Michigan State University officials allegedly told a student not to report that she was raped by three basketball players because it would "create anxiety and unwanted media attention," a new federal lawsuit says.
The lawsuit filed Monday says the unnamed student was raped in April 2015, when she was a freshman at the school, about a week after the basketball team lost to Duke University in the Final Four.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of MSU's scandals with Larry Nassar, a former physician at the school and USA Gymnastics team doctor, who has been convicted of child pornography and sexual assault charges involving hundreds of patients.
The student's alleged incident, as told in the complaint, started at Harper's Bar in East Lansing. The student, an aspiring sports journalist, met one of the players, and he got her a drink. He asked her if she wanted to hang out and meet the rest of the team, and she accepted.
The player asked her if she wanted to go to a party and said that her roommate was there. The student was having trouble holding her glass, the complaint says.
The student ended up with a few people in the player's off-campus apartment, and her roommate wasn't there. Feeling "discombobulated," she tried to use her phone but couldn't get her fingers to work.
The player took her to his room and told her "you're mine for the night," the complaint says. She escaped into the living room and tried to use a laptop but couldn't. She realized she might have been drugged.
Another player approached her and asked her if she wanted to see some sports memorabilia in his room. He pushed her face down onto the bed and held her down, the lawsuit alleges, while he raped her. The first player and another player also took turns.
When the student told a counselor at the school's counseling center that her rapists were prominent school athletes, the counselor's demeanor changed and the counselor said there needed to be another person in the room, the complaint says.
The counselor told the student she'd face an uphill battle if she went to police, and she'd create unwanted attention, as had happened with "many other female students who were sexually assaulted by well-known athletes," the complaint says.
The counseling staff told the student they had seen other cases involving "guys with big names" and the best thing for her to do was move on, "implying to the plaintiff that it would not be (in her) best interest to report the incident to law enforcement," the lawsuit says. She said she wasn't advised to seek an STD screen or pregnancy testing, and she wasn't told to report the incident to the school's Title IX office.
The counselor also told her if she pursued the suit, she'd be swimming with some "really big fish," the lawsuit says.
The student did not report the rape to police. She also wasn't told, the lawsuit alleges, of her right to have a no-contact order to keep the assailants away from her dorm. She would sometimes see them in the cafeteria, and it would cause her to experience panic and have flashbacks.
In October 2015, she was admitted into an psychiatric outpatient day program for intensive psychiatric treatment. She stopped going to classes and withdrew for the semester.
She then had to explain why she was withdrawing to officials to get her tuition money back. She resumed classes in 2016 but changed her major, no longer working to become a sports reporter.
The lawsuit does not name any of the players.
The student is seeking compensatory damages for emotional stress, embarrassment and loss of self esteem, among other payments. It also seeks a court order to require MSU to take “effective steps to prevent sex-based discrimination and harassment, including sexual assault, in all its programs and activities.”
The lawsuit adds yet another legal woe for MSU as it faces lawsuits from more than 250 victims of Nassar. Many of the lawsuits allege that the school knew about Nassar's crimes for decades before his arrest, the Detroit News reported.
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