Howard University failed to swiftly handle sexual assault reports, leading to at least one assailant raping on campus again, a federal lawsuit claims. What’s more, the Washington, DC school refused to provide the help that suicidal rape victims requested and let an accused rapist who was an RA have access to a key to his alleged victim’s dorm room, according to the complaint filed Wednesday.
The university’s handling of the sexual assault cases pushed two of the plaintiffs, referred to in the suit as Jane Does 1 through 5, to leave Howard’s campus due to concerns about safety and their mental health.
“If my case was handled the way it was supposed to be handled,” Jane Doe 2 told BuzzFeed News, echoing the allegations in the complaint, then Jane Doe 1 “would’ve never met her assailant. He would’ve been dismissed.”
Doe 1 and Doe 2 say in the suit they were raped by the same male student — who allegedly transferred to Howard after being accused of sexual misconduct at UCLA — but the university didn’t act until one of the women went public in March 2016 in a series of tweets, which prompted a campus protest. After the tweets appeared, the civil complaint states, Howard’s Dean of Student Affairs told her, “You embarrassed your family by doing that.”
Doe 1 says in the suit she was also fired as a resident assistant after reporting her rape, while Doe 2 says the university took away her financial aid and threatened to refer her debt to a collection agency.
The lawsuit also accuses Candi Smiley, the Howard official in charge of dealing with sexual assault cases, of going weeks or months without responding to emails and phone calls from alleged rape victims and their advocates. Multiple officials in the complaint are similarly accused of not returning phone calls or emails from women checking for updates on their investigations, asking for counseling, or requesting extensions for class assignments as they dealt with their cases. However, the complaint only names Howard University as a defendant.
The university and officials mentioned in the suit did not comment on the lawsuit on Wednesday. A Howard spokesperson said it is university policy to not comment on pending litigation.
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