A recent Harvard University graduate filed a lawsuit Tuesday due to the school’s misconduct in dealing with a sexual assault complaint, The New York Times reported.
Alyssa Leader claims the school forced her to live in the same dorm as her assaulter, even after she had reported his behavior multiple times. Leader decided to sue her alma mater to bring awareness to the issue and to highlight the deficiency in Harvard’s ability to deal with sexual assault cases. Accountability is the main goal Leader hopes to achieve after the jury trial. Leader wants Harvard to take responsibility for mishandling the issue, which would ideally generate change within the administration.
While this case is fairly new to the public eye, it brings more attention to previous sexual assault complaints that Harvard and other schools have failed to deal with. In 2014, the United States Education Department investigated more than 50 colleges suspected of breaking sexual assault laws. Bad media attention led Harvard to instigate new policies that aimed to prevent sexual assault and violence.
Hundreds of universities have chosen to reinvigorate their policies and programs to humor the court and their students, but this has not changed the culture of sexual assault and rape on campus.
Leader’s lawsuit cites “unspecified damages” as the grounds for the case, according to The New York Times. The Harvard grad chose to take action after talking with other students who were in similar situations. Leader said her abuser and the degenerating Harvard administration took a toll on her grades, created unnecessary stress and produced other emotional issues.
It is obvious that living with an abuser can be uncomfortable, to say the least, and other effects of living a personal nightmare can be even more traumatizing. Leader said she hopes to bring these issues to the attention of the court to help the friends she has made through dealing with the case and her situation.
It seems like sexual assault on campus as always been an issue, but it was often cloaked until students decided to speak up. Even though these important issues are beginning to be dealt with in constructive ways, schools still choose to deal with situations with a hush, hush mentality. No administration ever wants to be known for presiding over a school with a bad reputation, so it is almost natural for its members to keep assault under wraps.
Last semester at Boston University, a student said she was raped in her own dorm room by an attacker who simply walked in through the unlocked door. BU handled the issue with emails, reminders of keeping doors locked and offering out assistance to anyone who needed help with assault or rape issues. But would the BU administration approach the situation and offer the help in the same manner if another similar case came to its attention?
It is scary to think that this question even needs to be asked, but maybe after Leader’s case, more growth will happen in the Harvard community and the larger university population.