EDWARDSVILLE • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville officials dragged their feet and acted in a “discriminatory manner” when investigating sexual assault allegations made by one student against another, a lawsuit filed Tuesday says.
Bailey Reed alleges in her lawsuit that university officials showed deliberate indifference to her claim that she was assaulted in her campus apartment last year, failed to protect her from a hostile environment on campus and failed to prevent retaliation against her.
The Post-Dispatch typically does not name survivors of sexual assault, but Reed identified herself in her lawsuit, and she has been named in news reports earlier this year about her concerns.
The suit comes at a time when SIUE and other schools are wrestling with complaints from all sides about how on-campus sexual assault allegations are investigated and adjudicated, and Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed sweeping changes to the system.
Reed’s lawsuit alleges the university’s investigation of the assault arrived at an erroneous result based on gender bias and did not comply with federal law. It names SIUE, Chancellor Randall Pembrook, adviser Ashley Cox, associate dean Kara Shustrin and Title IX coordinator Chad Martinez as defendants.
Reed is seeking a monetary award for emotional and psychological distress and damage to her reputation, as well as reimbursement of expenses paid by her family. She also is seeking an injunction requiring SIUE to “take effective steps to prevent sex-based discrimination and harassment, including sexual assault, in its education programs” and to fully investigate allegations of sexual assault.
“While the University does not generally comment on pending litigation, we disagree with many of the allegations made in Ms. Reed’s lawsuit regarding her treatment by SIUE and the University’s Title IX investigation process,” university spokesman Doug McIlhagga said in a statement. “SIUE takes all complaints of sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment very seriously, and seeks to provide a harassment and discrimination free environment to all SIUE students, employees and visitors. SIUE will vigorously defend against the allegations made by Ms. Reed in her complaint.”
The suit, which was filed in federal court in East St. Louis, says that Reed and a male student had been texting, and in October 2017 the student came to her campus apartment and sexually assaulted her, ignoring her protests. The lawsuit states she told her mother and friends about the incident the same night and then went to a hospital.
Reed says in the suit that she was told by Cox that she “did not have to report the rape.” The lawsuit alleges that Reed and her mother faced delays and a lack of communication when trying to initiate the investigation.
Reed got a court order of protection against her alleged attacker that prevented him from coming within 500 feet of her and attending SIUE, according to the lawsuit, but he was later allowed to attend classes and go to his campus apartment.
When Reed’s attacker violated the order, the lawsuit states, university officials declined to act, telling Reed she was responsible for enforcement of her order of protection.
At one point, the lawsuit states, Reed’s attacker attended one of Reed’s classes and sat in her seat to wait for her. He was arrested after this incident, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit calls the investigation “heavily gender biased.” While asking Reed questions about her rape and text messages sent after, Martinez said “gotcha” after Reed became confused about the order of the text messages sent, the lawsuit states.
In January, a Madison County judge said that Reed was “a victim of nonconsensual sexual penetration” after an order of protection hearing, the lawsuit states.
In February, SIUE issued a decision that Reed’s alleged attacker had not violated the university’s sexual assault policies. The decision was largely based on the fact that Reed had “flirted” with her attacker prior to the alleged incident, that Martinez felt Reed had not acted the way a victim of sexual assault would act, that Reed had mixed up the order of texts sent after the assault when being questioned by university officials, and that Martinez found the sexual positions described difficult to “envision,” according to the lawsuit.
Reed filed an appeal with the school’s Sexual Harassment Panel and demonstrated to them that another student had come forward alleging the same man attacked her, the lawsuit states. The panel found in favor of Reed, but Pembrook overturned the decision, according to the lawsuit.
Prior to Reed’s assault, the Department of Education found that SIUE had a “pattern of failing to fully investigate claims” and found that the university often missed deadlines for investigations and exclude evidence, the lawsuit states. The Department of Education ordered the university to get more adequate training for its Title IX officials, according to the lawsuit.