A former Lenoir-Rhyne University student claims in a federal lawsuit that the Hickory school botched its response after she was raped in a dorm room the night of her birthday in 2015.
Lenoir-Rhyne failed to call police after the assault and allowed her attacker to stay on campus, where he and friends taunted her, the lawsuit says.
The woman, who had a full track-and-field scholarship, said the assault so upset her that her grades suffered. As a result, the school barred her from sports, her lawsuit says.
Originally filed in Catawba County Superior Court, the lawsuit claims the attacker was “known to LRU to have sexually assaulted other students before the night in question.”
The woman was celebrating her birthday with friends when her attacker, a three-scholarship athlete, invited them via Snapchat to his dorm room, according to the lawsuit. Both students lived in Morgan Hall, but on different floors.
The woman said she was raped after everyone else left the room. She stumbled into a friend’s dorm room, bleeding and visibly in pain, and saying, “it hurts, it hurts,” the lawsuit says.
The friend called the dorm’s resident adviser, who called the resident director and recommended that she “get some rest,” the lawsuit says. The resident director woke her up shortly after 3:30 a.m., questioned her and others and searched the dorm room, the woman says in the lawsuit.
She was told to go back to bed, but police were not contacted, the lawsuit claims. After the woman’s friends insisted, the resident adviser contacted the head of campus housing.
Because she was still bleeding, the woman took herself to Frye Regional Medical Center, where medical officials called Hickory Police, according to the lawsuit. The woman was released from the hospital but later returned because she kept bleeding, the lawsuit says.
Her attacker was allowed to keep living in the dorm, the lawsuit says. She said he grinned at her when she saw him periodically, according to the lawsuit. She felt humiliated.
The university held a student disciplinary hearing that led to a one-year suspension for the student, but he appealed and continued to taunt and intimidate her, the lawsuit says.
After the appeal, the student was no longer allowed on campus.
The male student’s friends continued to ridicule her after the incident, the lawsuit says. Her photo was displayed on the athletic and academic honors board in a lobby she went through for practice. She asked repeatedly that her photo be removed, but the school did not remove it, according to the lawsuit.
The woman is suing the school for $200,000 in damages.
In a statement, Lenoir-Rhyne said it does not comment about “confidential matters involving students, faculty or staff” or about active lawsuits.
“The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff is of the utmost importance to Lenoir-Rhyne University,” the statement said. “The University has absolutely no tolerance for sexual misconduct of any kind.”
The school said it has “comprehensive policies that strictly prohibit sexual misconduct, detailed procedures for investigating and adjudicating any alleged incidents of sexual misconduct and well developed programs of education for its faculty, staff and students regarding sexual misconduct awareness and prevention.”
Lenoir-Rhyne is a private liberal arts university founded in 1891. The school, which has about 2,500 students, is affiliated with the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.