State News

Female student: Norwich sought to silence her rape allegations

By Erin Mansfield, VTDigger

The woman who is suing Norwich University said the university tried to keep her from talking about the assault while university officials were investigating her case.

She also said that her academic adviser and the university’s Title IX coordinator neither responded to nor accommodated her requests to complete schoolwork remotely from her dorm room when she no longer felt safe walking around campus.

Lauren Morrissey, 19, commented on her recent civil complaint in U.S. District Court against Norwich on Tuesday. She stood outside the courthouse with her lawyer, Jeff Herman, who represents victims of campus rape all across the country.

Last November, Morrissey, then 18, was allegedly sexually assaulted in her dorm room in Northfield by another undergraduate student. The case alleges that, prior to Morrissey’s rape, three other women had filed complaints about the same man related to sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual abuse.

The case seeks damages from Norwich for negligence, premises liability, and discrimination under Title IX, a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in institutions such as colleges that receive federal funding. While a criminal investigation is ongoing, no charges have been filed against the alleged perpetrator.

When asked for comment on Morrissey’s statements, a spokesperson issued the following prepared statement: “Norwich University takes seriously any report of misconduct within our community. Norwich investigates each and every allegation to the fullest extent possible and subsequently takes action when and where appropriate. At Norwich University, we prioritize student safety above all else.”

Tim Bombardier, the chief of Barre City Police Department, said Tuesday that Morrissey’s alleged rape is “under investigation.” Even though the incident allegedly happened in Northfield, Bombardier said his department ended up with the case because it has detectives in a regional Special Investigations Unit.

While VTDigger does not generally identify alleged victims of sexual assault, Morrisey said she was willing to come forward to journalists because she is not embarrassed by what happened, but upset about it. She now suffers from psychiatric issues such as anxiety and depression, “among other things,” she said.

“I had to withdraw from the university because I really didn’t feel comfortable staying in a dorm room away from home,” Morrissey said “I’ve had to attend lots of therapy. I’ve moved out of my [parents’] house and I now live with my friend. I admitted myself into an inpatient facility because I didn’t really feel safe with myself.”

Morrissey said she faced pressure from the university when she came forward to allege she was sexually assaulted. She was asked to remain silent.

“During the investigation there was a no-contact order that I filed against the perpetrator and in the no-contact order it said that I could not tell anybody about, you know, the investigation, what happened in it,” Morrissey said.

“Of course I did not follow that,” she said. “I told my professors so that they could understand why I wasn’t in class. I told my friends, you know, I didn’t want to feel alone, and they, you know, kind of tried to make me not talk about it.”

After the investigation had started, Morrissey said she asked to finish her schoolwork in her dorm room because she did not feel comfortable walking around campus.

“So I left messages to my academic adviser and to the Title IX coordinator,” Morrissey said. “They did not respond, nor did they give me any accommodation. … So I just stayed in my room anyways, did my work there, and I went to class a few days a week, and one of my classes failed me on attendance so I did not get credit even though I did post my work,” she said.

Morrissey said she ended her term at Norwich with a 1.0 grade point average.

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