Student: Northwestern’s failures spurred Title IX lawsuit

Ciara McCarthy and Ally Mutnick

The Medill junior who filed a Title IX lawsuit against the University last week said Thursday she has “lost faith as an individual and as a student” because of the way Northwestern handled her reported sexual assault at the hands of a professor.

“I can honestly tell you that the last two years have been stolen away from me,” the student said. “It was almost like making friends, having a normal Northwestern undergraduate life, was not anywhere on my radar.”

The student, who says philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow sexually assaulted her in February 2012 after the two attended an art show together in downtown Chicago, said in the lawsuit that NU handled the incident with “deliberate indifference and retaliation.”

(Updated: Student sues Northwestern, claiming University ignored sexual assault findings)

She told The Daily on Thursday multiple offices and administrators within the University had failed her, spurring her Title IX lawsuit.

After reporting the incident in February 2012 to Joan Slavin, director of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office, the student said she was given very little information about Slavin’s investigation into the student’s claims.

In an email update during the investigation, Slavin told the student she asked Ludlow to delete photos from his Facebook profile. The photos depicted the student and were taken without her permission, she said.

In spring 2012, Slavin sent the student a letter telling her she concluded that Ludlow had made unwanted sexual advances but she could not give her further information about disciplinary actions because it was of a “confidential personnel nature.”

When the student found out Ludlow would be returning to campus for Fall Quarter 2012, she became disillusioned with the University’s ability to respond to her claims. She said fear of running into Ludlow on campus gave her panic attacks and night terrors.

“I was shocked,” the student said. ”At least I had hope that they were going to do something. Something that’s visible, something that I can feel like I’m safe.”

Though the student said the school granted her academic accommodations, she felt the Center for Awareness, Response and Education, which was founded in 2011 to serve students who are survivors of sexual violence, had not been helpful “at all.”

“I think they can do good things for people when the sexual assaulter is not a University employee,” she said. “When it’s a University employee, things change so dramatically. And I can tell you that CARE is no longer offering me services. Period.”

Political science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens accompanied the student to a Chicago police station to report her assault about a year after the alleged incident. She said last week the University offered the student several thousand dollars to help cover her mental health care costs while she was still enrolled at NU, but only if she signed a waiver, releasing the University of liability for any mental health damages after she graduated.

The University’s failure to disclose disciplinary proceedings or adequately alert the police put the NU community at risk, Stevens said.

“It’s basically the policy of the Vatican and it allows people who are sexual predators to move from one campus to another without there being any kind of alert to the incoming community,” Stevens said. “Northwestern students and faculty deserve better.”

A University employee referred the student to her first attorney, she said. She later switched to her current one, Kevin O’Connor.

In a statement released last week, Ludlow denied all allegations of sexual assault or harassment. Ludlow’s attorney Kristin Case said she and her client had evidence of “friendly communications” initiated by the student from the days immediately following the alleged assault.

(Attorney: Ludlow disputes lawsuit’s allegations)

The student said Thursday those communications were submitted for Slavin’s investigation.
Slavin concluded in April 2012 that Ludlow made “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” toward the student.

“I stand behind my story,” the student said. “I will not back down.”

The student spoke to University Police about the incident without filing a report. In the months after the alleged assault, no one recommended that the student go to the Chicago Police Department, she said. It was only after Stevens’ encouragement about a year later that she decided to file a report.

After reporting the incident to CPD, the student said a detective told her there was not enough evidence to press criminal charges.

Filing the lawsuit was an alienating experience, but a necessary one, the student said.

“So many people have told me, ‘Well, you should just transfer out of Northwestern,’” the student said. “I worked so hard to get into this school. If anyone leaves, it should be him.”

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