Ex-University of Portland Student in Alleged Rape Sues University for $1 Million
By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
Wednesday February 25, 2009, 9:03 PM
A night of drinking at a men's dorm on the University of Portland campus in October 2007 was followed four months later by crude postings on Facebook describing a 16-year-old college freshman who had attended the party as sexually promiscuous.
The girl, an advanced student who had enrolled at the university two years ahead of her classmates, is now suing the university for more than $1 million in damages.
She and her family accuse the school of failing to tell police when she reported that she had been raped in the men's dorm and responded to cyber-bullying with "deliberate indifference."
The suit also seeks $1 million from a former college sophomore whom she names as the alleged rapist. Three other male college students are accused of making "false and defamatory" statements about the teenager on Facebook and are being sued for more than $600,000.
University officials won't comment on pending litigation, but a Stanford University professor who is an expert on the social networking site says college officials nationwide need to recognize the major role Facebook plays in students' lives and develop policies for dealing with it.
"Facebook is such a huge part of the landscape now, universities really can't ignore it," said BJ Fogg, director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University.
The 16-year-old student, whom The Oregonian is not identifying because she is the alleged victim of sexual assault, didn't tell anyone she had been raped until the name-calling started on Facebook in February 2008. Then she told two university employees she had been raped. The student, now 17, no longer attends University of Portland.
The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court this week, accuses university officials of failing to follow state law requiring them to report sexual assault on minors to police or child-welfare workers.
The suit also claims the girl was chastised for drinking that night, while the accused rapist was allowed to remain on campus and the girl's movements were restricted. The university also didn't offer her mental health counseling, according to the suit.
The girl had gotten drunk at a party at the Villa Maria men's dorm the night of Oct. 27, 2007, and had sex with the sophomore, who was sober, according to the suit. She was unable to consent to intercourse because of her age and state of intoxication, according to the suit.
In late February 2008, the student saw a photo of herself on a Facebook user's page and a caption that seemed to refer to the sexual assault, according to the suit. She posted a comment asking who had written the caption, and in return received an onslaught of responses, calling her a "slut," "nasty" and much worse.
According to the suit, the next day the girl reported the rape to the university's Public Safety Department and to a faculty member.
The alleged attack was not reported to law enforcement until the girl and her parents sought legal advice. The girl's attorney, Erin Olson, reported it to the Oregon Department of Human Services, which in turn notified Portland police.
Spokeswoman Detective Mary Wheat said Portland police sat down with the girl and her mother but decided not to pursue an investigation. Wheat said she couldn't elaborate because the girl is a minor and a reported victim of sexual assault.
Olson said the university's Public-Safety Department passed along the information of the alleged attack to the assistant director and director of Residence Life, who in turn talked to the sophomore and the students who posted on Facebook.
The Oregonian isn't identifying the sophomore or the three students accused of defamation because none has been charged with a crime.
The sophomore was found to have violated the university's sexual-assault and student-respect rules, according to Olson. He was ordered to avoid the girl's dorm, write a 10-page paper titled "How College-Aged Men Can Reduce Sexual Assaults Against Women" and do eight hours of community service. Olson said he turned in the paper late and didn't complete his community service, so he was suspended for fall term.
He left to join the military and is believed to be in overseas, Olson said.
The three students who posted comments about the girl on Facebook were found to have violated the school's harassment rules, Olson said. They were ordered to avoid the girl's dorm and to write apology letters and a paper about cyber-bullying.
(To read original article, visit this Oregon Live link)