June 10, 2019

“Jane Doe 2.” “Jane Doe 3.” “S.B.” This is how three women are known in court documents. All three say they suffered sexual violence and that their colleges knew enough to better protect them. They feel betrayed.

The women want to maintain privacy while asking for monetary damages and better accountability for how the campuses address sexual misconduct and assault.

Even in the #MeToo era, when many have opted to go public to raise awareness, doing so can come at immense personal costs, and survivor advocates say it should always be their choice.

“Survivors who find the courage to report what they endured must be empowered, at all times, to control their privacy in the interest of their mental health,” wrote S.B.’s lawyers, Michael Dolce and Takisha Richardson of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, in a May 29 letter about the public university to more than 40 Florida legislators.

The university has bolstered staffing and policies to support students reporting sexual misconduct and is “merely asking for a fair and open trial,” FAMU says in an emailed statement. “The plaintiff is an adult demanding monetary damages under Title IX and the University has asked that her legal name be provided to jurors at trial.”

To Mr. Dolce, that statement suggests a worrisome “shift away from due respect for those who report these crimes,” he says in a phone interview.

While not commenting on the specifics of either case, Professor Lake notes that some universities may think they don’t have a level playing field when stories about a lawsuit with an unnamed plaintiff are swirling in the media. “If you are trying to combat a narrative about your institution, you can only fight with a ghost,” he says.

The complete article can be accessed here.