“You are mine for the night,” the Michigan State University basketball player allegedly whispered to Jane Doe before he and his teammates gang-raped her.
The 18-year-old freshman, who dreamed of becoming a sports journalist, claims in a federal lawsuit that she met the athlete and two of his teammates at a bar in East Lansing on April 11, 2015, before one of them drugged her and the three brought her back to their apartment and assaulted her as she cried and was unable to move. The alleged incident would have occurred a week after the men’s basketball team made an improbable run to the NCAA’s Final Four.
Doe filed the federal 14-page suit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.
The athletes allegedly told her that they were having a party, and that her roommate was already at the apartment. Doe went with them, but was already “having a hard time holding on to her glass even though she had not had a lot to drink,” according to the complaint. When she arrived, it became clear there was “no party, as few people were present,” according to the lawsuit. Her friend was not there.
Doe became “extremely hungry and thirsty” and “tried to send a phone text, but she could not control her thumbs to formulate a text [message],” the complaint states.
According to the court documents, Doe claims one of the athletes pulled her into a bedroom and said, “You are mine for the night”—despite the fact that “she had no intention of having any physical contact with any of the people present at the party.”
Doe “realized something was wrong and she thought she might have been drugged,” according to the complaint.
One of the basketball players took her to his bedroom, and the room went dark. Doe was “forcefully thrown face-down on the bed, held in place so she could not move, while [the player] raped [Doe] from behind,” the lawsuit states.
She “was crying, she could not move, nor could she speak,” the complaint alleges. “At no time did she consent to the sexual activity.”
After that basketball player was finished, the other two allegedly came in, held her down, and took turns raping her.
Doe “does not remember anything else until she woke up on the couch a few hours later,” called a taxi, and went back to her dorm room, where she was “distraught, traumatized, and crying,” according to the lawsuit.
She eventually went to the Michigan State University Counseling Center, where she reported the alleged gang-rape to a counselor and completed an initial intake and assessment. But once it became clear that Doe’s attackers were “notable MSU athletes on the basketball team,” she claims the counselor’s demeanor completely changed.
The counselor brought in another staff member, and the two allegedly told Doe that her options were to either file a police report or to deal with the aftermath of the violent assault on her own. The staffers “made it clear to [Doe] that if she chose to notify the police, she faced an uphill battle that would create anxiety and unwanted media attention and publicity, as had happened with many other female students who were sexually assaulted by well-known athletes,” according to the lawsuit.
She was allegedly told that they had seen a lot of these cases with “guys with big names” and that the best thing to do is to “just get yourself better.”
“If you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish,” they allegedly said.
The counselor did not advise Doe to seek STD or pregnancy testing, have a physical exam, or seek medical treatment, according to the lawsuit. They did not notify her of her Title IX rights or tell her that she had the option to report the assault to the Office of Institutional Equity, the complaint states.
Afterward, Doe “was so discouraged” by the interaction that “she became frightened” and decided not to report the assault to law enforcement. After several sightings of her attackers and months of panic and flashbacks, she “had become so traumatized, depressed, and withdrawn to the point that she was admitted to the Sparrow Hospital outpatient psychiatric day-program for intensive psychiatric treatment,” according to the complaint.
She withdrew from school for a semester and, upon returning, changed her major. She no longer wanted to be a sports journalist.
“MSU has fostered a culture in which female victims are discouraged from reporting sexual assaults when those assaults are perpetrated by male athletes, thus protecting the university, the male athletics programs, and the male athletes at the expense of the female victim,” the complaint claims. The school has, according to the lawsuit, created “an environment where football and basketball players can sexually assault females without repercussion.”
Monday’s complaint claims the university violated Doe’s civil rights. She has demanded a jury trial and is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.
A Michigan State spokeswoman declined comment on the lawsuit to the Associated Press on Monday.
After months of publicity following the trial and sentencing of serial sexual abuser and former sports doctor Larry Nassar, Michigan State has been under investigation by the Michigan attorney general, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Michigan Legislature, the U.S. Congress and Senate, the federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, and the Department of Education Federal Student Aid Division. Nassar’s boss, William Strampel, was arrested last month on charges of felony criminal sexual conduct and willful neglect of duty by a public official.
Three former Michigan State football players reportedly pleaded guilty this month to reduced charges in the 2017 sexual assault of a woman.