DETROIT (Reuters) - A Michigan State University journalism student who said she was raped by three basketball players sued the school on Monday, claiming that she was discouraged by counsellors from reporting the 2015 attack to police.
The woman, who was 18 at the time and is identified only as Jane Doe in the U.S. District Court lawsuit, also claimed that MSU had a de facto policy of suppressing sexual assault allegations against its sports stars.
This policy has “emboldened male athletes and has given them unwritten permission to commit acts of sexual assault without consequence,” the student said in her lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Michigan State University officials could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit. An MSU spokeswoman told the Detroit News that the school does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit does not name the three members of the basketball team accused of rape.
The court papers noted that the university has been under scrutiny over its handling of sexual assault cases in its athletics programs, an apparent reference to the Larry Nassar a former faculty member and physician at Michigan State and a doctor for USA Gymnastics. He was sentenced in February to up to 125 years in prison after some 200 young women testified about decades of abuse at his hands.
According to Jane Doe’s lawsuit, the aspiring sports journalist met three Michigan State basketball players at an East Lansing bar in April 2015, shortly after the team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament.
The young woman said in the court papers that she accepted a drink from one of the players and agreed to return to an apartment shared by several of them after he falsely told her that her roommate would be there.
At the apartment the plaintiff felt drugged, was thrown onto a bed and violently raped by the three players, the lawsuit said.
The victim said she told Michigan State University Counseling Center counsellors and other staff. But they told her she faced an uphill battle against “guys with big names” and discouraged her from notifying police.
The university is under investigation by state and federal agencies over its handling of the Nassar case. Nassar’s former supervisor, William Strampel, was arrested in March and charged with criminal sexual conduct involving medical school students.
Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman