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A former University of Michigan track and field athlete filed a lawsuit on May 7 alleging the University failed to protect her and created a hostile environment after another team member assaulted her in 2016.
The lawsuit said the plaintiff and a male student-athlete became close as co-captains of their high school track team and would often study in her dorm room. The lawsuit states that, in 2017, the male athlete admitted to sexually assaulting the plaintiff three times when she fell asleep during a study session.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, named the University, the Board of Regents, Athletic Director Warde Manuel, track and field coach James Henry and Title IX investigators as defendants for being indifferent towards her repeated pleas for protection from her assaulter, which the plaintiff alleges created a hostile environment. The plaintiff said she suffered emotional distress after the assault, stalking and repeated harassment by the male student-athlete.
After the male student-athlete admitted to the plaintiff over text messages to sexually assaulting her, the lawsuit says the plaintiff was devastated and her grades dropped. The plaintiff reported the assault to the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, and University Health Service diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The plaintiff then reported the sexual assault to University officials and requested a no-contact order for the male student-athlete who assaulted her. The lawsuit said the University officials told her to avoid him and refused to enforce the no-contact order even after repeated harassment and stalking.
Because the University made no decision about the plaintiff’s request for protective measures during the 2017 spring term, the suit alleges she repeatedly saw and was stalked by her assaulter, which often triggered panic attacks consisting of vomiting and hyperventilating.
The plaintiff reported the assault and stalking to Henry, who the lawsuit alleges declined to enforce the no-contact order. Instead, Henry told her she should be flattered by the attention and could quit if she wanted to avoid the male athlete.
Henry told the plaintiff multiple women on the team had reported being assaulted by this male student-athlete and that they eventually couldn’t “handle” being on the team, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit added Henry disclosed that some of the athletes, who had been assaulted by the male student-athlete, became suicidal and that the plaintiff should inform him before “hurling herself off a bridge.”
Henry allegedly refused to cut the male athlete from the team, but eventually removed the plaintiff after she was unable to attend practices because she had to wait for her alleged assaulter to exit the track to practice in order to uphold the no-contact order. After she was unable to attend team events, Henry removed her from the track team.
The plaintiff’s case manager at SAPAC reported the assault to campus police in May 2017, but the police department said they were too understaffed to take the case that week. They waited until August 8, 2017 — 74 days after the case manager urged the department to take the case — to process the request.
A University investigation in January 2018 found the male student athlete to be guilty of sexual assault and he was subsequently placed on academic probation.
Amy Reiser, Washtenaw County assistant prosecuting attorney, declined to prosecute the crime on April 30, 2018, according to MLive. She said she refused to prosecute the crime – fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct – even though the assaulter admitted guilt because the plaintiff was asleep and had no recollection of the assault.
The plaintiff seeks damages and a no-contact order against her assaulter, who works on campus. She asks for the restoration of her student-athlete benefits, which were stripped after her removal from the team despite an ongoing Title IX investigation.
Kyle Terwillegar, assistant director of track and field external communications and public relations, referred The Daily to the Office of Public Affairs. University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said the University had not yet been served with the lawsuit and has nothing to share at this time.
The lawsuit follows hundreds of sexual assault allegations by former athletes against late University of Michigan athletic doctor Robert Anderson.
Summer News Editor Julia Rubin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.