The amended scheduling order for the sexual harassment lawsuit against Moravian College sets the trial date for Jan. 27, 2020. The date was originally set for Oct. 28, 2019. (Sally Gu/B&W Staff)

Moravian lawsuit prompts university sexual assault discussion

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Increasing sexual assault awareness on a national level has inspired a greater number of individuals, especially college students, to come forward about instances of on-campus sexual violence and rape.

In the midst of this movement comes 18 reports of rape at Moravian College within a three-year period, according to the college’s crime statistics reportThis influx of rape reports has left many colleges and universities in challenging situations, including Moravian, which is involved in a federal lawsuit.

A Moravian student claims to have reported an alleged sexual assault that occurred in her dorm on Aug. 28, 2016, to her building’s residence assistant, who allegedly failed to report the incident to the school, according to the case.

The student is suing the school for violations of Title IX, as well as her alleged rapist who was expelled and sent back to his home in Saudi Arabia nine months after the incident took place.

Leah M. Naso Breisch, the Title IX coordinator for Moravian, declined to comment on the incident.

“The (misconduct investigation) process is intended to be thorough, equitable, and timely. College investigations generally take up to 28 calendar days and reach resolution within 60 calendar days, unless good cause exists to extend this timeline,” Moravian’s sexual misconduct policy states.

The victim is suing the school for its failure to meet the standards of its misconduct policy. She remained living in the same building and attending class with her attacker for nine months following her report, the case said.

Lehigh, which has a student population of over 7,000, has had five reports of rape since 2015, compared to Moravian’s 18 filed cases and student body of justover 2,000, a Lehigh Valley crime report said.

Such contrasting statistics raise questions among students and faculty.

(“Failure to report sexual assault) is a cultural problem at Lehigh,” said Amanda Spina, ’20, a member of Break The Silence. “Because we have such a large party culture and such a large hookup culture, people think it’s completely normal to have these ‘weird hookup experiences’ and to not label those experiences as or think of them as assault.” 

Despite the various resources Lehigh provides, including the Office for Gender Violence, a 24/7 reporting hotline, various clubs and student advocacy programs, students remain unwilling to label incidents as assault, frequently out of embarrassment or fear of escalating the issue.

“Each person who experiences a sexual assault has their own reasons for why they do or do not report the incident,” Karen Salvemini, Lehigh’s Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator, said.

Salvemini works to respect the wishes of survivors about how they would like their individual situations to be addressed by providing survivors “information about their University options, including what processes and resources are available.”

Salvemini said there might be interim measures that could be put in place to support survivors.

“Moravian’s failure to uphold its duty to its students’ safety is especially disheartening, and affirms so many fears that students have about reporting similar crimes,” Katrina Holceker, ‘21 said. “If the students who are brave enough to speak out aren’t being heard, why would an apprehensive student ever choose to report their own situation, knowing how negative the outcome could be?”

The result of the case has yet to be determined. Moravian College has yet to make any statements regarding the events that occurred in August 2016.

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1 Comment

  1. Report attacks to the Police.

    Universities title ix investigators are not equipped the way a police department is. After the cops, then if you need additional resources reach out to your school for additional help but start with actual legal authorities first.

    You owe it to yourself and other potential future victims to go to the Police.

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