RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) – An Old Dominion University student who reported she was raped in her dorm room is charging that campus police prevented her from getting a medical exam to preserve evidence until after she was interrogated for almost eight hours.
Her complaint to federal education officials about the October 2014 episode also says she was not given written information about her right to seek a protective order against the person she said attacked her, among other things. It accuses school officials of mishandling the case.
The complaint obtained by 10 On Your Side says the woman, who was not identified, told campus police after she was raped in her dorm room that she had an appointment at a local medical center for a forensic exam. Instead of taking the woman to the appointment, police took her to their department, where they held her for nearly eight hours, the complaint says.
Prior to reporting the rape to campus police, during the early morning of October 12, 2014, Ms. Doe had called a rape crisis center counselor who then scheduled a forensic examination for her at a local medical center. Despite this appointment, ODU Police asked Ms. Doe to wait on campus outside of the Success Center to be picked by campus police up rather than offering to meet her at the appointment itself.”
The complaint alleges police denied Ms. Doe food, water and access to the bathroom in between interrogations.
“Separated from her assigned YWCA victim advocate and her family. In between interrogations, ODU Police continually denied Ms. Doe food, water, the use of a bathroom, or access to any emergency medical assistance or forensic nurse examination to impede the timely collection of forensic evidence regarding the rape.”
In a personal statement included with the complaint, the woman said the detectives made comments and asked questions that made her feel like she was “being violated again,” including, “Do you like rough sex?” and, “I’m just trying to find the crime here.”
The experience left her with ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder and an anxiety disorder, she said.
“After the entire day of being victimized by your police department, I was left feeling paranoid and scared, as if I was the criminal,” she wrote.
The complaint accuses the school of violating federal law by failing to give the woman written information about the importance of preserving evidence of her rape through a forensic exam and not letting her know that she could decline to report the crime to law enforcement before getting an exam.
“Had Ms. Doe known about her right to decline to report to law enforcement prior to receiving a forensic examination and medical care, she would have been able to attend her appointment at a local medical center to receive care for her injuries and bleeding after her rape on campus,” said the complaint. The woman’s attorney, Laura Dunn, said it was filed late Wednesday – the two year anniversary of her rape – with the U.S. Department of Education.
The complaint goes on to say the ODU officials only helped Ms. Doe find alternative sleeping arrangements if her family signed off on a media statement. The complaint alleges that ODU officials “coerced Ms. Doe and her family into agreeing that ODU could make a press statement that it was ‘working with the family’ as a condition of Ms. Doe receiving information and promises regarding potential academic and living accommodations on campus.”
Up until that point, Ms. Doe claims in her personal statement: “What you may forget is that I was raped on that very bed I slept in for two months after. My blood covered that same bed that I laid and on the carpet where I trod.”
The woman accuses the school of violating the Clery Act, which requires schools to inform victims about counseling services, their options to notify law enforcement after an assault and options for changing their living situation, among other things.
The complaint says the woman was not informed about her right to seek a protective order against her alleged attacker – who wasn’t an ODU student – after ODU Police declined to seek one on her behalf. That forced her to “live on campus for months in fear that her attacker could return and harm her at any moment,” the complaint said.
The woman also claims she was not allowed to move out of the dorm room where she was attacked until after she received a diagnosis for a psychological condition and that her assault wasn’t added to the school’s daily crime log until after a reporter inquired about it.
“This validated to me that Old Dominion University never took my sexual assault seriously and does not care for me as one of their students,” the woman said in the complaint.
10 On Your Side has learned that the Department of Education has never before received a Clery Act complaint against Old Dominion University. If the U.S. Department of Education upholds the complaint, ODU could face up to a $35,000 fine per violation.
ODU officials released a statement Thursday, which reads in full:
Old Dominion University has zero tolerance for sexual assault. The University is committed to following all legal requirements for investigating complaints of sexual assault and to treating victims with care, professionalism and respect. Old Dominion University is in receipt of the complaint. Due to the legal nature of the claim, no further comment will be issued at this time.”
Giovanna M. Genard, University Spokesperson
The Associated Press contributed to this report.