APNewsBreak: Iowa rape victim faults university

AP News
Posted: Apr 02, 2013 2:05 PM

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A woman raped by two University of Northern Iowa football players eight years ago says she has been devastated by the school's failure to make accommodations for her to stay in school, according to a transcript of court testimony obtained by The Associated Press.

The Davenport woman testified in a Feb. 22 deposition in a civil lawsuit that she continues to suffer panic attacks and nightmares stemming from the 2004 assault in a university dorm room, according to the transcript obtained by the AP under the public records law. She said the university could have limited the damage to her future if administrators would have done more to help her recover emotionally and academically in the aftermath of the attack, the fall semester of her freshman year.

"Watching my friends graduate in 2008 was the hardest thing because that should have been me," the woman, a 27-year-old single mother of two, testified. "I constantly think about how my life would have probably turned out a lot different if I was allowed the chance to finish out my semester."

The deposition was days before state officials agreed to pay $50,000 to settle the woman's lawsuit, which alleged the university's treatment of her violated a federal law requiring universities to give equal educational opportunities to women. The university denied wrongdoing but says it has made numerous changes since 2004 to address sexual misconduct and help victims.

Her lawyer says the woman, whose identity is withheld under the AP's policy of generally not identifying rape victims, agreed to the settlement because she wants to move on and is pleased with the changes.

The Iowa Attorney General's Office, which defended the university, had refused to release transcripts of depositions during the lawsuit, arguing they were not public records. The office released them last week in response to a renewed request from AP.

The woman says two freshmen players from Texas, Baylen Laury and Joseph Thomas, took turns assaulting her. Thomas pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse. Laury pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after jurors deadlocked on more serious charges. Both served prison terms.

In a 2009 deposition, the woman testified that the university should have moved her sooner to another dormitory away from football players after the attack, and taken action to prevent repeated harassing phone calls and comments she received from them. Days after the assault, callers to her parents' house said, "Happy Thanksgiving from the UNI football team, and they all laughed and hung up," she testified.

She said she was holed up in her dorm room after the assault, sleeping with a dresser in front of her door out of fear, until she was relocated several days later. Her professors did not allow her to finish the last month of the semester by e-mail, as she had requested.

And when she decided she had no choice but to drop out, the dean of students told her he was disappointed because other victims he'd worked with had been able to finish school, she said. University officials asked her to sign a waiver stating she was leaving for "psychological reasons," but she refused.

In her February deposition, the woman testified that she recently completed a two-year nursing program and was looking for jobs in the field. She said she still wakes up several times per month in a panic thinking about the night of the assault, and does not trust authority figures "because I feel like nobody helped me."

"I'm always angry," she said. "I think I've deserved a lot more and I ... wanted more for my kids. Like I want to have nothing hindering me, and I don't want to be an angry person. I don't want to be upset. I just want to live a normal life with my kids."

She said she does not understand why the university allowed her assailants to remain enrolled on scholarship for the rest of the year, even after they were charged. They were later expelled.

Then-Dean of Students Edgar Berry testified in a 2010 deposition the players were barred from living on campus but allowed to attend classes because they hadn't been found guilty. Berry defended his treatment of the victim, saying he tried to work with her to stay in school.

"I was disappointed that we could not accomplish that goal," he said. "I was rooting for her. I was in her corner."

Then-University President Robert Koob testified in a 2010 deposition that he met with the victim's concerned grandfather days after the assault, and promised to help. But he said that he did not remember following up or reviewing the outcome, delegating those tasks to aides.

"If nothing came to my level," he said, "the assumption was that it was handled correctly."