A federal lawsuit filed Monday alleges three Michigan State basketball players raped a female student in 2015 and the university failed to offer her the proper resources for help.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan Southern Division, does not name the woman, nor the three players, who are no longer at the school. Instead, it is focused “with the way she was treated by the university,” the student’s attorney, Karen Truszkowski, tells ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”
The lawsuit states that the woman met the three basketball players at a bar in East Lansing on April 12, 2015 ― one week after Michigan State lost to Duke in the Final Four. The woman, a journalism major interested in sports reporting, was offered a drink by one of the players and asked if she wanted to meet the “other guys” from the team. The players invited her to a party at an off-campus apartment, allegedly telling her that her roommate was already on her way there, and she accepted a ride to the party.
According to the lawsuit, the woman “was feeling discombobulated,” which prevented her from sending a text. The woman said one of the players told her, “You know you’re mine for the night?” and she responded that she was just trying to find her friend. The second player then invited her to his room to see basketball memorabilia, which she accepted as a sports fan.
In the room, she was given a glass of water and was “drinking the water when the room went dark,” the lawsuit states. She said in the lawsuit that she was forcefully thrown face-down onto the bed and was held down as the three players took turns raping her. She was crying and could not speak and did not consent to the activity, according to the lawsuit.
The woman maintains she didn’t remember anything until waking up on a couch the next morning. She told “Outside the Lines” she wondered if one of the drinks she was given had been spiked. She took a cab to her residence hall and a later told a friend what happened. On April 20, 2015, the friend took her to the Michigan State University Counseling Center, according to the lawsuit.
When the woman told the counselor the three men who allegedly raped her were Michigan State basketball players, the “counselor’s demeanor completely changed,” the lawsuit states, and the counselor told the student an additional person needed to be in the room with them.
The MSU Counseling Center staff then “made it clear to Plaintiff that if she chose to notify the police, she faced an uphill battle that would create anxiety and unwanted media attention and publicity as had happened with many other female students who were sexually assaulted by well-known athletes,” according to the lawsuit.
The woman told “Outside the Lines” she was scared to report the incident to police at the time for fear of getting in trouble for underage drinking.
″(The counselor) never told me or reassured me that that would not be a factor,” the woman told “Outside the Lines.”
The lawsuit states the woman wasn’t told of her of her right to report the incident to MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity or notified of her Title IX rights, protections and accommodations.
“Plaintiff was expressly told by MSUCC staff that ‘if you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish,’” the lawsuit alleges.
As a result of the incident, the woman “had become so traumatized, depressed, and withdrawn to the point that she was admitted to the Sparrow Hospital outpatient psychiatric dayprogram for intensive psychiatric treatment” in October 2015, according to the lawsuit. She withdrew from classes, changed her major, sought psychiatric care and remains on prescription medication, according to the lawsuit.
The university never offered the woman academic assistance, the lawsuit alleges.
“Everyone I was in classes with or working with was just all into sports, like ‘bleed green,’” she told “Outside the Lines.” “I’m thinking to myself, ‘If only you could look at them like I have to. If only you knew what it felt like.’”
The lawsuit is the latest black mark for Michigan State this year. An “Outside the Lines” report in January accused the school of covering up a series of sexual-assault claims involving the athletic department.
In addition, Larry Nassar, who worked as an osteopathic physician for USA Gymnastics and was a faculty member at Michigan State, was sentenced in January to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of molestation.
Michigan State is named as a co-defendant in civil lawsuits filed by more than 150 women, many of whom allege that coaches, athletic trainers and others at the school ignored complaints about Nassar for nearly two decades.
Amid growing calls for a change in leadership, university president Lou Anna Simon resigned hours after Nassar was sentenced and Mark Hollis retired as athletic director two days later.
―Field Level Media