A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKU student files suit against university, four officials for actions related to her sexual assault in dorm

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

Jane Doe, a pseudonym for a female undergraduate at Northern Kentucky University, has filed suit against the university and four specific representatives, related to a sexual assault she says occurred in a dorm on the campus.

Attorney Kevin L. Murphy filed the 19-page suit on behalf of the young woman in Campbell Circuit Court Wednesday.

Last September's peaceful protest on campus.

Last September’s peaceful protest on campus. (NKyTribune photo)

The suit names NKU Pres. Geoffrey S. Mearns; Les Kachurek, NKU’s Chief of Police; Kathleen Roberts, senior advisor to the President and Title IX coordinator; and Ann James, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator.

The young woman protested her situation on campus last year by wearing a mattress on her back. There followed a “peaceful protest” organized by students.

University statement

The university issued the following official statement in response to an inquiry about the suit:

“Today we learned that a student filed a lawsuit against our university. The complaint contains many factual inaccuracies and mischaracterizations. The university will have an opportunity to respond formally to the complaint.

While it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics, we are confident that we have robust policies and procedures in place, which are designed to protect students. We feel strongly that all were followed in this case.

We take our responsibility to protect our students seriously and have a number of resources in place, including our Norse Violence Prevention Center, which not only supports students who are victims of sexual violence but also proactively works to educate our entire campus community; the Green Dot program; counseling services; and 24/7 reporting available through our University Police department.”

Murphy: Trusted her advisor

Murphy says his client is an academic scholarship student at NKU who was sexually assaulted by a male student in the fall semester of 2013. He says the young woman is “an honor student” and athlete who took her complaint to the counseling office and trusted James who “advised her to keep what happened through the university system rather than going to police.”

Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy

The university maintains that policies were strictly followed and that the student was advised of her options to file a criminal complaint. See the university’s policy here.

The policy includes a dating violence clause and definitions of “lack of consent” and outlines disciplinary procedures which include the process for a formal hearing.

The complaint claims the university’s system failed.

“NKU’s own system – a three-person panel who heard from both the young woman and her attacker – found in favor of the young woman,” Murphy said, describing the attack as “brutal.”

“She was promised that her attacker would be punished, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.”

Instead, the complaint says the “university did next to nothing to protect Doe from further anxiety and harassment.”

“Despite the young woman’s numerous complaints,” Murphy said, “the university did not uphold its own rules.”

The complaint cites that the attacker’s banishment from the student housing complex where Doe lived was not enforced; that though the attacker was assigned to another cafeteria, he would walk all around Doe in her assigned cafeteria, intimidating her and frightening her; that he was allowed to go anywhere around campus and Doe was told to “simply look out” for him in order to avoid him; that her broken dorm door remained broken for over a year; that her attacker continued to contact her via social media, despite a ‘no contact’ order, and that Doe’s complaints to James were inadequately addressed.

Kathleen Roberts

Kathleen Roberts

The complaint cites numerous incidences of intimidation.

The complaint further says that Doe, her mother and father and sister, finally set up a meeting the Pres. Mearns and felt he was “completely disengaged.” A subsequent meeting with Kathleen Roberts, the Title IX officer on campus, drew only the response, “I’m only here to listen.”

The family, says Murphy, pursued every avenue to assure their daughter’s well-being, “to no avail.”

In September 2015, Doe and her supporters took part in a peaceful protest on campus, the complaint says, to “bring to light the plight of abused women at Northern Kentucky University.”

The complaint says:

“….Northern Kentucky University police arrived with dogs in tow. When women would address the crowd with their stories, the police mocked them with laughter.

“The Police Chief, Les Kachurek, sent an email that was distributed to faculty and staff. It also went to Northern Kentucky University students.

“The email sent by Defendant Kachurek, the Police Chief of NKU, described what Doe was doing as her “way of expressing her displeasure over the outcome of an administrative hearing, where she accused a male student of sexually assaulting her.” The e-mail failed to mention the outcome of the hearing; that is, that the accused student was found responsible for “non-consensual sexual intercourse.”

“The email went on to say that the young woman was ‘publicly slandering’ her perpetrator without providing any context for such an accusation,” says Murphy. “Mearns subsequently described the Police Chief’s email as ‘well intentioned.”

Murphy terms the police chief’s email as “brutal” and an afront to the student’s First Amendment rights.

Police Chief Kachurek

Police Chief Kachurek

Here is the text of the police chief’s email, as reported by the NKyTribune in September:

Please be advised that NKU’s Division of Student Affairs has notified me of a student protesting on campus. Today, a female student has been seen on campus carrying a mattress on her back. Ostensibly, this is her way of expressing her displeasure over the outcome of an administrative hearing, where she accused a male student of sexually assaulting her more than a year ago. Moreover, she has been publicly slandering the male student.

Any slandering is not our concern, unless it segues into a clear criminal or Student-Code-of-Conduct offense. However, we are obligated to observe and preserve the First Amendment rights of the protester. Therefore, her freedom of speech, expression, and demonstration must be scrupulously guarded. Thus, as police, absent a legal and probative basis, we are prohibited from: initiating contact with her; photographing her; videotaping her; documenting her name and the names of any other protesters, photographing motor vehicles involved in the protest; documenting license plate numbers of vehicles involved in the protest; and making protester-related motor vehicle registration and driver’s license inquiries. Furthermore, we must not negatively react or take enforcement action based on any offensive language she may use, including anti-police rhetoric.

While this student enjoys First Amendment rights, she is not authorized to violate statutory or local-level laws. Thus, obvious criminal or nuisance offenses are enforceable. However, enforcement should be done as professionally and diplomatically as possible, and only as a last resort.

In all, the complaint filed in Campbell County Circuit Court cites seven counts that end in a request for a trial by jury to determine both real and punitive damages.

“She trusted the university and the university system,” Murphy said. “Not only did the university and its representatives betray this young woman’s trust, their actions – after a brutal sexual violation – have further compounded the harm to her.”

See the NKyTribune’s story about the September protest:


Related Posts

Leave a Comment