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

Posted at 8:48 AM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 08:48:01-04

YPSILANTI, Mich.  — The number of claims of sex assault and cover-up is now doubling related to Eastern Michigan University, the campus' police force and two fraternity houses.

Attorney Todd Flood says more women have felt empowered to come forward, thanks to support from Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and others joining the cause. Since a massive show of support for survivors of alleged sexual assault at Eastern Michigan University, student Hannah Petroski says there’s been a wave of women who realize they are not alone.

“Someone I can relate to pushes me to want to share my story," Petroski said. "There is a problem and the more people come and say something, the more evidence they have.”

Attorney Todd Flood first filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 11 women and says another 11 have now joined, and yet several more today have reached out to say enough is enough. Their stories are gut-wrenching and appalling, according to Flood, who’s hired a team of investigators.

“It shocks the conscience when you read their stories,” Flood said. 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.

“The new cases coming forward you’ll see are disturbing to say the least," Flood said. "They were viciously raped with no safe harbor. You’ll see that coming forward.”

Two fraternities and the former Title IX director are also named defendants and have yet to respond.

Some women say they have dropped out, suffered PTSD and depression.

“I just feel like they should have taken care of this ongoing problem, a long time ago,” Petroski said. A support group did gather on campus Tuesday night as a way of comforting one another.

EMU released the below statement:

"The University has not received notification of further plaintiffs being added to the lawsuit. President James Smith's April 1 message to campus expresses how EMU views these cases, along with its strong concern for and support for our students:

I want to reiterate my deep and unwavering support for all survivors of sexual assault, and our commitment to do everything we can to provide a safe environment for our students. As I’ve stated recently on several occasions, there is no place for sexual violence in our community.

The University is committed to learning every detail about the cases that are the subject of a recent lawsuit. We want to know whether our processes related to these cases were followed and, if not, why not and what steps should be taken so that our students are protected and feel supported in reporting sexual assault. We have stated from the beginning of this matter that we are committed to full transparency in this process. To that end, last fall, EMU engaged Cozen O’Connor, an independent law firm recognized nationally for its expertise in Title IX, to review and assess EMU’s actions. The Cozen O’Connor report will be made public when it is finalized later this spring.

Protecting students is critical to the University’s educational mission. Our staff in law enforcement, Title IX, student affairs, and elsewhere works tirelessly every day to try to create a safe and supportive community for students, faculty and staff.

The University has initiated several actions in recent years to create greater awareness and encourage the reporting of sexual assaults. Much of this has been accomplished as a result of grants we have been awarded by the State of Michigan in recognition of our ongoing efforts. Details can be found in this Title IX grants update [today.emich.edu].

These allegations are very serious and concerning to all of us. We will continue to share information throughout this process, and are committed to addressing any deficiencies in our processes that are identified. We have prepared an extensive questions and answers page [emich.edu] to provide additional information about the recent lawsuit and the University’s actions.

How to report a sexual assault:
Eastern Michigan University takes all claims of sexual assault and sexual misconduct seriously and is committed to the thorough investigation of these incidents. Anyone who has information or wishes to report an incident of sexual assault or misconduct is encouraged to contact EMU Police at 734-487-1222 or at dps_questions@emich.edu, or file an incident report with the EMU Title IX Office [emich.edu]."