When Emily* told local police she was raped by a Wabash College student at a fraternity party, a detective responded by noting that the department had a “close working relationship” with the school and that its “typical punishments” for sexual assault were to remove offenders from athletic teams or scholarships rather than expel or suspend them, according to a federal lawsuit.
Wabash is a private, all-male liberal arts college in Crawfordsville, Indiana, with fewer than 1,000 students. It has been noted for its disproportionately large Greek system. Several incidents in recent years, including the deaths of two underage students who had been drinking, led to lawsuits and sanctions against fraternities at the school.
Two days before the police report, on April 26, 2019, Emily, a sorority member at a nearby school, attended a party at Wabash’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter, where she was allegedly raped by a member of the swimming and diving team. (Emily has since moved to attend school in another state, the complaint states.)
Though Emily was “visibly intoxicated and unable to stand up without help,” a man groped her breasts and then took her upstairs to a third-floor bedroom, according to the 16-page lawsuit she filed Monday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana.
When she next awoke, she was “lying on a bed, on her back, undressed,” with her attacker on top of her, “with no memory of how she ended up there,” according to the lawsuit. She felt the man’s penis penetrating her, said “it hurts,” and told him to stop, but was “unable to move” or to physically resist, the complaint states.
She blacked out again, and awoke—still unable to speak or move—with the man’s penis in her mouth, according to the suit.
Another sorority member, who witnessed Emily’s level of intoxication and “became concerned when she could no longer find” her, went upstairs to look for her friend and was told not to enter the room because the man had a “girl in there,” the complaint states. Behind the door, she found Emily and her attacker in the room, and she helped her sorority sister dress and get home, according to the documents.
Emily’s lawsuit, which names the alleged assailant and the fraternity as defendants, claims sexual battery, sexual assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. The Daily Beast has not identified the defendant by name because he has not yet been criminally charged and is not a public figure.
“I don’t want other college students to become victims,” Emily told The Daily Beast on Thursday, noting that she filed her lawsuit in part to prevent similar attacks and that she hopes criminal charges will soon be filed against her alleged assailant.
The day after the alleged assault, Emily went to the hospital for a rape kit, and the next day she went to the Crawfordsville Police Department to report the attack. Detective Lieutenant David Long, who interviewed Emily, told her that Wabash has no formal code of conduct, only a “gentlemen’s code,” according to the lawsuit.
Long allegedly added that the department has a “close working relationship” with the college, which has “in prior cases involving rape or sexual assault” only removed students from “membership on athletic teams, scholarship, financial aid assistance, or fraternity membership,” rather than expelling or suspending them.
“I was surprised and upset,” said Emily, of that day. “I felt that the police were discouraging me from filing my complaint and were reluctant to conduct a thorough investigation.” She hired attorneys, she said, because of the police reaction to her assault.
Crawfordsville Police Chief Mike Norman told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that the report on Emily’s case was “sent to the prosecutor’s office for review” and that he could not confirm or comment on the remarks allegedly made by Long.
Emily also filed a Title IX complaint at Wabash, which is still investigating the allegations, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit argues that the fraternity “gratuitously and voluntarily assumed a duty of care over” Emily by inviting her to the party and offering her a ride to the fraternity house. That offer, according to the complaint, created “a special relationship between the parties and a corresponding duty to act in the manner of a reasonably prudent person.” For that reason, the organization allegedly “breached its duties by not taking reasonable precautions to prevent its members from committing acts of rape or sexual assault, or fostering or enabling an environment in which a foreseeable act of rape or sexual assault would be committed.”
Emily’s lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages for her legal, medical, and psychological expenses and punitive damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, and pain and suffering.
“This has been an incredibly difficult experience, but I am thankful for the support of my family and friends,” Emily said on Thursday.
She has asked for a jury trial.
“It is Wabash College policy not to comment on pending litigation,” a spokesman for the school said Tuesday.
In a statement Wednesday, Rob Caudill, the executive director of Phi Gamma Delta’s national headquarters, said: “We were not aware of the incident prior to the filing of a lawsuit and are investigating these allegations. We take this allegation very seriously and do not tolerate sexual assault.”
*Emily is identified by a different pseudonym in her lawsuit. The Daily Beast does not identify sexual assault victims without their consent.
Note: This story has been updated to reflect comments from Emily and from Phi Gamma Delta.