College says it’s not blaming rape victim, as it blames rape victim

A Massachusetts college is responding to a civil suit, filed by a woman who was raped during a study-abroad program in Puerto Rico, by alleging she’s partly responsible for her own rape, the Boston Globe reports today.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute isn’t blaming the victim, its attorneys say in the court filing in the suit in which the woman alleges the school failed to provide a safe environment for the students.

In the documents, WPI’s attorneys argue the victim engaged in risky behavior, including excessive drinking, on the night that a security guard at her university-leased apartment building lured her to the roof and attacked her. The school also said the woman disregarded instructions and training about how to protect herself from harm.

WPI said the woman — referred to in court papers as Jane Doe, to protect her identity — disregarded information, orientation, and training provided by the school, as well as her own common sense, and by doing so failed to take reasonable steps to protect herself from harm.

The rape occurred in April 2012 in an apartment building in which the students were required to live. The security guard who lured the woman to the rooftop was convicted of rape and is serving a 20-year sentence.

The civil suit alleges the school failed to require proper background checks for security guards.

In a deposition, Doe was asked about her drinking that night. She told attorneys for WPI that she had only one watermelon drink at a hotel bar. She said it contained three or four shots of liquor, documents show.

The attorneys asked Doe whether her parents had taught her “don’t take candy from strangers” or how to protect herself from sexual assault. In describing the night, Doe said she expected a security guard to protect, not attack, her.

One of the attorneys then asked: “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? Do you understand my question?’’

“Yeah. No, I don’t think it’s risky behavior is my answer,’’ Doe said.

“Okay. Would you agree with me that if you had not gone to the roof with Mr. Rodriguez this incident wouldn’t have occurred?’’ the attorney asked.

“I can’t speculate that,” she answered.

Related: Stanford rapist’s friends and relatives wrote to persuade judge to keep him out of prison (LA Times)

  • Kassie

    I will say that Costa Rica is apparently a lot more enlightened than the US in regard to sentencing for rape. 20 years is a long time to send someone to jail for acquaintance rape of an intoxicate woman.

    • BReynolds33

      I feel as though you missed the word “not” after “20 years is…”

      • Kassie

        I meant compared to what we see here, it is a long time.

        Now, is it a long time in general? I think it is an appropriate time. I believe in rehabilitation and second chances, so I think 10-20 years is a good amount of time for that sort of crime. I would allow for early parole for good behavior and attending therapy too.

    • Natalie

      Except that this is Puerto Rico.

      • Kassie

        Damn it. Puerto Rico.

      • Kassie

        Wait, how does someone “study abroad” in a country that is the country they live in? Territories count for studying abroad?

  • Rob

    our daily dose of American exceptionalism…

  • BReynolds33

    It’s the type of law that make one wonder how the lawyers ever wash the filth off of themselves.

  • Jeff C.

    Hey fellas – we live in a world now where a woman has the right to get dressed up in a short skirt and makeup, get absurdly drunk, go onto a roof with a stranger and NOT get raped. If you can’t deal with that, YOU are the one who needs to stay home, not her.

  • lindblomeagles

    Even if a woman is acting irresponsibly, her male escort is not allowed to act irresponsibly or criminally. You don’t get to say, “She was doing it too,” like you’re back in the third grade. We’re all supposed to be men here, which means we’re expected to act like it.