The Florida State University (FSU) student who accused the star quarterback Jameis Winston of rape has filed a federal suit against the trustees of the university, claiming they violated her civil rights by failing to investigate the case properly.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday, the woman claims the university’s “clearly unreasonable response” and “hostile educational environment” constitute a violation of her civil rights.
The suit is filed under Title IX of the 1972 education amendments, which is designed to protect against discrimination based on sex in education, including sexual harassment.
The woman, who remains anonymous in the suit, reported being sexually assaulted in December 2012, by an unknown assailant. She then allegedly recognised Winston as her attacker when they shared a class on “race and ethnicity” at the beginning of the spring semester.
In the complaint, the plaintiff describes listening for his name during roll-call, after which she promptly provided it to Tallahassee police. She says she did not know he was FSU’s premier football recruit at the time.
Winston has always maintained his innocence , and has never been charged with any crime. However, the New York Times reported in April 2014 that there were problems with the investigation. These included the fact that a DNA sample was never obtained from Winston, despite semen being found in the alleged victim’s underwear.
In the complaint, the accuser alleges that Florida State deliberately failed to comply with its own Title IX policies when the athletics department “chose to violate school policy and not report to the FSU administration that their star recruit had been identified as the suspect”.
The complaint says that the university did nothing to investigate the reported rape while the athletics department continued to keep it a secret.
“This deliberate concealment of student-on-student sexual harassment to protect the football program deprived plaintiff of her rights under Title IX and caused substantial damages,” the complaint continues.
A second woman came forward with similar allegations in October 2013, according to the complaint, but still no disciplinary proceedings against Winston took place. The complaint states that the incident was “never reported” to FSU’s Title IX coordinator by either the school’s police or the athletics department, despite both being made aware of the incident.
Soon after, the rape complaint against Winston was leaked to the media. “In the wake of an ensuing media frenzy,” the suit says, “plaintiff was relentlessly vilified and threatened on the internet and in FSU football-friendly quarters, and her and her family’s personal and work addresses were published on the internet, along with false slurs on plaintiff’s character and threats on her life.”
In a statement, FSU president John Thrasher said the university was “disappointed to learn of this lawsuit”.
He said FSU needed time to fully review the complaint, but called the allegations “meritless” and said the university looked forward to addressing them in court. He also claimed that the university had asked the complainant “at least nine times” to give a statement that would enable a Title IX investigation.
“Florida State University does not tolerate sexual violence in any form, regardless of who the alleged perpetrator might be,” he concluded.
On Wednesday, Winston announced that he would be leaving FSU and entering the 2015 NFL draft .
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