EMU were apparently cleared by the school or never faced investigation, but now face criminal charges for those assaults.

EMU has said it takes sexual assault on campus seriously, but denies many specific allegations in the lawsuits. In response to the earlier lawsuit, the university said many of the women involved either never reported their rapes, or did so in a way that made follow-up investigations impossible.

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