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A state lawsuit against the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has been moved to federal court after a student claimed she was raped by a football player and the school didn’t do enough to help.
The lawsuit claims the school violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protect students from sexual discrimination. Attorneys for the student say the rape and the response to the rape created a hostile educational environment for the victim, that she even tried to kill herself and that she was forced to leave the school.
The lawsuit also claims the university has allowed student harassment to take place for years.
In Aug. 2020, the freshman student met her alleged assailant. According to court documents, they both lived in Blazer Hall, and the UAB football player told the girl he had materials she needed for a science project. The complaint states that he “lured” the girl into his room where he raped her.
The girl did not report the incident for about five months because she claimed the assailant continued to harass her and threaten her if she said anything.
Eventually, in January 2021, she called UAB Police and told them she had been raped at Blazer Hall in August. Three officers showed up to talk to her about the incident, but the lawsuit claimed the investigation did not go any further. The lawsuit claims one of the officers walked the complainant back to Blazer Hall.
Attorneys for the victim said the incident caused so much anguish for the student that she attempted suicide multiple times and withdrew from UAB. She now suffers from PTSD and is under continued mental care.
The victim said she didn’t hear anything else from UAB about the incident until November 2021, when she was told the case was still being investigated.
In the meantime, attorneys claim the same assailant sexually assaulted another student after their client reported her assault. They said if the situation would’ve been handled properly, the second assault would have not happened.
The lawsuit suggests that UAB’s policy and training on handling such incidents need major improvements. Attorneys claim UAB continued to allow co-ed habitation at Blazer Hall, including allowing football players on the same floor as freshmen female students even after hearing complaints about other sexual assaults that had taken place between football players and students.
UAB Title IX Coordinator Kasey Robinson said UAB is limited in what it can say about the lawsuit.
“UAB strongly disagrees with assertions made in the lawsuit recently filed in relation to a current case under review by our Title IX Office,” Robinson said. “UAB is limited in what we can say at this time due to student privacy laws, the ongoing investigation and pending litigation.”
Still, Robinson said allegations made by the former student are being taken seriously.
“Sexual violence has no place in our campus community,” Robinson said. “We take any allegation of sexual assault extremely seriously and provide critical support services to those affected while we thoroughly investigate through proper channels.
Robinson said preventative measures are in place at UAB.
“We prioritize the physical and mental health and the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Robinson added. “We work to prevent sexual violence through awareness, education and training. We encourage bystander intervention and reporting any incidents to professionals trained to respond appropriately, including UAB Police and Public Safety, Title IX and Student Health and Wellness. We will continue to follow appropriate processes outlined under our policies and procedures and federal law.”
In July, the case was moved from state court to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, where it will be heard.
All parties are considered innocent until proven guilty. Claims in a lawsuit are only allegations and do not constitute a guilty verdict.
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