Howard University Sued For Mishandling Five Rape Cases

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Howard University made headlines earlier this year when five female Howard students and former students filed a lawsuit against the university charging that their reported sexual assaults in 2014, 2015 and 2016 were not investigated within the required 60-day period, a violation of the university’s Title IX policy.

The lawsuit, filed in February 2017, asks the court to declare that Howard violated its Title IX policies, that the college revise its policies on response to sexual assaults and give each woman compensatory and punitive damages, among other things.

Ahjunae Williams

“Howard University takes very seriously all allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and gender-based discrimination occurring on the University’s campus or involving the University’s students,” Crystal Brown, vice president of communications at Howard, told the Washington Post.

The case has raised criticism among some students.

“Personally, I feel that Howard’s administration needs to step it up,” said Nadirah Alfred of the class of 2021. “They basically ignored the stories of those young women, which is damaging to them. First, they were raped, and then the people who are supposed to be there to help them—at least listen to them—didn’t.”

“I believe it’s unprofessional and disrespectful, especially to those women,” Alfred said. “And, as an incoming freshman, it makes me question if I am safe. If something were to happen, can I go to someone that can help within the community of Howard. I’m truly disappointed in them.”

In March 2016, protests occurred on Howard’s campus as co-ed students said the administration did nothing promptly after receiving reports about the sexual assaults.

“I actually participated in one of these protests,” said JoJo of the class of 2019, who did not want to use her last name. “One of the Jane Does lived in my dorm. She was sweet and nice. This isn’t something you want to just ignore as you walk around the campus and see posters to protest. I had to. What would happen if it was me.

“I need and want my school to step up and notice this doesn’t just affect one person. It’s a ripple effect. So many girls wanted to do so much, but there’s so much you can do when at a school that doesn’t want to do anything.”

The lawsuit alleges that Howard University failed to timely investigate the known complaints, failed to provide academic accommodations to the complainants, failed to provide access to counseling services, failed to provide a safer education environment for the complainants and failed to protect the students from retaliation.

According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 did not receive a prompt meeting with an administrator to determine the accommodations they needed to continue their education absent a hostile educational environment. The women experienced hostility and delay at the hands of Howard administrators, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges that in March 2016, Jane Doe 1 posted on Twitter criticism of the way Howard handled her sexual assault complaint. The university’s dean of student affairs, in meeting with Jane Doe 1 to provide an update on the investigation, said, “You embarrassed your family” by posting on Twitter.

Ahjuane Williams is a junior at the Center for Global Studies, Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk.