Friday, May 31, 2019

Florida A&M is trying to pressure an alleged sexual assault victim to reveal her identity

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 2:09 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO CRED: FACEBOOK.COM/FAMU1887
  • Photo cred: Facebook.com/FAMU1887
In what will surely be another obstacle preventing sexual assault victims from coming forward, Florida A&M University and Dartmouth College have recently threatened to dismiss lawsuits unless the accusers reveal their names in public.

According to the New York Times, both schools have demanded in court that sexual assault accusers, whose identities are known to school administrators and lawyers, also share their names with the public.

In one case, an accuser only identified as “S.B.” claims she was raped three times at Florida A&M between 2012 and 2013, and that the school failed to adequately investigate her claims or protect her from coming into contact with the alleged rapists.

In response, the school now demands “her legal name be provided to jurors at trial," insisting that this was essential for “a fair and open trial” because she has already publicly named her accusers.



So far, Florida A&M has unsuccessfully tried to dismiss the lawsuit three times, but has been thwarted by a North District judge who stated that releasing the accuser's name serves “no legitimate public interest,” other than, of course, opening victims up to ridicule and online shaming, which ultimately leads to them dropping the case out of fear.

From the New York Times:
The judge, Mark E. Walker of the Northern District of Florida, did not agree. “Outing an alleged rape victim simply because other parties or individuals involved in the lawsuit are not proceeding anonymously serves no legitimate public interest,” he said in his decision on one of Florida A&M’s motions.

S.B.’s lawyer, Michael Dolce, said there was no comparison between the stigma and shame a victim of sexual assault can face and the embarrassment endured by a university official accused of bureaucratic mistakes. The school’s efforts, he added, were intended to intimidate the woman into dropping her suit.

S.B. declined a request to talk about the case on Wednesday, even without using her full name, saying she was “just too afraid,” according to her lawyer. 

The Dartmouth case involves three accusers, two of whom have revealed their names. Despite having a policy in place that protects the names of accusers in individual cases, the school is arguing that “that anonymous plaintiffs could not properly represent a class-action lawsuit," and the anonymous accuser “would hamper the ability of investigators to gather information from the rest of the class.”

Both cases come at a time when Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education are hoping to establish new rules that dilute protections for victims of sexual assaults, and safeguard protections for institutions.

We've reached out to Florida A&M University and will update this story if they get back to us.

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