EAST LANSING, Mich. – A Michigan State student is suing the university over the handling of an alleged rape case involving three men's basketball players in 2015.
The lawsuit alleges an 18-year-old woman in her first year as a student at Michigan State was raped by three players shortly after the basketball season ended.
According to the lawsuit, the woman was at Harper's Bar in East Lansing on the evening of April 11, 2015, when most of the MSU men's basketball team arrived at the bar. The team's season had ended earlier in the week after a loss to Duke in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
Woman believes she may have been drugged
At some point during the night, one of the basketball players offered to buy the woman a drink, and she accepted, according to the lawsuit. The woman was a sports journalism major, so she also accepted an invitation to meet the rest of the players, the lawsuit says.
One of the players asked the woman to come to their apartment for a party. He told her that her roommate was already heading to the party, according to the lawsuit.
At this point, the woman said she was having a hard time holding onto her glass, even though she hadn't had a lot to drink, according to the lawsuit.
She accepted a car ride to the party from two of the players, including the player who had given her the drink, according to the lawsuit. They arrived at an off-campus apartment, and there was no party and very few people present, the lawsuit says.
The woman said she was very hungry and thirsty. She said her roommate was not at the apartment as she had been told, the lawsuit said.
The woman said she was feeling discombobulated and couldn't control her thumbs to formulate a text on her phone, according to the lawsuit.
3 players accused of raping woman in apartment
The player who bought the woman a drink pulled her into a bedroom and told her, "You are mine for the night," according to the lawsuit. The woman said she had no intentions of having physical contact with the players, so she left the bedroom and went into the living room, the lawsuit says.
Music was playing from a laptop in the living room, and when the woman tried to load a song onto the laptop, she said she couldn't use her hands properly, according to the lawsuit. She realized something was wrong and thought she might have been drugged, the lawsuit says.
According to the lawsuit, the other player who rode with her to the apartment offered to show the woman his basketball memorabilia in his room. When they got to the room, the woman said she was thrown face-down on the bed, held in place and raped from behind, according to the lawsuit.
The woman said she was crying, she couldn't move and couldn't speak.
When the first player stopped raping the woman, the player who bought her a drink and a third player walked into the bedroom and held her down, taking turns raping her, according to the lawsuit.
The woman said she doesn't remember anything else until she woke up on the couch a few hours later, according to the lawsuit.
Woman says MSU officials discouraged her from pursuing charges
The woman said her roommate didn't know anything about the alleged party and had been looking for the victim but couldn't find her, the lawsuit says.
According to the lawsuit, the woman didn't know what to do, so she talked to another friend, who took her to the Michigan State University Counseling Center on April 20, 2015.
The woman reported the rape to a counselor and completed an initial intake and assessment, but when she told the counselor that the three alleged attackers were basketball players, the counselor suddenly announced she needed another person in the room, according to the lawsuit.
Another MSUCC staff person was brought into the room and told the woman that her options were to either file a police report or deal with the aftermath of the attack on her own, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, the MSUCC staff made it clear that the woman faced an uphill battle that would create anxiety and unwanted social media attention if she notified the police. She was told it had happened with many other female students who were sexually assaulted by athletes, the lawsuit says.
"We have had many other students in the same situation have reported, and it has been very traumatic for them," the MSUCC staff member said, according to the lawsuit.
She was told the they had seen many cases involving "guys with big names," and the best thing to do was to "just get better yourself," according to the lawsuit.
"If you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish," the MSUCC staff member said, according to the lawsuit.
Trouble after alleged attack
The woman said she was so discouraged that she decided not to report the rapes to law enforcement, the lawsuit said. She said she would see her attackers at the Brody Dining Hall, causing panic and flashbacks, according to the lawsuit.
In October 2015, the woman was admitted to the Sparrow Hospital outpatient psychiatric day-program for intensive psychiatric treatment, according to the lawsuit. She stopped attending classes and was forced to withdraw for the semester, the lawsuit says.
She was given a refund of her tuition money after explaining to university officials that she had been raped and was suffering emotional, mental and physical trauma, the lawsuit says.
She resume classes in January 2016, but changed her major because her dream of becoming a sports journalist had been destroyed, according to the lawsuit.
Allegations against MSU
The lawsuit accuses Michigan State University of fostering a culture in which female victims are discouraged from reporting sexual assaults committed by male athletes, protecting the university's athletic programs at the victims' expense.
According to the lawsuit, the comments made by MSUCC staff members suggest that female students are discouraged from reported sexual assault when the alleged attackers are well-known athletes.
Michigan State is accused of creating an environment with a heightened risk of sexual assault for women.
At the time of the lawsuit's filing, Michigan State is also under investigation by the Michigan attorney general, the NCAA, the Michigan Legislature, U.S. House and Senate, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Education Federal Student Aid Division.
The lawsuit claims Michigan State has not been transparent in dealings with investigators about the sexual assault incidents. MSU is also accused of trying to conceal the names of athletes named in campus police records.
"MSU created an atmosphere and culture in which female victims became vulnerable to predatory athletes," the lawsuit says.
You can read the full criminal complaint below:
Here is a document outlining the steps Michigan State's Counseling Center Sexual Assault Program is supposed to take after receiving a report: