Male student claims gender bias in campus rape investigation in lawsuit against IU

A male student has filed a federal lawsuit against Indiana University after the Bloomington school investigated a sexual assault complaint against him and determined that even though he “reasonably should not have known” the woman was incapacitated, he was still responsible for nonconsensual sex.

The student, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe, has been suspended from IU through Oct. 25, 2022, is not allowed to be on campus and must get counseling or take a class before attending a re-entry meeting the month he returns to classes.

Doe, represented by Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP in Indianapolis, filed the lawsuit Nov. 27, the same day the university denied his appeal. He claims the university was biased against him because of his gender and, along with damages, is seeking restitution for the years of tuition he paid to IU.

This is the fourth lawsuit filed against Indiana University by a male student accused of sexual misconduct. Colleges and universities across the state have been hit with similar complaints, largely from male students claiming their constitutional rights were violated.  . However, some female students have also filed lawsuits asserting some of the same claims.

According to John Doe’s complaint against IU, the woman, referred to in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, made the accusation that John had sexually assaulted and exploited her more than eight months after the two had sex in the Sigma Nu fraternity house. The pair was photographed without their permission while having intercourse and the pictures were subsequently shared on GroupMe among the fraternity brothers.

The complaint states that as soon as John learned about the photo, he immediately went to the Sigma Nu president to have the picture removed. A few days later, the university’s Office of Student Conduct contacted John and indicated he may have experienced sexual misconduct.

In a meeting with OSC investigators, John was told they wanted to talk about the picture. However, John alleges the statements he made as part of that investigation were then used against him in the sexual assault investigation. The panel investigating the sexual assault allegation based its conclusion that Jane did not consent largely on “inconsistencies” in John’s statements, according to the complaint. Specifically, while John maintained in later interviews that he had asked for consent, he did not “elaborate on verbal communication” when he was interviewed as a complainant in the photo investigation.

Moreover, that complaint states that although the photo investigators found that John did not consent to having the picture taken or disseminated, the sexual assault panel determined he was responsible for the “exploitation.”

John and Jane had sex Sept. 4, 2017. He made a statement to OSC about the picture on Sept. 29, 2017. On June 1, 2018, the Indiana University Police Department called John about a sexual misconduct case involving his Sept. 29 statement. Only after he met with IUPD was he informed that he was under investigation for rape, according to the complaint.

Once the university had completed the final investigation report into the sexual assault accusation, John was given limited access and not allowed to print, copy or share it, the complaint states. Also, the report did not contain the real names of the witnesses so John could prepare questions in advance of the hearing.

According to the complaint, a hearing was held Oct. 19, 2018, with three panelists presiding. The event lasted from 1:30 to 8:55 p.m. with most of the witnesses being contacted by phone and only those who answered the call providing testimony. Jane’s sister was permitted to testify even though she told the panel she had hit her head and was on her way to the hospital. 

John’s witnesses were neither contacted by the panel nor mentioned in the final investigation report, although they could have provided information regarding his habit of seeking verbal consent from sexual partners, according to the complaint. However, the complaint states, Jane’s friends were contacted and permitted to testify.

The complaint describes the investigation as “shoddy.” It also asserts the “gross lack of process and unfairness afforded to John” is in contrast to the “robust and complete process and control over the scope and timing of the investigation afford to Jane.”

The complaint claims IU violated Title IX because John was treated unfairly because of his sex and its deliberate indifference was motived by John’s gender. In addition, the university breached its contract with John when it failed to follow its own policies and procedures and was negligent in enforcing its own policies and procedures, he claims.

The case filed in the Indiana Southern District Court is John Doe v. Indiana University, 1:18-cv-3713.

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