Women Add Federal Suit Against UConn

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Four women who say they were sexually assaulted while students at the University of Connecticut added a federal lawsuit late last week to an earlier civil rights complaint filed against the school.

The women are among seven students and recent graduates who last month asked the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to conduct a federal Title IX investigation of UConn. In both complaints, the women allege the school failed to protect them and responded to their sexual assault complaints with deliberate indifference or worse.

On Friday, Nov. 1, they said they were re-victimized by President Susan Herbst's response to their initial complaint. Herbst last week told the school's Board of Trustees, ''The suggestion that the University of Connecticut, as an institution, would somehow be indifferent to or dismissive of any report of sexual assault is astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue.''

''President Herbst's response made me feel invalidated all over again,'' said Rose Richi, a junior who alleges in the lawsuit she was raped by a football player. ''Our only motive is to get change, something she made clear was unnecessary. It was the most disappointing, invalidating and unreasonable response I've heard yet.''

The Associated Press and Connecticut Law Tribune do not normally report the names of those filing sexual assault complaints, but the women involved have asked that their names be used.

The lawsuit alleges discrimination based on gender and retaliation in violation of Title IX, which guarantees equal educational opportunities to students at schools that receive federal funds. It seeks unspecified monetary damages and changes in university policies.

University spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said the school will carefully assess the allegations contained in the lawsuit.

''We care deeply for the safety and welfare of all of our students,'' she said. ''The University does all in its power to appropriately investigate and handle such claims in a manner that is fully compliant with the law and grounded in both sensitivity and fairness.''

Neither Reitz nor the athletic department immediately responded to an email seeking details about the handling of the complaint against the football player.

According to the lawsuit, an officer said to Richi he did not believe her, and no criminal charges were brought. Police also failed to notify her that she had the right to bring the alleged perpetrator up on administrative charges, according to the lawsuit.

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