In a lawsuit filed on May 10, five Howard University former and current students alleged the school failed to expeditiously handle their reports of sexual assaults and on-campus rape.
In the complaint, the women claim they reported sexual assaults by male students at Howard between 2014 and 2016. According to the women, the D.C. school did not quickly handle their reports nor did they receive any help with counseling services from Howard.
According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe 1 claimed she was raped by a male Howard student in February of 2016. The male she accused was the resident assistant in her dorm at the time. Six weeks after making her report and still hearing no response from the school, Jane Doe 1 took to Twitter and expressed her frustrations.
As a result of the student's tweets, a campus wide protest occurred and another woman came forward. Through her communication with Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 realized they had been raped by the same male.
Additionally, Jane Doe 1 alleged Howard’s Dean of Student Affairs told her, "You embarrassed your family by doing that," in regards to her tweeting about the incident.
Jane Doe 2 — who claimed to have been raped by the same man who assaulted Jane Doe 1 — said she left the university when her 2015 report was not investigated. Jane Doe 2 also felt that, had her report been investigated and resolved, the assailant would not have still been on campus to rape Jane Doe 1 just months later.
In November of 2014, Jane Doe 3 reported she was sexually and physically abused by a Howard University campus police officer. As a result of the alleged abuse, Jane Doe 3 began feeling depressed and suicidal. She asked the university to arrange for counseling services. The school never provided her the services, according to the complaint.
The Howard University website currently states the school offers counseling services and has a crisis hotline.
Weeks later, Jane Doe 3 enlisted the help of her ROTC advisor, who provided a physician to help. Upon contacting Howard, the physician was told that Jane Doe 3 would have to wait additional time for her case to be considered.
After never receiving counseling, Jane Doe 3's mental heath deteriorated. She was fired from her job and her academic performance also suffered.
In March of 2016, Jane Doe 4 filed a report to Howard claiming was raped by a male student in her dorm. She reportedly asked the school to assign her to another residence hall so she could feel safe. The school delivered a stay-away order to her assailant; however, when she repeatedly saw him following her around campus, she asked the school about further actions.
According to the complaint, the school informed Jane Doe 4 the order only means he cannot approach her and does not mean he has to avoid being in the same locations.
Additionally, Jane Doe 4 was disheartened when she learned she and her assailant were placed in the same dorm the following year. However, three weeks later, the school informed her the assailant had been moved to another dorm.
In late August, nearly 200 days after her first report, Jane Doe 4 received notification from the school that her assailant had been suspended for a "finding of sexual
violence in violation of the Title IX policy.”
Jane Doe 5 reported she was sexually assaulted by a male student in April of 2015. After reporting the incident to the school, Jane Doe 5 was notified by the school that she would be unable to graduate as planned due to missing credits.
Because she no longer felt safe on campus, Jane Doe 5 asked school administrators if she could make up the credits at a community college in her hometown. Several months later, she was notified the classes she took over the summer would count toward her degree.
During this time, Jane Doe 5's allegations were slowly being investigated. It took nearly eight months for the school to complete the investigation. In October 2016, her assailant was accused, charged and convicted of sexually assaulting another woman.
The lawsuit against the school is currently pending.
Howard University's Office of Communications released the following statement to BET Digital News:
"Sexual assault is a critical issue on campuses across higher education. 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. Our commitment is evidenced by our rigorous enforcement of the University’s Title IX Policy on Prohibited Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Discrimination in Education Program and Activities. The University has been, and remains, committed to diligently investigating any such allegations to ensure a safe and healthy community for our faculty, staff and students.
"Out of consideration for the privacy of all individuals involved, and as a matter of practice, we do not comment on pending litigation."
(Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)