Three University of California at Berkeley students, who said they were sexually assaulted on campus, filed a civil lawsuit on Monday against the UC Regents accusing the campus administration of not just failing to protect students, but also encouraging them to not report sexual assault cases.
“I have been working on trying to hold Berkeley accountable for sex assault cases for majority of my college career,” said 22-year-old Sofie Karasek, who is entering her senior year at Cal. “It’s really frustrating to feel as though our efforts have not been met with level of change.”
She and two other plaintiffs, Cal alumni, filed the suit in Alameda County Superior Court, alleging discrimination on the basis of gender, negligent failure to warn, train and educate plaintiffs and fraud. The plaintiffs are represented by the Zalkin Law Firm in San Diego.
UC Berkeley spokeswoman, Janet Gilmore, told NBC Bay Area that the school is committed to creating a campus community where “sexual assault is not tolerated.” Last year, the university added two new positions for helping sexual assault victims on campus and for investigating their complaints, she said.
According to Gilmore, the California State Auditor conducted a review of sexual assault and harassment cases in 2013-2014, and found that the case outcomes were reasonable and that sanctions were appropriate, considering the severity of the cases. In regards to other such lawsuits against the University, Gilmore said that she is “not aware of any prior Title IX lawsuit involving sexual assault issues.”
Karesek and the two other plaintiffs are part of a student group helping the U.S. Department of Education investigate how the university handles sexual assault, violence, and harassment reports.
Karasek said that she did not file a police report when she was assaulted, because the university would not take her seriously. But her peer and co-plaintiff, Nicoletta Commins did file a report with the police. But, according to Commins in the suit, she did get a strong response from law enforcement.
The assailant, a fellow Cal student, was convicted of felony assault and was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service, but did not serve time. Even though he was suspended from Cal for a couple years, he could go back as early as August.
The Department of Education opened its investigation for Title IX violations at Cal in March 2014. Federal investigators visited the campus in February this year to conduct interviews and collect data. According to the Department’s Office of Civil Rights, investigations are ongoing, so they cannot provide any case-specific information.
NBC Bay Area Raji Ramanathan contributed to this report.