USU student says the school mishandled her report of rape after it promised to do better
Dec 14, 2021, 11:54 AM | Updated: 11:29 pm
SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah State University student says the school mishandled her report of rape over the last two years, improperly restarting an investigation based on old federal standards that favored the accused.
Kaytri Flint sued the university Tuesday in federal court in Salt Lake City, alleging it has not made good on its promises to do better after a 2020 U.S. Department of Justice report found reports of sexual assault went unaddressed on the Logan campus.
KSL does not typically name victims of alleged sexual assaults. Flint agreed to use her name.
The university is “still failing to uphold its obligations under Title IX,” her lawsuit states, referring to the federal law barring sex discrimination at schools.
Under Title IX, colleges are required to take steps to stop sexual harassment – including sexual violence – after an incident takes place. They’re tasked with investigating and resolving complaints from students, whether the conduct happened on campus or somewhere else.
Flint reported that she was raped by a football player she knew. She contends the school continues to favor male athletes accused of sexual misconduct – echoing a finding in the Justice Department report – and says it has flouted recent changes in guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.
Her assailant was still allowed to play football as her case dragged on, according to her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
Flint, a 22-year-old sociology major, says an initial school probe and an appeals panel sustained her complaint of rape against a football player at the university. But at the next stage of review, USU President Noelle Cockett cited due process concerns for the player in a December 2020 memorandum.
Cockett sent the case back to the school’s Office of Equity. Title IX investigators in the office ultimately adhered to a Trump-era requirement that was rescinded while her case was pending.
The temporary change placed a greater burden on victims, subjecting them to cross-examination, and only allowing evidence if the person who provided it agrees to testify.
The university’s process for investigating Title IX is separate from police investigations – although both can occur at the same time — and considers whether school policy was violated.
University spokesperson Amanda DeRito said students involved in misconduct cases have faced delays because Title IX regulations have changed twice in the last two years and the school’s Office of Equity has had a high rate of turnover.
“We have been working diligently to address these issues and will continue to look for ways to improve our sexual misconduct grievance process,” DeRito said in a statement.
She pointed to steps the university has taken to better prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, like requiring trainings for students, hiring two new employees to help students seeking support, and bringing on a victim advocate and detective in January 2020 to respond to sexual crimes and domestic violence.
“That said, we know cultural change takes time; students and employees bring their own developed perceptions and beliefs around sexual misconduct with them to our campuses,” DeRito said. “USU stands firm in its commitment to create a campus culture where individuals understand and practice sexual respect and survivors of sexual assault are supported. “
Flint said the process became so overwhelming that she decided not to participate in another administrative hearing, and the school ended its investigation. But it shouldn’t have gotten to that point, she contends.
Her lawsuit notes that in a separate case, a different USU football player was formally charged with rape in the wake of the DOJ report issued in February 2020. Ismael Vaifo’ou has pleaded not guilty in Logan’s 1st District Court.
Flint said she also filed a police report but prosecutors did not file formal charges in her case.
A string of high-profile sexual assault cases at the university preceded the DOJ investigation.
The agency began its review in 2017 after students alleged the university failed to respond to several reports of sexual assaults. The probe followed a series of criminal charges for former USU football star Torrey Green, who was convicted of raping several women in 2019. Another student alleged that a onetime fraternity member at USU was accused of assaulting five women before he raped her.
Doug Hoffman, media relations director for USU athletics, deferred comment to the university.
This story will be updated throughout the day.
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