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Virginia Wesleyan Sued Over Sexual Assault

NORFOLK, Va. ― A former student has sued Virginia Wesleyan College, claiming that she was sexually assaulted on campus in 2012 and that the college allowed her attacker to voluntarily leave the school so he could enroll elsewhere.

The Virginian-Pilot reports the lawsuit was filed in Norfolk Circuit Court and says that the college knew female students face an especially high risk of rape from lacrosse team members.

The lawsuit also alleges the school knew male students were drugging female students and raping them. It seeks $10 million.

The woman filed the lawsuit using the name Jane Doe, saying she was offered a small amount of alcohol at a party sponsored by a peer adviser in his townhome. The lawsuit then says she and her friends left the part after they began feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Once she was walking home, the lawsuit says, a male student who had been following her grabbed her arm and forced her back to his dorm room, where she was raped and sodomized for five hours.

The college said in a statement it denies any improper conduct.

“While the college sympathizes with Jane Doe, Virginia Wesleyan denies any allegation of improper conduct and will vigorously defend this lawsuit,” said Mark C. Nanavati, Wesleyan’s lawyer. “The safety of the college’s students is of paramount importance and something Virginia Wesleyan strives to accomplish on a daily basis. Given the ongoing legal proceedings, Virginia Wesleyan cannot comment further at this time.”

The woman’s lawyer, Jonathan Halperin, said a couple of months after the assault, she reported it to police, but the investigation languished due to a lack of evidence.

In a May 2013 letter to the woman, David Buckingham, the college’s vice president for student affairs, acknowledged that the student she accused of the assault had been found in violation of college policies on underage drinking and “engaging in physical activity of a sexual nature against the will of another student.”

The case initially ended with the man’s permanent dismissal from the college, Buckingham said, but the college later decided to allow him to withdraw, “a different designation which may assist him in seeking further studies.”

The lawsuit claims that move allowed him to attend a university in another state and continue to play NCAA lacrosse.

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