Why a judge ruled Utah Valley University didn’t need to help victims of sexual assault

Editor’s note: This story is about sexual assault. If you need to report or discuss sexual assault, you can call the Utah Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 801-736-4356.

Utah Valley University was not required to provide resources to its own student after she was raped, according to a judge, because the alleged attacker was not at school and the assault did not take place on campus.

In his decision issued last week, US District Court Judge David Barlow dismissed all claims against UVU in student Marissa Root’s high-profile lawsuit. Her December 2021 filing had drawn widespread attention and criticism of the school for allegedly refusing to help Root, directing her to go to the University of Utah instead, where the student she said was her raped, asked for help.

Root had argued that this was willful indifference and left them alone with the attack.

But the judge said while UVU could offer assistance or attempt to investigate, it was not responsible for doing so under Title IX. This is the federal law that mandates universities to ensure students receive an education free of gender discrimination and to operate offices that support students who have been sexually abused.

The lawsuits against the Utah System of Higher Education, which oversees all of the state’s public universities and was also named in the case, were dismissed for the same reasons.

Neither UVU nor the system had “substantial control over the attacker or the context of the attack,” meaning location, the judge said, citing a Title IX decision by the US Supreme Court.

Therefore, no one can be held responsible for not helping root.

According to the ruling, Root can make changes and resubmit if her lawyers find reason not to agree. The law firm representing Root declined to comment; The Salt Lake Tribune does not generally identify victims of sexual assault, but Root consented to the use of her name.

Spokespersons for UVU and the Utah System of Higher Education also declined to comment.

However, Root’s lawsuits against the University of Utah continue to advance — as does the criminal case against US soccer player Sione Lund, who allegedly raped her.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sione Lund, a former University of Utah soccer player, at a preliminary hearing in West Jordan on Thursday, July 28, 2022.

Earlier this year, Lund accepted a deal with prosecutors that came about shortly after a judge ruled there was enough evidence for Lund to stand trial. He has now pleaded guilty to attempted violent sexual assault, a third-degree felony. This is punishable by up to five years in prison. The fired linebacker must also register as a sex offender.

Lund, now 24, had originally been charged with rape and forcible sodomy, both first-degree felonies, in the alleged assault in September 2019. He will be sentenced on March 20th.

Unlike UVU and the Utah System of Higher Education, the University of Utah has not filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them. But it wrote a response to Root’s lawsuit, denying the claims.

The U. says in her filing that she explained the options available to Root and referred her to resources when she contacted the school for help after UVU refused to provide assistance. The U. also notes that she quickly removed Lund from the team upon learning of the allegations.

In a statement Monday, U. added: “We will address the facts of the case as the lawsuit moves through the court process. The University strives every day to be a victim-centric and trauma-informed place where students, faculty, staff and the wider community feel safe and are able to hear and respond to their voices when they are victims of sexual, interpersonal or other victims became violent.”

What the verdict means

According to the ruling, a college is not required to provide assistance to victims or survivors of sexual assault — even if they are students there — if the assault did not take place on campus or at a school-sponsored event and was not committed by someone , which is connected to the university, e.g. B. another student or staff member.

This contradicts what most proponents thought Title IX was guaranteed.

S. Daniel Carter, President of SAFE Campuses, LLC, previously said that Title IX does not direct schools to send their own students to school to help a suspected offender.

“Legal requirements aside, a pass the buck scheme can be deadly,” Carter said.

The US Supreme Court ruling, relied on by Judge Barlow, states that in order for a school to be held accountable for an attack, it must have some form of “disciplinary authority” over the attacker. This may include invited guests.

In terms of location, the assault must also have taken place on school property or at an event hosted by the school. Fraternities outside the campus are one of them.

The University of Utah originally relied on these arguments when it denied responsibility for the death of athlete Lauren McCluskey in October 2018, saying her attacker was not a student so the school had no authority over him.

This immediately raised concerns among students about the impact, including when their university would be required to protect them. The U. eventually settled the case with McCluskey’s parents and acknowledged that she was aware of McCluskey’s concerns, which were reported to campus police and housing officials, and did not take them seriously before she was killed outside her dorm.

(Gabriel Mayberry | UVU via FOX 13) Utah Valley University’s administration has been accused of flouting its protections against COVID-19.

But in Root’s case, she was a UVU student at the time of the attack and was being attacked by a U. soccer player, complicating her pleas for help. In her lawsuit, Root states that she had just started her sophomore year at Utah Valley University when she went to a party at Lund’s home in Holladay with a group of friends.

Root’s lawyers had pointed to recent guidance from the Department of Education that schools should continue to provide resources to all student victims, regardless of where an attack took place or who committed it. However, the judge ruled that the Title IX guidance did not set precedent in court. The provisions of Title IX regularly change with new U.S. presidential administrations, and those guidelines have already been invalidated, the judge noted.

She later told police that at one point he isolated her in his room. Root said “no” several times, according to the indictment, repeating that she didn’t want to have sex with him. Police records show that he then imposed himself on her and forced her to perform a sexual act on him.

She then went to a hospital with two friends and reported the case to the police.

Root said in her lawsuit that the U. declined to help her, instead saying she had to support the athlete because he was her student; She said the attorney there never asked his name.

The university says Root declined to name their attacker, according to their previous statement.

More criminal cases with U. football players

Root said the U reached out to her again after another soccer player was accused of the assault and is trying to determine if the person she claims raped was the person in the case. It was not.

The U. has now seen at least three felony-level criminal cases in which soccer players have allegedly assaulted or threatened women in the past three years.

Lund was released from the team at the same time as another player, Donte Banton, was also suspended. He is no longer in the team’s roster. Banton was later charged with rape after police claimed he admitted to them that a woman he was dating had told him she wasn’t interested in sex, but he continued anyway.

Banton has since pleaded guilty to sexual assault. The charge was changed from a first-degree felony to a misdemeanor. He was credited with the 34 days he had spent in prison and given a two-year suspended sentence.

Banton was football player Terrell Perriman’s roommate. Shortly after Banton was arrested, Perriman was charged with allegedly kidnapping and raping a 17-year-old girl, and was then charged by prosecutors with additional charges for allegedly raping two other women.

Perriman faces eight felonies and his case is pending trial.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A storm brings torrential rain during a football game at the University of Utah on Thursday, September 2, 2021.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/education/2023/03/08/why-judge-ruled-that-utah-valley/ Why a judge ruled Utah Valley University didn’t need to help victims of sexual assault

Justin Scacco

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