UM student sues fraternity, alleges she was raped at party

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A University of Michigan student is alleging that a UM fraternity member drugged and raped her while attending a party last year when she was an 18-year-old freshman, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

The suit, filed Monday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court by a Jane Doe, alleges that she and several of her friends went to a party at the the fraternity house of Psi Upsilon on UM's campus in August 2019. A member of the fraternity allegedly lured her upstairs to a room while she was intoxicated, gave her a glass of water that allegedly drugged her and then he raped her.

The alleged incident comes during a time of increased focus on sexual assaults on colleges campuses  with many victims speaking out in the #MeToo era. UM's most recent annual crime report shows 168 sexual assaults were reported to its sexual assault prevention center in 2018. Meanwhile, three former Eastern Michigan University students are currently charged with sexual assaults that allegedly occurred off campus.

Ven Johnson — the lawyer who filed the lawsuit against the Psi Upsilon fraternity at UM and the international fraternity, along with the alleged assailant —  said these incidents need to stop.

"This can’t happened in a civilized society," said Johnson, president of Detroit-based Ven Johnson Law. "These fraternities, in the way in which they encourage this behavior, are not getting the message either ... still, after all these years. It is a culture we are attacking here."

Tom Fox, executive director of the Psi Upsilon fraternity's international office in Indianapolis, said in a statement that the fraternity learned of the lawsuit this week involving one of their members, who is now an alumnus of the Phi chapter on UM's campus. 

“Psi Upsilon Fraternity takes all reports of risk management violations, especially those with regard to sexual assault, very seriously,” saidFox “We are currently investigating the

incident and gathering further information as we received no notice of allegations prior to this complaint being filed. The undergraduate chapter is being cooperative in this matter.” 

The alleged rape at the UM fraternity occurred a week before the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. It allegedly occurred during a period dubbed by the fraternity as "Freshmen F*&% Week," and Psi Upsilon fraternity brothers allegedly kept a scorecard of how many women with whom they has sex or sexual contact, according to Johnson and the lawsuit.  

During the party at the Psi Upsilon house, 1000 Hill St. in Ann Arbor, the fraternity brothers did not check the identification of those who attended and served alcohol to underage attendees, including the plaintiff, who became very intoxicated, according to the lawsuit.

While at the party, the woman met a member of the fraternity and he coaxed her to go upstairs into a room with him, where no one else was present. The man, who was a UM senior from Beverly Hills, California, allegedly closed the door to the room. She wanted to leave but the man told her that she could not, according to the suit. 

The man then gave her a cup of water that tasted strange, she became helpless and knew she had been drugged, according to the complaint. The man then allegedly raped her, according to the suit that is seeking monetary damages from the fraternity's local chapter and national office, along with the fraternity member, who is now a UM alum, according to UM records. 

The woman, who is 19 and still attending UM, went to get a rape kit done at UM hospital after the alleged incident, Johnson said.

The alleged assailant could not be reached by email or through social media.

Johnson said the woman filed reports with the UM police department and the Ann Arbor Police Department the morning after the alleged incident.

Johnson said what happened to the woman is "disgusting" and "reprehensible," and she is doing what she can to hold those responsible to account.

"She is an incredibly strong woman who is standing up to the fraternities and this man in a criminal and civil setting," Johnson said. "She is doing everything to stand up for herself, and others."