Report: Department of Education takes issue with ODU response to alleged rape

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The U.S. Department of Education has reportedly found that Old Dominion University was out of compliance with federal law in the way it addressed an alleged rape on campus, according to an organization representing a woman suing the school.

A complaint was first filed with the DOE in October of 2015, two years after the alleged attack took place inside of a dorm room. The filing spelled out several allegations, including that the school failed to provide the woman with “protective measures that were reasonably available” and “actively retaliated” against her.

It further claims ODU violated the Clery Act, which requires schools to inform victims about their options to notify law enforcement after an assault, among other things.

This week, SurvJustice, Inc, the not-for-profit that’s representing the victim, told 10 On Your Side that the DOE completed its assessment of the complaint, and sent the following notice to the organization Wednesday:

“We were able to identify certain serious shortcomings in ODU campus safety operations and Clery Act compliance program. As such, additional work on the part of ODU is necessary to achieve Clery compliance.”

The notice states the department pledged to “conduct an appropriate intervention to ensure that corrective action is taken and that long-term improvements and reforms will be put in place… [and] continue to closely monitor ODU to ensure that the law is being followed and that members of its campus community are being well-served by its campus safety, crime prevention, and disciplinary policies and operations.”

ODU spokeswoman Giovanna Genard released a statement to 10 On Your Side Friday, which said, “Because this matter is pending with the U.S. Department of Education and Old Dominion has not been contacted by DOE at any point to date regarding this matter, we are unable to comment publicly other than to say we care deeply about our campus community and are continually working to enhance safeguards that protect our students and employees. We have a policy of zero tolerance for sexual assault.”

10 On Your Side reached out to a local shelter listed on the ODU website as a community resource for sexual assault victims.

Nikki Duncan-Talley, Mobile Crisis Services Manager with Help and Emergency Response, Inc., said that “almost all the campuses around the country are having shortfalls when it comes to sexual assault.”

But as of recently, when it comes to combating sexual violence, she said that ODU is “on the forefront.” She noted GreenDot as one of the emerging programs the university employs. The initiative teaches people on campuses strategies to prevent dangerous situations from playing out.

10 On Your Side also visited the campus. An incoming freshman said that she has already been introduced to proactive programs and classes.

“There’s a lot of resources,” Isabel Valero said. “I feel like they handle it well.”

Valero stated she wasn’t familiar enough to comment on the SurvJustice claims.

Earlier this year, the group’s attorneys also filed a lawsuit.

In court filings, the university denied it showed an indifference to the woman’s report of sexual assault, and said that it immediately conducted an investigation and gave no-contact orders to the alleged attacker. ODU also claims the woman filed her complaint in court too late — outside of the statute of limitations.

A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in June.

A jury trial in this case is set for Feb. 20, 2018.

No one has ever been criminally charged for the alleged attack.

If you have been the victim of rape, Duncan-Talley suggests first calling the police. The H.E.R. Shelter can also be reached 24/7 on their emergency hotline 757-251-0144. They assist victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.

10 On Your Side is working to get more information about this story from the Department of Justice.

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