EMU says it lacked 'sufficient knowledge' of sex assault claims of several students

Eastern Michigan University
Posted at 8:36 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 20:36:32-04

YPSILANTI, Mich. — In response to a number of complaints alleging Eastern Michigan University covered up sexual assault claims, the university is saying that the allegations of rape were never reported and because of that the university could not take proper action.

A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed in late March on behalf of 11 women who accused Eastern Michigan University of covering up rapes that occurred over a multi-year period.

The lawsuit names the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents, the school's police department, Chief of Police Robert Heighes, Deputy Chief Daniel Karrick, the school's Title IX Director Melody Werner, as well as the local chapters of the Alpha Sigma Phi and Delta Tau Delta fraternities and their national organizations.

On Wednesday, the university responded saying, "The Plaintiffs’ choices in this case were meaningful. By choosing to not report their assaults to the University and/or not to participate in any proceedings against their assailants, Plaintiffs did not provide the University any opportunity to respond or to help. Plaintiffs simply cannot place blame on the University for not responding to information it did not have; the University cannot respond to instances of assault
it does not know about."

RELATED: Number of women accusing EMU of sex assault cover-up in lawsuit doubles

Initially, a filing alleged more than 30 rapes from 2015 to 2020 at Eastern Michigan University and off-campus, and claims the school turned a blind eye to all of it. Of those, nine women allegedly were raped by Dustin Durbin who is now awaiting a criminal trial after being charged.

After the initial filing, more women joined the lawsuit.

“The new cases coming forward you’ll see are disturbing to say the least," said Attorney Todd Flood who first filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the 11 women. "They were viciously raped with no safe harbor. You’ll see that coming forward.”

The lawsuit says university officials "turned a blind eye or were deliberately indifferent to reported sexual assaults."

RELATED: Lawsuit alleges Eastern Michigan University 'turned a blind eye' to sexual assaults

Court documents released Wednesday go on to say that the university would never "dissuade a survivor from moving forward or force a survivor to participate in investigations or proceedings against their assailants."

"The University’s mission is to educate and prepare its students for success. As a result, it genuinely supports the choices of survivors, including the Plaintiffs in this case who earlier felt unable to participate in a process against their assailants. But the fact that Plaintiffs are now ready to move forward does not give them a legal entitlement to relief against the University that respected their wishes years ago," the university went on to say in court documents.

EMU Response to sex assault lawsuit by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd