In a rarity for campus sexual assault accusations, a Brown University student who says he was falsely accused is suing his accuser as well as his former university.
The student, referred to in court filings as John Doe, is suing Brown on the usual grounds of Title IX discrimination based on his male sex, breach of contract by the university and a denial of due process rights. Each claim has been used by other male students alleging wrongful accusation, to mixed success.
What makes this John Doe filing different is the separate lawsuit aimed at his accuser, listed as Jane Doe in court documents.
The lawsuit revolves around the events of Oct. 11, 2014, an encounter John says was consensual but Jane alleged was not. On that evening, John and Jane met at a party. John did not know whether Jane had been drinking and did not observe any behavior that would indicate she was in an impaired state, according to his lawsuit.
At some point during the party, the two began a lengthy conversation, and as the party ended, they began kissing. "The couple continued their intimate conversation and public displays of affection among a group of mutual friends in another dormitory room down the hall," John's complaint says. At some point Jane texted her friends that she might be about to "hook up" with John.
The two decided to go back to John's dorm, and once there, continued kissing and touching each other on John's bed. John says Jane was an active, willing participant who "passionately" kissed John's neck, leaving a hickey. John's lawsuit claims Jane "expressed her consent and pleasure" with the sexual activity and at no time did she "express in actions or words that she was uncomfortable or withdrawing her consent."
Jane said she did not want to have sex that night, and John said okay, but the two continued kissing. John escalated the sexual touching and asked Jane: "Do you like this?" The lawsuit says Jane nodded her head and said "yes."
John then says that Jane guided his hand and told her what she wanted him to do. Jane then stood up and said again that she didn't want to have sex, that she had to go meet a friend she had previously agreed to meet, but that she would see John again at her birthday party the next day.
John says Jane kissed him goodbye and left his room.
"In the week that followed, John Doe was unaware that Jane Doe considered herself the victim of sexual assault," the lawsuit says.
John's lawsuit suggests that Jane made the accusation against him after he didn't talk to her at her birthday party the next day.
John is suing his accuser for defamation based on statements she made to other students at Brown that were false. The people she made the claims to would later testify on her behalf. Some of the false statements included her claim that she was "covered in bruises" despite claiming in future statements that she was only attacked on her lip and neck (which had no bruises according to Facebook photos and a medical report).
Andrew Miltenberg, John's attorney, told the Washington Examiner that he doesn't often file lawsuits against accusers. The Examiner has previously reviewed multiple lawsuits filed by Miltenberg on behalf of accused students, and has never seen one that includes a defamation claim against an accuser.
"I often counsel to be very careful when considering a defamation case," Miltenberg said. "In this particular situation, I felt that there was a certainly a real reason for it."
John's accusations against Brown stem from his treatment during the investigation and hearing. He claims he was not notified of the specific allegations against him until after he was issued a no-contact order and banned from campus. He was also given only four days to review the evidence against him despite university policy stating the accused would have seven days to review.
John's accuser was also never questioned about her inconsistent statements during her hearing.
Among the problems with Jane's statement included inconsistencies, including her claim on Oct. 18 that John wrapped his arms around her, told her she was beautiful and led her to the bed. But on Oct. 17, she claimed he walked toward her and forced her to walk backwards while pushing her onto the bed. Jane also claimed she had received bruises from John biting her lip and neck so hard he "gnawed at the skin and pulled away so that it really hurt." Facebook photos taken less than 24 hours after the sexual encounter show no bruises on her lips or neck, and a medical exam conducted shortly after the encounter found "no skin abrasions."
When John tried to submit the Facebook photos, he was denied on the grounds that he had invaded Jane's privacy.
On Oct. 18, Jane claimed she felt "threatened" by John and was too scared to leave. But on Oct. 17, she claimed she "asked to leave several times and was not allowed to go." John says the door to the room they were in was unlocked at all times and Jane was free to leave at any moment and never showed any signs that she wanted to leave while she was with him.
Jane claimed on Oct. 18 that the way John was touching her "hurt so bad that I couldn't let him continue," but acknowledged that she directed John's hand and told him to go slower and softer. She also acknowledged that John confirmed her consent by asking if she liked what he was doing, and told Brown that she told John she did.
This is another instance of a student saying he obtained affirmative consent yet still being accused. The difference here is that the accuser is claiming her "yes" didn't actually mean "yes."
At the hearing, Jane was provided a university advocate who communicated with her and participated in the hearing. John was provided no advocate. Both students were allowed an adviser, but Jane's adviser was allowed to address the hearing panel and interrupt John's testimony. Jane also had an attorney present.
In contrast, John's adviser had no training to assist him in the process, and he was not allowed to speak with his attorney during the hearing.
Jane was also allowed to testify for 20 minutes with only a few "calm, non-aggressive" questions, according to John's lawsuit. John claims that Jane's use of "buzz words" during her testimony made it clear she had been coached.
While Jane was treated respectfully during her testimony, John was questioned for 90 minutes "in a caustic tone." He says the questioning became "so contemptuous and outrageously irrelevant" that the panel allowed Jane's advisor to ask him about his feelings on anal intercourse — something he was not accused of by Jane in any way.
John's lawsuit against the university claims the hearing was a "mere formality" to conclude his "predetermined guilty." John was found responsible of the charges against him. He was given a two-and-a-half-year suspension. This was far and away more severe a punishment for a much less severe accusation (non-consensual touching) than another Brown student received previously for alleged rape.
That student was found responsible for allegations of "strangulation and rape" but was suspended for only one year (although he may have also been wrongly accused).
There is so much to this case that I couldn't even get to in this post. I urge you to read both complaints posted at the Providence Journal.