Lawsuit: Columbia twice failed to protect lesbian student from homophobic rapist

Lawsuit: Columbia twice failed to protect lesbian student from homophobic rapist
Amelia Roskin-Frazee Photo: Amelia Roskin-Frazee
A lesbian student at Columbia University is suing the school, alleging that it failed to protect her from being raped in her own dorm room. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, she accused the university of violating Title IX protections.

Amelia Roskin-Frazee, a sophomore and LGBTQ advocate, says she was first assaulted by an unknown man on October 5, 2015, Buzzfeed report. She says woke up to find the man on top of her, and eventually passed out due to the pain. When Roskin-Frazee came to, she says, the man was leaving her room wearing only his underwear.

After the assault, she didn’t immediately file an official report, but she sought help from multiple university sources and each failed to inform her of her rights under Title IX and the university’s own sexual misconduct policies, the complaint says.

“To be blunt,” Roskin-Frazee said in a Tuesday news conference. “I’m suing Columbia because I’m angry.”

When Roskin-Frazee made an appointment with Columbia Medial Services to address the lingering pain from the rape, the complaint alleges the person who treated her didn’t ask if she had been assaulted and instead told her she “shouldn’t have such rough sex again,” DNA Info reports.

The next week she called Columbia’s sexual assault response line to inquire about academic and housing accommodation, but the nurse who answered was unaware of any such accommodations, instead telling her she should have been on birth control and ought to report the assault to police, according to the complaint. But Roskin-Frazee didn’t want her experience to become public record, she just wanted to feel safe again.

“I felt ashamed,” she said. “Why did he target me? I felt embarrassed I couldn’t identify him.”

When Robin-Frazee reached out to the housing office to see if she could change rooms because she didn’t feel safe, they told her she would have to pay a $500 and involve her parents, the lawsuit says. So she remained in her dorm.

In early December 2015, she says she reached out to Columbia’s Executive Vice President for University Life about the alleged assault, but despite university requirements, her complaint was never sent on to the Gender-Based Misconduct Office.

Less than a month later, on December 14, the complaint alleges Roskin-Frazee was raped a second time by an assailant waiting for her outside her dorm room door. The second attack, which she believes was perpetrated by the same man as the first, was particularly brutal.

According to the lawsuit, she was tied up with her iPhone charger and gagged with her own clothing before being raped with objects including a hairbrush, scissors, and a razor while the rapist allegedly whispered in her ear, “Still a dyke?”

The next day, she was treated for injuries including vaginal tears, cuts on her thighs, and sprained wrists at St. Luke’s Hospital.

Roskin-Fraze says she filed an official report with the university in August 2016, after taunting messages began appearing on the bulletin board in her dorm building like “Isn’t it fun to wake up to someone fucking you?” and offering to replace her iPhone charger. But she’d been open about it before then, even writing an open letter to the dean on Feministing.

The suit alleges that Columbia didn’t open an investigation into Roskin-Frazee’s sexual assault allegations until September 2016, after she sent an angry email. That investigation was allegedly closed a month later, with officials declining to interview students or review building entry logs, telling Roskin-Frazee that they couldn’t investigate if she couldn’t identify her attacker.

Unfortunately, Roskin-Frazee’s alleged experience is not unique — at Columbia University or for queer students more generally.

Columbia University has faced other high profile allegations of mishandling sexual assault claims. In 2014, then-student Emma Sulkowicz captured headlines after she launched a project called Carry That Weight, in which she carried the mattress on which she was raped around campus, pledging to do so until she graduated or the alleged perpetrator left the school. That year, 23 students filed complaints Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging violations of Title XI. That office currently has four open investigations at Columbia.

And new studies show that LGBTQ students are more likely than their peers to be sexually assaulted, Inside Higher Ed reports.

In one of the largest studies of sexual assault on college campuses, recently published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health looked at data from 70,000 undergrads and found that in most cases, sexual, gender, and racial minorities experienced higher rates of sexual assault than their peers.

The first of its kind study found that LGBTQ men and women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than their straight and/or cisgender peers. Transgender people were 300 percent more likely than cisgender men to be sexually assaulted. The contrast was most stark for students at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, such as black transgender women.

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