(WASHINGTON) — Federal authorities have launched an investigation into the handling of at least two alleged rapes at the University of Southern California to determine whether the school violated the victims’ civil rights by dismissing their claims.
The U.S. Department of Education confirmed to ABC News it has opened a Title IX sex discrimination investigation after receiving a 107-page complaint containing allegations by more than a dozen USC students who claimed the school did not take appropriate action after reporting sexual abuse to college officials.
One USC student who joined the complaint, junior Ari Mostov, 21, says she was told by campus authorities that her alleged attacker, a fellow screenwriting major with whom she shared all her classes, did not commit a sexual assault because “he didn’t orgasm” and that she was told not pursue her case with the Los Angeles Police Department.
“I was told that if I called LAPD, the detectives would be very tough on me and that defense lawyers would call me names in court. The school did everything it could to dissuade me from talking about being raped and asking for help,” Mostov told ABC News.
The USC inquest is the latest in a fast-growing string of Title IX investigations launched by the department’s Office of Civil Rights following complaints by students across the country that colleges are covering up alleged rapes and intentionally dismissing accusations of sexual assault.
On Wednesday, just two days after the USC investigation was made public, the University of Colorado Boulder’s chancellor issued a letter to students and faculty announcing that school too was the subject of a federal investigation.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that historically has been applied to equality in college sports, but which broadly prohibits sex discrimination in education.
A nationwide network of students, many of them still teenagers, have taken to social media to alert victims at other schools that the federal government can provide a final recourse in cases that have left rape survivors feeling victimized by the system for a second time.
Since January, students from the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania have filed Title IX complaints.
In the USC case, the students accused the college of misrecording and under-reporting rapes, refusing to expel known attackers, and advising students not to file claims with the police.
USC would not comment on any specific case, but issued a written statement from Jody Shipper, the Title IX coordinator and executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity:
“The university is strongly committed to upholding all aspects of Title IX. We have received a letter from the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education notifying us of a complaint by two USC students alleging Title IX violations. The opening of an investigation is an expected step in the process, and the OCR states that ‘opening the allegations for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to their merits.'”
The USC students filed their complaint on May 22.
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