Emerson College has promised to improve its investigation of campus sexual assaults after a group of students filed a complaint with the federal government against the school.
The complaint was filed last week with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Two of the complainants, sophomore Sarah Tedesco, 19, and junior Jillian Doherty had alleged that Emerson had downplayed and failed to fully investigate at least two separate sexual assault incidents. The complainants also alleged that Emerson violated their rights under Title IX and the Clery Act which states that:
If a school or its employees knows or reasonably should know about sexual harassment (including sexual violence), the school must take immediate action to eliminate the sexual harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects, even if the victim does not want to file a complaint.
Last October, Tedesco had been drugged and assaulted by an MIT student during an off-campus party. Though Tedesco had been hospitalized, Emerson administrators had discouraged Tedesco from talking to police and stated that they would handle the case through their own judicial system.
But Tedesco is now alleging that her school mishandled her case, closing it after several months because according to administrators, “it did not warrant a hearing.” In a second, separate incident, in which Tedesco was assaulted, Tedesco reported the incident to school administrators who again downplayed her complaint. According to Tedesco, her attackers still remain at their respective schools and have yet to face any judicial punishment.
Both Tedesco and Doherty said that filing the complaint was made in an effort pursue changes within the school’s procedures for handling assault cases; not just because of their experiences, but for the sake of all present and future victims of sex crimes.
In response to the complaint, Emerson president, M. Lee Pelton, said a number of steps, including the hiring of a “sexual assault advocate” to support sexual assault victims as well as the establishment of preventative programs, will be taken to properly handle and prevent future similar incidents.
While sexual abuse is a serious crime typically handled by law enforcement, what many victims do not know is that they may also be eligible to file a civil claim against the perpetrator or institution employing the perpetrator. In this case, both schools in which the alleged attackers are enrolled had the responsibility to thoroughly investigate the incidents and administer the necessary disciplinary action.
At the law firm of Altman & Altman, LLP, though our attorneys do not prosecute offenders for crimes, we may be able to counsel victims and their families who wish to file a claim for compensation due to the abuse. Often, victims believe it is impossible to collect compensation against their attacker since the abuser has no assets. However there are instances where parties who did not play an active part in the abuse will be civilly liable because they had a duty to investigate the incident or prevent it. Cases like this may go in conjunction with negligent security cases.
If you or a loved one was the victim of a sexual crime, call the law offices of Altman & Altman to discuss your rights with an experienced Boston Civil Litigation Attorney. Our experienced team of civil litigation attorneys understands the hardships victims and their families face after this type of incident, and we will stand by your side throughout the entire process and aggressively pursue your lawsuit against all liable parties. In addition to the outstanding legal counsel you will receive, our firm has access to some of the finest psychological and medical professionals in the Commonwealth. We have represented hundreds of individuals and have recovered millions of dollars in settlements, claims, and jury awards on behalf of our clients. Our attorneys are available around the clock to answer any questions you have about your case, and all initial consultations are free and completely confidential.