A swimmer at an unnamed America East Conference school is among seven women suing the NCAA over failure to protect them from sexual assaults.
The lawsuit, filed April 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, accuses the NCAA on fraud, breach of contract and three counts of negligence. The women allege they were sexually assaulted by male athletes at Michigan State, Nebraska and a school from America East.
The University of Vermont is a member of the America East, but neither the school nor the accuser are identified in the lawsuit.
ESPN first reported the lawsuit against the NCAA. The schools are not defendants at this time.
The swimmer, a scholarship athlete from America East, alleges she was raped by a men’s basketball player on Sept. 7, 2019, and disclosed the sexual assault a month later to a campus victim advocate.
The compliant says the swimmer held many meetings with school officials and she also spoke to the athletic director “at halftime” of a hockey game on Nov. 15.
Of the nine America East institutions, only Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire offer varsity women’s swimming, hockey and men’s basketball.
The complaint lists the swimmer as “Plaintiff Jane Doe 3” or “JD3” and a “citizen of the State of Vermont.” However, Michigan-based lawyer Karen Truszkowski, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, told the Burlington Free Press on May 1 that the Vermont designation was an oversight in the filing and “Jane Doe 3” is a citizen of New York.
Truszkowski also said the New York woman is not ready to come forward to either reveal her or her school’s identity.
WCAX-TV reported on Tuesday evening on the lawsuit in a detailed investigation, citing “Jane Doe 3” as a Vermont citizen. The complaint, posted at the bottom of this story, has not been updated since its original filing on April 29.
Earlier this month, an America East official said the conference does not comment on legal matters.
On Wednesday morning, UVM athletic director Jeff Schulman said in an emailed statement to the Free Press that they are “aware of the Michigan lawsuit involving the NCAA that mentions an unnamed America East school.”
“I can tell you that no America East school would be able to comment on the specifics of the case,” Schulman wrote, “both out of respect for those involved and because it involves private student information.”
Schulman also said UVM and the athletic department take the issue of sexual violence very seriously.
“We have clear policies in place that prohibit sexual misconduct in any form,” Schulman wrote. “The policies and our expectations are communicated very directly to student-athletes, coaches and staff through a variety of training and educational programs.
“In all cases when we become aware of a sexual misconduct allegation, it is immediately referred to the University’s Title IX Office, which assumes full responsibility for the matter and operates completely independent of the Athletic Department,” Schulman continued. “At that point, our only role is to provide personal support for any student-athlete who may request it, and in the event of a finding of responsibility, to apply our student-athlete code of conduct as appropriate.”
In the court filing, JD3 said she was told by an athletics employee that “the informal Title IX resolution process could not result” in the alleged perpetrator “being suspended because it wouldn’t be fair to other players and it would have a negative impact on the community who attended games expecting to see (him) play.”
JD3 said in the compliant that she “did not want to initiate the formal Title IX investigation process because she feared retaliation from the player if he was suspended.” JD3 said she could not get an sufficient answer on the differences between the informal and formal Title IX processes during conversations with school officials.
The complaint also states JD3 “has suffered severe emotional and physical distress, including but not limited to emotional and physical distress including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations.”
The complaint also alleges that the America East school “has fostered a culture in which female victims are discouraged from reporting sexual assaults, sexual harassment, stalking, and other forms of gender discrimination when those acts are perpetrated by male student-athletes.”