Five ‘Jane Does’, all former and current students of Howard University (“HU”), filed a federal law suit against HU alleging deliberate indifference towards their reported sexual assaults. It’s HU’s own policy to investigate reports of sexual assault within sixty days. None of the Jane Doe’s cases were investigated within 60 days, and all of the investigations in this case lasted more than five months. The lawsuit contends that HU’s actions “exacerbated and extended, rather than corrected” the interference with each woman’s educational opportunities.
The lawsuit alleges severe mishandling of HU’s investigations of each of the Jane Doe’s cases. For example, Jane Doe I reported that she was raped in February of 2016 by a Resident Agent (“RA”) in her dormitory. After six weeks of no response from the school, she took to Twitter to criticize HU, which in turn created a social media storm and prompted protests and harsh criticism of HU’s mishandling of sexual assault on campus. In response to the social media activity, the Dean of Student Affairs allegedly told Jane Doe I, “You embarrassed your family by doing that.” Through all of this, it was also learned that Jane Doe 2 had reported in October of 2015 to HU that she had been raped by the same male student who later raped Jane Doe I, and she eventually left HU because of the lack of response and feeling unsafe on campus. Jane Doe 3 was reportedly suicidal after being sexually assaulted by a HU police officer, and it took HU weeks to even consider her case.
If even a few of the allegations in the law suit are true, Howard University should be ashamed and take immediate action to revamp their failing systems in order to better address sexual assault on campus. It would be truly shameful if the assailants on campus are being given a level of protection greater than that afforded to their victims. Survivors of rape and sexual assault should be receiving all the support and resources that they need from the University, and any system falling short of that should be remedied immediately.