Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is alleging that a former student who was raped while studying abroad was partially responsible for the assault.
Lawyers of the Massachusetts school said the student, referred to as Jane Doe, was partially to blame because she was drinking on the night of the attack and chose to follow a stranger to the rooftop, according to court documents obtained by the Boston Globe and revealed on June 7.
Doe was raped by a security guard in April 2012 at a university-leased apartment building in Puerto Rico. She was completing a research project during her time overseas.
The court battle comes at a time when rape on college campuses are in the national spotlight. A sexual assault at Stanford University’s campus involving a student on the swimming team has gripped people’s attention nationwide.
Doe, the victim, sued the school, saying the school failed to provide a safe environment for its students.
WPI’s lawyers claim the victim engaged in risky behavior on the night the security guard lured her to the roof. Attorneys argue that Doe ignored instructions and training about how to protect herself, also alleging that she did not use common sense.
The woman’s attorneys said in court documents that the school’s argument is an attempt to harass, intimidate, and re-victimize her.
Court documents show that the attacker, William Rodriguez, was previously a state police officer on the island but was suspended in 2011 after a felony conviction—for selling bullets to an undercover agent.
The civil lawsuit claims WPI failed to ensure or require proper background checks for the security guards it hired. The school contracted with a local company, Sea Breeze Inc., for the apartments, but in regards to security guards, there were no terms in the lease.
Meanwhile, the school says it is not looking to blame the victim for the rape, but disputed her claim that the school was negligent in protecting its students.
“WPI has never and would never blame a victim for being raped,” President Laurie Leshin wrote in an e-mail to the WPI community, according to the Boston Globe.
“WPI strongly believes that the person responsible for this rape is the rapist. And he is in prison,” she added.
Rodriguez was convicted by the state court of Puerto Rico and is serving a 20-year sentence.
The suit against WPI and various administrators seeks unspecified damages from the college, including legal costs.