Home > Article > 4 women, 1 man sue Eastern Michigan University in sexual assaults; total now 24

4 women, 1 man sue Eastern Michigan University in sexual assaults; total now 24

Four more women and a man have now joined those suing Eastern Michigan University connected to numerous sexual assaults reported at the school.

The five individuals filed a new Title IX lawsuit Wednesday evening in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and brought the total to 24 people alleging cover-ups, mishandlings, and deliberate indifference that left them to vulnerable to assaults they endured.

The new lawsuit, which incorporates the prior 19-person one, claims the school turned a blind eye to sexual assaults on campus - something school officials have previously denied - but also ignored that reports showed a "cadre of serial rapists."

"All of the above Defendants are responsible for creating a sexually dangerous environment, where students are unsafe on campus and the requirements of Title IX are ignored," the lawsuit states.

The school, in a statement late Wednesday, said it had not yet received the complaint and could therefore not yet comment on specific issues raised. However, the school stated, "it must be emphasized that the Eastern Michigan University campus is very safe," saying its annual security report numbers would show this as compared to other schools.

The university also reiterated its stances that any accusation of a cover-up is false and while the descriptions of assaults are "heart-wrenching," it has been "steadfast in its commitment to respond to, and investigate, reports of sexual misconduct."

More:More:EMU says it can't take blame for sex assaults it didn't know about Eastern Michigan women reported sex assaults by the same man. Now they lean on each other.

"The University's Title IX office took its responsibilities very seriously and worked diligently in those situations in which it was contacted about a sexual assault, to show compassion, express concern, and actively support survivors, while encouraging them to pursue an investigation if they were interested and willing to do so," the school re-stated.

  • That a reported gang rape took place on and off campus a week and a half following a fraternity party with alcohol, and that Greek parties are still being thrown. A crime alert issued by the university Aug. 29 shows two sex assaults involving multiple people and the same survivor were reported to have taken place between 11:55 p.m. Aug. 28 and 2:20 a.m. Aug. 29 on and off campus.
  • That Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity members held a "Mystic Circle" event and heard a man accused of rape's side of the story regarding a November 2018 incident. The group is said to have taken a vote and, based on it, decided he did not rape a woman and he would not get consequences. A "Mystic Circle" was also reported in a different woman's case as being a place where a sexual assault was addressed.
  • That the same woman reported being dissuaded by current Title IX coordinator Anika Awai-Williams from moving forward with an investigation.
  • That the male plaintiff, because he was a man, was asked to move himself at a $1,000/semester increase when he asked that school officials move out of his dorm the women reported to have raped him while he was on Ambien. She was reported to still be stalking him. He also reported being dissuaded from a formal investigation.
  • That Werner told a woman reporting a groping assault that her case was a "he said, she said" situation and that no legal action could be taken.
  • Allegations surrounding the investigation of ex-EMU football player Nigel Kilby, who is criminally charged with sexual assault. Kilby was expelled in 2017 for videotaping sex without consent while on suspension after being found responsible by the school for a reported sexual assault.
  • That, after a reported assault in October 2019 by a couple she believes drugged her, a woman ultimately reported the incident to Werner and was repeatedly questioned with, "are you sure you were incapacitated?" Werner also is said to have offered the woman an option of a trial or an investigation, without explaining either or whether she could be anonymous, the lawsuit states.
  • That, while trying to apply to be a resident advisor after missing the deadline due to suffering, the same woman was told she had to share all the messages she had with Title IX with other individuals. And that when she was asked if that was a Title IX violation, Werner said, "There is nothing I can do about that. That would be an accusation against the University itself."
  • That Werner told the same woman she'd have to politely ask for academic accommodations, and that after Werner left the university and one was granted, a professor. denied her academic accommodation. The professor is said to have changed her grade to an 'A' after she emailed Title IX, and the professor then reportedly cornered her and said "he didn't do anything wrong."

The new lawsuit includes multiple allegations, with many focused on the former Title IX coordinator Melody Werner. Werner on Wednesday said in a text message that she could not comment until she'd had a chance to review the allegations herself.

The accusations include:

4 women, 1 man sue Eastern Michigan University in sexual assaults; total now 24

Todd Flood, one of the attorneys for the 24 individuals, called for attention and work on the issue of sexual assault at EMU following the filing, saying there are plenty of great universities, and smart people at EMU that can come together.

More:More:Eastern Michigan graduate expected to face more sexual assault charges Eastern Michigan police found unresponsive woman in dorm with man now accused of rapes

"Ultimately, I think commonsense should dictate the day and sensitive to a serious problem not only at EMU but at other institutions as well," he said.

The new lawsuit names the EMU Board of Regents, Werner, EMU Police Chief Robert Heighes, EMU police, and former Deputy Police Chief Daniel Karrick. It also names the local and national chapters of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, the Sigma Kappa sorority, and the Theta Chi fraternity.

Alpha Sigma Phi and Delta Tau Delta are both headed to mediation in the prior lawsuit filed, a stipulated order filed Tuesday shows.

A spokesman for the national chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi did not immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday.

The new lawsuit levies accusations of Title IX and civil rights violations, sex discrimination, exposing them to state-created danger, gross negligence and social host liability, among other charges.

As did the lawsuit before it, the new filing seeks a judgment in excess of $75,000, jointly and severally, against the entities and officials. It also seeks the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to require the accused parties in the lawsuit to admit responsibility and create a path forward.

  • EMU's Title IX office received a report against the former Alpha Sigma Phi member facing nine accusers, Dustyn Durbin, in 2018, alleging he had multiple victims. The university said they could not act because the 2018 report was anonymous; three of the reported assaults occurred after that Title IX filing. In addition, eight women's reported assaults would fall after an incident that was never charged in which EMU police responded to a call and found Durbin with an unconscious woman who was saying "penis." Durbin and his lawyer have both proclaimed his innocence.
  • D'Angelo McWilliams, a graduate and Washtenaw County Sheriff's deputy now charged with sex assaults, told police that Werner, the former Title IX coordinator, told him when he was a student in 2018 that a gang rape accusation against him didn't sound like something he would do and cleared him. Werner denied this.
  • A woman in McWilliams' case with fellow graduate Thomas Hernandez told police that in 2018 Werner told her there was "no point" in reporting her assault and that police wouldn't believe her. Werner denied this, too, and both she and the school say the woman in the case did not want to proceed with an investigation. Both McWilliams and Hernandez denied assaulting anyone when they spoke to police.

The new filing comes on the heels of an amendment filed Tuesday in the lawsuit for the 19 prior plaintiffs, one that alleges that EMU police, in January 2016, found now-graduate Dustyn Durbin in a dorm with an unconscious, half-dressed woman who started saying the word "penis" when she regained consciousness.

The lawsuit alleges EMU police failed to properly investigate and failed to report it to Title IX; Durbin is now charged with sexual assaults on nine women, who are all suing, with assaults on eight of the nine women falling after the 2016 incident.

The lawsuits come amid a Detroit Free Press investigation into the school's knowledge of allegations of sexual assaults on its students.

The Free Press found:

Darcie Moran is a breaking news reporter and podcaster for the Detroit Free Press. She's served as an investigative reporter and covered justice issues, crime, protests, wildfires and government affairs. Contact Moran: dmoran@freepress.com. Twitter: @darciegmoran.Become a subscriber here.

For survivors of sexual assault

The Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has asked that sexual assault survivors contact Ypsilanti police Detective Jessica Lowry at 734-368 8784 or Jwelker@cityofypsilanti, or Ypsilanti police Detective Annette Coppock at 734-368 8776 or Acoppock@cityofypsilanti.com.

The Safe House Center in Washtenaw County offers a 24-hour crisis line at 734-995-5444 and services including emergency shelter and counseling.

RAINN, which stands for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, also has a 24-hour crisis line at 800-656-4673 for support, information and referrals.