Alleged Sexual Assault Victim Ordered to Turn Over Advocate Discussions
A woman alleges Old Dominion University mishandled her reported sexual assault and now her conversations with an advocate may be handed over to the defense.
The legal team representing Old Dominion University in a sexual assault lawsuit may be able to review documents containing private communications between the woman suing the school and a victim advocacy group.
While the woman’s attorneys want the communications to remain private, Senior U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan Jr. says there may be reasons to disclose some of the information to the Virginia university which is being sued for the handling of the reported sexual assault.
The judge ordered the documents be turned over to him and says he will review them in private to decide whether they are relevant to the university’s defense, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
The alleged victim, an 18-year-old freshman identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, says she was raped in her dorm room by a man she met at an off-campus party.
Following the assault, Jane Doe reportedly called her mother, her sister, a rape crisis center and the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to arrange for a forensic examination. She also called 911 to report the assault and was redirector to the ODU Police Department.
The lawsuit says she was picked up by police but was taken in for questioning instead of to the hospital. While at the police department, she was questioned for almost eight hours, was denied access to food or water and was kept separate from her family and a YWCA victim advocate.
The police questioned the suspect as well and allegedly gave him a drink and a meal before letting him go.
The alleged victim was eventually taken to the hospital for a forensic exam which concluded there was evidence of trauma.
A few days later, a detective called the woman to say police were not going to pursue charges because of a “lack of probable cause”.
In an attempt to gain access to the confidential documents, Assistant Attorney Nick Simopoulos says the victim should have to turn over any messages that occurred between herself, her parents and the victim advocacy group before she signed on as a legal client in January 2015.
Simopoulos also says since the lawsuit was not filed for two more years, the communications could show the woman waited too long to file the lawsuit and the case could be tossed.
“The victim-advocate privilege simply does not exist,” says Simopoulos.
Carly Mee, an attorney for the woman, says making her turn over the messages would set a bad precedent.
“Compelling the production of these documents, and denying the existence of a victim-advocate privilege, would gut the relationship between a sexual assault victim and his or her advocate.”
However, Judge Morgan argues some of the communications could be relevant, like if she acknowledged the sexual contact was consensual.
Jane Doe was on a scholarship in the Honors College program but lost it after her grades started to slip as a result of the rape and the school’s indifference, says the lawsuit.
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