A University of South Florida doctoral student is suing the Tampa school, saying administrators are allowing a man who raped her to continue attending class with her.
The woman's attorney, Michael Dolce, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday. The suit says the school is violating the woman's Title IX protections by forcing her to endure the sexually harassing and hostile atmosphere of her attacker's presence.
The suit says the woman was sexually assaulted in November 2016. She reported the attack to a professor several weeks later. The attacker was charged in March with violating the school's code of conduct related to non-consensual sexual contact and given deferred suspension.
The school said the woman withdrew an appeal to request stronger restrictions against her attacker and never filed a criminal complaint.
Dolce says the school encouraged his client to withdraw her appeal and denied later requests for help.
On Thursday night, USF System President Judy Genshaft sent an email to all USF students, employees and alum:
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Friends,
You may have read or heard stories in the media regarding sexual assault cases affecting the University. I want to assure you that my first priority is the safety and well-being of our community.
USF has several educational programs designed to prevent sexual violence and raise awareness about this important issue. We have well-established resources, which are regularly updated, as well as highly trained response teams in place to promote and maintain a safe, welcoming and productive environment. USF strives to lead the way in promoting a culture where sexual violence is not tolerated. We will remain proactive in ensuring our community members have access to the best information and resources.
When confronted with allegations of sexual assault, we promptly respond with resources and support for victims, but our processes must also respect the rights of the accused. These are complex and very serious cases, and we are concerned for all parties involved.
I want to assure you that no member of the campus community is ever silenced in these matters. We offer anonymous reporting and 24/7 access through victims advocacy and university police.
Any member of our USF community who believes they have been subjected to sexual assault is urged to contact: the USF Center for Victim Advocacy, http://www.usf.edu/student-affairs/victim-advocacy/. To reach the 24/7 victim helpline, call (813) 974-5757. The USF Police Department’s website is http://www.usf.edu/administrative-services/university-police/. In an emergency, dial 911; the main number is (813) 974-2628. We have caring, well-trained professionals who respond to every situation with compassion and understanding.
I want to reiterate that our top priority is your welfare.
USF System President