A former Siena College student is suing the school, contending she was raped in her dorm in 2014 and the school could have prevented it.
The woman, whose name is being withheld by The Gazette, filed the suit May 25 in state Supreme Court in Albany County through her Binghamton attorney Ronald R. Benjamin.
She contends that three male students had alcohol available in their dorm rooms and that the college failed to prevent them from remaining in a lounge on a female-only floor near an elevator early in the morning at Plassmann Hall.
The college, the suit reads, was negligent through its employees failing to patrol the dorm to ensure female students returning from parties or other outings could return safely and in failing to enforce its no-alcohol rules.
“As a result of the failure of the defendant’s employees to remove these male students from the lounge area as aforesaid they were able to accost the plaintiff who was returning to her room and coax her into entering their room on the first floor of the dormitory.”
She was able to return to her room, but the male students knocked and entered despite her protests, the suit reads.
“After the three males entered the room as aforesaid they raped, sodomized, and otherwise molested plaintiff,” the suit reads.
The incident happened Feb. 8, 2014, according to the suit. The suit names the college alone as a defendant.
Siena issued a statement Friday emphasizing it encourages students to report any such incident and it has a dedicated coordinator focused on the issue of prevention and reporting.
“As a matter of policy, Siena College does not comment on pending litigation,” the statement reads. “That said, the safety of our students is a top priority for Siena College.”
The suit focuses on the allegations that the college could have prevented the incident through patrols and rules enforcement.
None of the three male students are named. The suit also does not say whether charges resulted at the college or with police.
In its statement, the college indicates that it provides educational programs and support services to all students and staff aimed at preventing sexual misconduct and discrimination.
“All incidents reported to the college are investigated and individuals found responsible are sanctioned appropriately through a fair and impartial process, and we offer students assistance in reporting incidents to law enforcement, if they so choose,” the college statement reads.
Colonie police spokesman Lt. Robert Winn said Friday that department records do not indicate the woman filed a complaint with them. But, he said, the college notified police by letter of a sexual assault report that matches the date and location of the incident in the suit.
The letter indicates the college received notification Feb. 13, 2014 of a sexual assault report from Plassmann Hall that occurred on Feb. 8, 2014.
The letter went on to say that, at that time, the victim did not want law enforcement involvement, “but she has been advised that we will assist her in whatever process she wants to pursue,” Winn read from the document.
Winn said the college notifies the department to ensure they are aware of the reports where victims either don’t wish to come forward or don’t wish for police involvement.
Winn said the department follows up with college security days or weeks after receiving a letter to make sure the victim still does not want to come forward.
In 2014, Winn said, the department received eight such letter notifications from the college. He did not have information immediately available Friday afternoon on whether other students came forward to formally initiate an investigation that year.
The college’s required annual security report indicates a total of 11 reported on-campus rapes in 2014, six in 2013 and seven in 2012.
Though the lawsuit does not address any post-incident investigations or results, Benjamin said Friday that internal school proceedings took place against the men. He understood the school imposed consequences. He did not have the specific consequences, though he contended they were eventually allowed to return.
He also said he believes his client spoke to a law enforcement agency, but he didn’t have information Friday on which one she spoke with.
The woman’s lawsuit indicates the incident happened during her freshman year and she ultimately withdrew from college as a result. She now suffers from depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
Her attorney and the suit contended that the college had 15 resident assistants and public safety employees whose job it was to enforce the rules and prevent such incidents.
“There should be some measure of safety for students, that simply was not there,” Benjamin said Friday.
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