Woman files lawsuit against Butler, fraternity regarding December 2016 rape case

Butler University campus (file image)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A former Butler University athlete filed a lawsuit against the school and a campus fraternity claiming they failed protect her from a student-athlete who’d previously raped another woman.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. It names Butler University, the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity and Alpha-Alpha Zeta Alumni of Lambda Chi Alpha, Inc. as defendants.

The woman said the rape happened in December 2016 at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house. She’d gone there to help a friend when a man lured her into his room, shut the door and forced himself on her.

The lawsuit claims the same man raped another student-athlete during the previous school year. While the woman reported the incident, Butler failed to take appropriate action, according to the lawsuit. It alleges violations of Title IX and negligence on Butler’s part.

The woman is seeking damages for emotional distress, mental anguish and pain and suffering along with punitive damages and attorney fees. She and her attorney also want Butler to improve its response to sexual assault allegations.

The woman eventually transferred from Butler to another school. She had to take summer school classes in order to do so, the lawsuit said. She also lost her athletic scholarship, resulting “in her transfer to another university at significantly greater cost.”

The man in question was never arrested or charged with a crime. Butler expelled him in 2017, although the lawsuit said the expulsion didn’t happened until the woman filed a Title IX grievance against him. Even then, he was allowed to remain on campus until his appeal was ultimately denied, resulting in his dismissal.

“Butler breached its duty by allowing [the man] to continue his enrollment at Butler and have access to female Butler students,” the lawsuit said.

The Lamba Chi Alpha fraternity was kicked off campus in January 2017, a month after the alleged assault. The fraternity was suspended until at least 2021.

During the incident, the woman said she came to LCA house to find a friend who needed help getting home. The man accused of raping her told her he had a necklace belonging to one of her friends in his room.

When she went with him to get the necklace, he locked the door, pushed her on the bed and started kissing her. The woman said she repeatedly told him that she “was not going to have sex with him,” to which the man replied, “we’ll see.”

The man proceeded to rape her, the lawsuit said. He held her down and she couldn’t leave the room because he was “significantly larger, stronger and heavier” than her. He lay on top of her with his forearm holding her down, the woman said.

The next day, the woman told a math teacher what happened. She also spoke to the university’s Title IX coordinator. She later learned that the male student was accused of sexually assaulting another student during the previous school year.

The lawsuit alleges that Butler didn’t do enough to protect women:

The NCAA guidebook on “Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence” states that “when a survivor or alleged perpetrator is a student-athlete, athletics must report to appropriate campus offices for resolution and must protect those individuals from retaliation….” It further states that [i]t is essential to protect the survivor from further emotional or physical harm.”

At no time did Butler’s athletic programs protect [either woman] from further emotional or physical harm after they reported being raped. At no time did Butler’s athletic programs convene team meetings concerning the sexual assault of either [woman].

The lawsuit claimed Butler President James Danko instructed Butler police to “back off” on investigations of drinking at fraternity houses sometime before the December 2016 rape, an allegation Butler denied via email.

Butler responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:

Butler takes its obligations under Title IX very seriously, including in this case, in which Butler thoroughly investigated the allegations and expelled the accused student.

Butler is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all members of its campus community. We have prevention, response and awareness programs, policies, and practices in place to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and we have adjusted them over time to make them more effective.

Butler said it’s taken the following steps to address sexual assaults on campus:

Butler has been, and continues to be, diligent in our efforts to prevent, educate, respond and communicate around sexual harassment and sexual violence. The list below outlines the efforts and initiatives planned or currently underway.

Enhance our education and prevention programs

  • Expand required sexual harassment and sexual violence education beyond just when students join the University community. Conduct an annual assessment of our programming efforts to gauge their effectiveness.
  • Enhance opportunities to educate parents regarding Title IX policy and process.
  • Continue to maximize Butler’s nearly two-year partnership with the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault (ICESA) by hosting regular trainings on campus for faculty, staff, and students. This includes utilizing the expertise of Butler’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), a multidisciplinary partnership that works to provide a consistent, coordinated, competent, and compassionate, response to sexual assault and promotes public safety.
  • Implement additional trauma-informed training for staff who are working with, and responding to survivors, such as BUPD, health services, counseling, and residence life.
  • Form a campus-wide Alcohol and Other Drug Committee. This committee will evaluate the education programs we offer around alcohol and other drug use and misuse.

Improve our communication

  • Enhance online access to information, such as reporting options, policy, process, and resources. Make this information easier to find, understand, and in one place. This format will be replicated on the Butler App.
  • Collaborate with Student Government Association to develop a broad marketing campaign to educate students on the Title IX policy and process, and the resources available to students.

Look thoroughly at our policies and campus climate

  • Review and clarify Butler’s current Title IX policy and process on a regular basis.
  • Elicit feedback from individuals who have been involved in the Title IX process. This will give us a chance to assess the process from the perspective of those who have been through it.
  • Administer a campus climate survey within the next year, and then administer one on a regular basis.

Strengthen our support network

  • Move the Title IX Coordinator from Human Resources to the Division of Student Affairs in an effort to support a student-centered process.
  • Hire a full-time investigator who will be responsible for working on cases related to Title IX, race, and religion, for example, in an effort to make our processes even more timely and efficient.
  • Implement student intern positions to work with our Health Education and Outreach Programs staff.