Worcester Polytechnic Institute Claims Rape Victim Shares Responsibility for Assault
A questionable legal strategy used by Worcester Polytechnic Institute in a sexual assault case is gaining some attention. According to the Boston Globe, court documents show that WPI is alleging that a student who was raped during a 2012 study abroad trip to Puerto Rico should be held partially responsible for the attack since she had been drinking and followed a security guard she didn’t know onto a roof. The news follows a massive public outcry after the lenient sentencing in a high profile rape case at Stanford.
The college’s argument is in response to a civil suit filed by the victim in Worcester Superior Court last year, which claims that WPI did not provide an adequate safe environment for its students.
In the court documents, the college emphasized that WPI isn’t blaming the woman, but rather questioning the notion that officials acted negligently. Documents show, according to the Globe report, that WPI alleges that the woman didn’t follow proper guidelines on how to protect herself from an assault and participated in risky behavior by drinking too much on the night of the attack, at one point asking her, “So it was okay to, despite that fact that you felt it was weird and you were surprised that he got into the elevator with you, you felt it was okay to go to the roof, a dark secluded roof with a man you know nothing about, whose name you don’t even know, and you felt that was not risky behavior?” The question was in response to the student saying she expected a security guard to protect her, not assault her.
The student, referred to as Jane Doe in the documents to protect her identity, was raped by security guard William Rodriguez on the rooftop of a San Juan condo building where she was staying during a two-month research project in April 2012. WPI required her and other students to live in part of the building, which was leased out for student housing.
Rodriguez, a former state police officer, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for the attack by a Puerto Rican state court.
The suit, which was filed against WPI as well as a number of administrators, claims that the school didn’t seek proper background checks for the security guards and is seeking unspecified damages, including legal costs.