A former Unity College student has sued the liberal arts school alleging that a former Title IX officer did not investigate her report that a male student sexually assaulted her on campus four years ago, a violation of federal law and school policy.
The woman also claims in her complaint, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor, that immediately after the assault she fell out of a second-story dorm window that “opened like a door” and seriously injured her back.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of accusations at Maine colleges that have alleged Title IX provisions are not being enforced on campuses. The federal law Title IX requires schools funded with federal dollars to act if they know, or reasonably should know, of harassment that creates a hostile environment.
The woman, who came to Unity from North Attleboro, Massachusetts, is seeking unspecified damages from the college, including reimbursement for medical expenses and a tuition refund. In addition to the college, Gary Zane, former dean for student affairs and Title IX coordinator, and Kristopher Miville, a public safety officer at Unity in 2015, were named in the lawsuit.
The Bangor Daily News does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes. The alleged attacker is not named in the lawsuit.
The woman’s attorney, Caleb Gannon of Augusta, declined Wednesday to comment on the case.
Bangor attorney Tim Woodcock issued a statement on behalf of the college denying the allegations.
“Unity College takes its responsibilities for the safety and security of its students very seriously,” Woodcock said. “When Unity College became aware that an incident involving [the plaintiff] had occurred, Unity promptly investigated the matter. Unity College is familiar with and has evaluated [the] allegations. Unity denies [her] claims and will defend against them.”
The complaint alleges that on Sept. 18 or 19, 2015, the assailant took the woman to his room in the TerraHaus dorm while she was “incapacitated” and sexually assaulted her there. Almost immediately after that, she allegedly fell naked out a window that opened horizontally but had no railings, bars or other safety features.
Miville found her naked on the ground outside the alleged assailant’s window on the morning of Sept. 19, the complaint said. He allegedly took no measures to evaluate her physical condition and did not call an ambulance even though she told him her back hurt. Instead, Miville questioned her about whether she had been drinking and how much she had had to drink.
While Miville was questioning her, the alleged assailant came out of the dorm carrying a pair of his own shorts and her shirt, which he threw at her. Miville and the assailant “physically pulled her to her feet” and brought her back into TerraHaus and left her on a couch in the common room, the complaint said.
Later that day, the plaintiff had a friend drive her to a Waterville hospital where she learned she had suffered two fractures to her lower spine, according to the complaint. As a result, she had to leave Unity and return to her parents’ home.
The plaintiff underwent a sexual assault evaluation on Sept. 23, 2015, the same day she reported to Zane that she had been sexually assaulted, the complaint alleged. Zane allegedly did not investigate the report, did not offer her any interim safety measures or offer her resources for emotional support or counseling.
“Zane informed the plaintiff that no further action would be taken with respect to the plaintiff’s complaint, describing it as a ‘he-said-she-said’ situation,” the lawsuit said.
No one from Unity or its Title IX office ever contacted her about possible disciplinary proceedings or how she could feel safe on campus when she returned. As a result, she was unsuccessful in returning to campus, dropped out of college and returned to her parents’ home, the lawsuit alleges.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.