All of these questions were perhaps most pressing to Jane Doe, who had not gone back home to Maryland to nurse her wounds in private. Justly outraged by what had happened to her, as well as by what she saw as her own university’s complicity in it, she had joined forces with Douglas Fierberg, and together they built a case of formidable moral rightness.
Jane Doe filed a $10 million lawsuit in federal court against, in the main, Wesleyan and Beta Theta Pi, asserting that the events leading up to, including, and following Halloween weekend 2010 constituted a violation of the rights guaranteed her through Title IX legislation. She ended up withdrawing from a top university because that institution refused to take actions that could have prevented the assault, or, at the very least, to provide her with information she could have used to protect herself from it.
It’s fine to announce a war against sexual violence-but, once the chips are down, it’s quite another thing to write a $10 million check
Wesleyan’s affirmative defense-part of its answers to the lawsuit’s complaint-was of a mien familiar to anyone with knowledge of how the civil litigation of rape cases unfolds. It was expedient, a shrewd legal strategy designed to protect the university from a guilty verdict and a huge settlement. It was also morally repugnant. Wesleyan’s president has said the university is engaged in a “battle against sexual assault”; has averred-as recently as last April-that “survivors of assault must be supported in every way possible”; and has committed himself to ending the “epidemic” of sexual violence at Wesleyan. But here’s how the university supported this particular survivor of sexual violence, who dared to stand up against the mighty force of Wesleyan with her claim of mistreatment: it blamed her for getting raped.
Later, when The Atlantic sent President Roth an advance copy of the article a few days before publication, the university provided an official response
According to Wesleyan-courageous combatant in the “battle against sexual assault”-Jane Doe was responsible for her own rape because she was “not alert to situations that could be misinterpreted”; “did not remain in a public place [but rather went to a private room] with a person with whom she was unfamiliar”; “failed to make reasonable and proper use of her faculties and senses”; and failed “to exercise reasonable care for her own safety.” I disagree. Jane Doe’s sworn statement describes a series of sound actions taken toward the care of her own safety-including making the decision not to drink or use drugs, attempting to exit a room when she was about to be left alone in it with an unfamiliar man who had used drugs, and attempting to fight him off when he began attacking her. But she was physically restrained by a powerfully built man intent on assaulting her.
Surely there are many collegiate sexual encounters that fall into legally ambiguous territory; a number of Americans, among them reasonable people of good will, believe that “regretted sex” on the part of jilted coeds is as responsible for college “rape culture” as is male aggression. This is not one of those cases. This was a violent assault that occasioned a police investigation, an arrest, criminal charges, a conviction, and a jail sentence. To suggest-let alone to assert in federal court-that this event was the result of Jane Doe’s negligence would be ugly if it were part of a rape case involving, say, the U.S. military. For it to be asserted on behalf of an American university against one of its own young students is even more astonishing. What it reveals is less Wesleyan’s true attitude toward assault and its victims (surely there was distaste within the Wesleyan inner sanctum for the line of attack waged in the university’s name against its former student) than the marshy ground of the progressive politics that underpins so much of the university’s rhetoric. Wesleyan’s sexual-assault victims could be forgiven for assuming that, no matter what, their institution would never blame them for their attack. (Michael Roth and Wesleyan repeatedly declined to discuss the case, or anything related https://maxloan.org/payday-loans-ia/ to this article, on the grounds that they did not want to comment on confidential matters pertaining to a lawsuit. Douglas Fierberg, Jane Doe’s attorney, also declined to talk about her case or anything relating to it, citing similar reasons.)