An anonymous former Notre Dame student filed a lawsuit on August 17 on St. Joseph’s County Circuit Court alleging that a football player raped her in his dorm room in January 2016 and that instead of dealing with the alleged assault, as she requested, the school mishandled it and swept it under the rug. Notre Dame’s school paper, the Observer, first reported on the lawsuit on Wednesday.
According to the suit, the student (who goes by Jane Doe) was spending the 2015-16 academic year at Notre Dame as part of an exchange program. She says she was escorting a drunk football player (who is also anonymous and is referred to as “Jack Roe”) back to his dorm room, where he sexually assaulted her. Doe says she didn’t want to face her alleged attacker, and that her response was primarily motivated by fear. According to the complaint, Roe smashed her phone as she tried to call for help during the alleged incident.
Doe insisted that she wanted to deal with the assault and the alleged perpetrator privately. However, a second alleged victim got in touch with Doe and they spoke with the Title IX office, who apparently told the accused football player that Doe was “not participating” after she and her father asked the Title IX office to investigate the second alleged victim’s story before contacting the accused football player. Some of her reticence stems from the fact that Notre Dame allegedly never educated Doe on her rights under Title IX since she was a visiting student.
In April 2016, the accused football player was suspended from the team for an unspecified violation of team rules. He was exploring the process of transferring to another school, and Doe says the Title IX coordinator she spoke with told her that it would be best if she closed her case so that the football player could complete his transfer without any red flags. In short, the school allegedly dragged her into a case she wanted no part in, ignored what she wanted, and then helped the accused football player quietly shuffle off to another school.
Their apparent logic was that this was the best way to get him away from her as neatly as possible. However, it would also mean that he would get off without any reprimand or punishment, the football program would maintain its reputation, and the football player’s new school wouldn’t have any idea that they were taking in someone who’d been accused of rape and destruction of evidence. The lawsuit said Notre Dame’s process “favored the continuation of Roe’s career” and “reeks of indifference” towards violence against women.
Doe says she has lasting emotional trauma and flinches when a large person walks into a room. In addition to calling for changes to the school’s Title IX process, she demands that Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame football staff do a better job of vetting their recruits.
Notre Dame released the following statement, via the Observer:
“We will respond in full to the complaint, which contains several inaccurate allegations, in court,” Paul Browne, University vice president for public affairs and communications, said in an email. “For now, we note that every university has a legal obligation to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. Notre Dame takes this obligation seriously, and endeavors to do so in a manner that is as respectful as possible of the privacy and safety of all students involved. We believe we did so in this case. The claim that Notre Dame’s process in this case assisted the accused student in transferring is one of several false statements in the complaint, which we will defend vigorously.”
The complaint is below.
Additional reporting by Lauren Theisen.