A sixth woman has accused Howard University of mishandling a sexual assault allegation, becoming the latest to raise concerns about how the institution has dealt with such cases in recent years.
The woman’s allegations are detailed in court documents, which seeks to expand a federal lawsuit against the university to include her case. Months ago, five other women sued Howard, accusing the Northwest D.C. university of a “discriminatory and retaliatory response to multiple complaints of sexual assault and harassment.”
Buzzfeed reported the woman’s allegations Tuesday.
The women, all Howard students or former students, are identified in court documents as Jane Does 1 through 6. They allege the sexual assaults were perpetrated by male Howard students and employees, and happened between 2014 and 2016.
Howard University said in a statement it does not comment on cases involving Title IX, a federal anti-discrimination law, or pending litigation.
“Howard University takes very seriously all allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence and gender-based discrimination occurring on the university’s campus or involving the university’s students,” the university said in a statement released through the school’s press office.
The school said it is committed to “diligently investigating” allegations.
Linda Correia, an attorney for the women, said Doe 6 sought help from the university and tried to work within the school’s policies for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse. She filed a timely report, Correia said, and followed up with officials to flag continued issues.
“She continued to try to find out what, if anything, they had done to investigate this assailant, and they even had told her that there was another student who was attacked after her,” she said. “And so all of those things, despite her having followed the policies and procedures that they set up to address the problem, she’s still seeing him on a campus.”
Correia said the woman also had difficulty learning about whether Howard’s investigation was progressing, and communicating with university officials.
“She wants to be able to go to class and get her degree without being worried about this assailant, or people who support him who would harass her because they know about her having reported this,” Correia said.
A motion for Doe 6 to join the other women’s lawsuit includes details of her case. She alleges she was raped in April 2016, and says Howard did not promptly investigate her complaint. She struggled academically and emotionally at the university, where she continued to spot the man she had accused.
The documents say the woman was raped by another student, identified as Assailant 5, in an on-campus dorm. For a week afterward, she was “distraught” and could not attend most classes, according to the court documents.
“During the weeks following the rape, Doe 6 did not want to leave her dormitory for fear of running into Assailant 5,” the documents state. “A few days after the rape, Doe 6 left her dormitory and found Assailant 5 and three of his friends standing outside of her dormitory. Doe 6 immediately went back inside and did not leave for another couple of days.”
The woman eventually traveled to her parents’ home in April 2016. She told her parents she had been a victim of assault and called a university hotline to report the incident. She told a dispatcher she didn’t want to come back to Howard that semester because she didn’t feel comfortable or safe there.
The dispatcher, according to the documents, urged the woman to return to Howard and reach out to an employee in its counseling center. The student decided to return to school and visited the hospital, the documents state.
The court papers say she was shaken when she saw her alleged assailant on Howard’s campus.
“When Doe 6 sees Assailant 5 on campus, she becomes scared and sometimes physically sick,” it states. “In many instances, she has retreated to her apartment because she is afraid to continue to be on Howard’s campus.”
In the documents, Doe also noted that Howard’s investigation dragged on, and that she had difficulty tracking its progress. She and her mother repeatedly reached out to Howard officials for updates, the court documents allege, but often their calls were not returned.
“Doe 6’s distress, sadness and anxiety increased with each day that Howard failed to complete the investigation into her complaint and failed to follow up with her continued outreach,” the documents state.
In April, a Howard official told the woman that the man she had accused had raped another victim, who was also a student at the school.
“Doe 6 was distraught and very upset, recognizing that if Howard had investigated her complaint a year earlier, it is possible another student would not have been assaulted,” the documents state. “In addition to the distress she felt about Howard’s continued delay on her own case, she now felt despair and anxiety for this other student.”