Stockton University—which boasts a tree-studded, seemingly idyllic campus in Atlantic County, New Jersey—has left students exposed to a “violent environment of sexual assault,” one of five federal lawsuits filed against the school this summer alleges.
Over the past few months, the school—which has an enrollment of 9,500 students—has faced a litany of graphic allegations accompanied by photos of bruised victims.
A fifth civil suit filed Sunday against the school claims that a young woman sought counseling on campus after she attempted suicide—and that the counselor’s son eventually raped and bit her in a vicious assault that left her bruised and traumatized. She has demanded compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at a jury trial.
The victim, identified only as M.H., accuses Stockton of neglecting to investigate her assault claims, exhibiting indifference to her Title IX rights, and more.
M.H. attempted to kill herself in April 2016 after being sexually assaulted by a resident at the university who “illegally provided her alcohol while she was underage to the point of incapacitation due to consuming both alcohol and cough syrup,” the 95-page, 32-count complaint says.
According to the suit, the director of the school’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Center discouraged M.H. from filing a Title IX investigation because she “wouldn’t win.”
After several months of sobriety with the help of counseling, M.H. was raped again in March 2017, according to the complaint, due to the “violent environment of sexual assault and a culture of rampant underage drinking at Stockton.”
Shortly after that alleged assault, M.H. reached out to the school’s suicide hotline and to her counselor’s son—a friend—for help. The son, also a Stockton student, invited her to a nearby gathering to “calm down and have drinks with us,” the lawsuit claims. Near the end of the party, M.H. fell asleep in a bed and woke up when the son asked to cuddle with her. The two began having consensual oral sex, but then the son “violently” bit her arm “unprovoked,” the complaint states.
Soon, M.H. began crying because she was overwhelmed by her recent traumas and told her friend that she did not want to continue. After she said “no,” the son “raped her by penetrating her violently,” despite the fact that he had “full knowledge” of her psychological state, according to the complaint.
M.H. said she “found herself frozen and unable to speak or resist.”
When she reported the alleged assault, the school completed a Title IX investigation, which found in November 2017 that the counselor’s son was responsible for “off-campus behaviors” but not guilty of sexual misconduct or harm, according to the lawsuit. Information about her case was “wrongly portrayed” to the investigators in an effort to undermine her credibility, her complaint claims. The son has not been charged with a crime.
Last month, four other suits—which have been covered extensively by NJ.com—claimed that students were drugged and then raped in various circumstances near the school. In one suit, a young woman claimed two men drugged and raped her at a party hosted by unauthorized fraternity Pi Kappa Phi. According to the complaint, she was raped three times.
The young woman who filed another suit alleged that she was drugged and raped by three students during another off-campus Pi Kappa Phi party in 2014. The remaining two suits both involve women who claim they were raped by an alumnus who targeted his victims at Pi Kappa Phi’s parties.
University spokeswoman Diane D’Amico told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that the school cannot comment on the latest two lawsuits, as they have not yet been served. As for the previous lawsuits, D’Amico said the university warns students not to mingle with any authorized group like the “rogue” fraternity Pi Kappa Phi.
“We want to be very clear that this is just a bunch of guys representing themselves as a fraternity in a private house that has nothing to do with Stockton,” she said.
In a letter published last week on the school’s website, President Harvey Kesselman said: “That any student on our campus should have to fear for their safety is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
“As a university we will continue, from orientation to graduation, to build a culture where we respect and care for each other. We will continue to work with law enforcement to hold predators accountable,” he continued. “For any student who has been victimized, or knows of someone who has, please do not remain silent. No student should fear coming forward. We will stand with you.”
Attorney Robert R. Fuggi Jr., who represents all of the plaintiffs, told NJ.com last month that he is still receiving calls from more victims.
“I don't know how many will come forward,” he told the news site. “It’s a systemic problem at Stockton.”
Fuggi did not immediately return phone messages left by The Daily Beast on Tuesday.