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Woman contends Michigan State University pressured her not to report rape by basketball team members

April 10, 2018
MSU student says in lawsuit that 3 team members raped here in 2015.

A woman alleges that she was raped in 2015 by three Michigan State University basketball players and that the university pressured her not to report the attack to authorities.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the woman—an 18-year-old MSU student at the time—spelled out the allegations in a federal lawsuit. The complaint states that the three players — identified only as John Doe 1, 2 and 3 — took the woman from an East Lansing, Mich., bar in April 2015.

The woman never reported the alleged sexual assault to police, says Karen Truszkowski, the woman’s attorney, but did tell a counselor at the Michigan State University Counseling Center.

The lawsuit contends that the counseling center failed to properly advise the woman and even implied it would not be in her "best interest to report the incident to law enforcement."

According to MSU's policy on relationship violence and sexual misconduct, counselors generally are not permitted to report allegations of rape or relationship violence to the Title IX office or police. 

The suit is the latest black eye for a university and a basketball program under fire for its handling of allegations of sexual assault and violent acts against women. It's also the third allegation of multiple MSU basketball players raping a woman since 2010. Only one of those incidents had been reported to police.

In 2015, the federal Office for Civil Rights determined MSU’s handling of some Title IX cases had created a “hostile environment” for individuals who complained about relationship violence or sexual misconduct and found there was confusion in MSU’s athletic department about who should report sexual assault allegations to the university’s investigation office.

Emily Guerrant, MSU’s vice president and university spokesperson, says the university does not comment on pending litigation. A message for the MSU athletic department was not immediately returned.

The woman, who remains a student at MSU, alleges she was at Harper’s Bar when the Spartans’ basketball team arrived after midnight. One of the players offered to buy her a drink and asked whether she would like to meet “other guys” from the team. The woman, who was a sports journalism major, alleges one of the players then invited her to a party at an apartment. She accepted a ride to the party from two players — the party was at one of their off-campus apartments — and there was no party and her roommate was not there.

The lawsuit asserts the woman “was feeling discombobulated” and believed she may have been drugged. Then the first player allegedly pulled her into a bedroom and told her, “You are mine for the night.”

All three men raped the woman, the lawsuit contends.

The woman reported the rape to a counselor at the university's Counseling Center on April 20, 2015.. When she disclosed to the counselor that the three men who allegedly raped her were MSU basketball players, the female counselor’s demeanor reportedly changed, and she told the victim she needed another person in the room with them.

According to the lawsuit, the MSU Counseling Center staffers then “made it clear to plaintiff that if she chose to notify the police, she faced an uphill battle that would create anxiety and unwanted media attention and publicity as had happened with many other female students who were sexually assaulted by well-known athletes.”

“Plaintiff was expressly told by [counseling center] staff that ‘if you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish,’ ” the lawsuit alleges.

Michigan State has been under intense scrutiny for its handling of Title IX cases and violent acts against women, including its suppression of some victims of of Larry Nassar, the former MSU sports medicine doctor who abused gymnasts and victims under the guise of medical treatment. 

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