Student sues Columbia, alleging ‘indifference’ to rapes
New York — A woman who enrolled in Columbia University partly because she wanted to be part of the emotional debate there over on-campus sexual assaults sued the school Tuesday, saying she was raped twice in her dorm room during her freshman year.
Amelia Roskin-Frazee, 20, said in a lawsuit filed in federal court that Columbia showed “deliberate indifference” to the two assaults in October and December of 2015.
“I’m suing Columbia because I’m angry,” Roskin-Frazee said at news conference where she was joined by her attorney, Alex Zalkin.
Roskin-Frazee, now a sophomore, said the university was negligent by not taking reasonable protective measures after the first rape.
A Columbia spokesman said the university doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Roskin-Frazee has been an activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights since she was in high school and has written extensively about being a sexual assault survivor.
In a column published in the Huffington Post in April of 2015, when she was a high school senior, Roskin-Frazee criticized Columbia’s record on handling on campus sexual assaults but said she was excited about enrolling because she wanted to go to a school “where there are students who will fight for survivors like myself and publicly call out administrators when policies fail.”
“Being at a place like Columbia, where activists raise awareness about sexual violence, is something I’ve wanted for years,” she wrote. “I spent years hiding what happened to me because I thought it was something only I experienced. I didn’t realize there were support groups and counseling services available to me until many years after I was assaulted.”
Six months after writing that piece, Roskin-Frazee said in her lawsuit, she was attacked in her bed in the middle of the night by a man who got into her dorm room.
She said she couldn’t identify the man and didn’t initially report the assault to the police, but phoned the university’s Sexual Violence Response Hotline eight days later and asked to change rooms.
According to the lawsuit, Columbia agreed but imposed “onerous” conditions, including charging her up to $500 and not giving her enough time to move her things.
The lawsuit said Roskin-Frazee was still living in the same room on Dec. 14 when the man got into the room again, tied her hands to a chair and penetrated her with objects including scissors and a razor. She said in the lawsuit that the attacker whispered, “Still a dyke?” during the assault.
According to the lawsuit, Roskin-Frazee communicated with several Columbia officials as she sought accommodations following the assaults but did not formally report the rapes to the university until Aug. 5, 2016. She delayed reporting the incident to police until Jan. 23, 2017.
“Many survivors don’t go to the police right away or report right away,” Roskin-Frazee said. “I was ashamed, and I was scared that because I couldn’t identify him Columbia wouldn’t investigate.”
The Associated Press doesn’t normally identify sexual assault victims unless they come forward publicly, as Roskin-Frazee has done.
At the time the she enrolled in Columbia, the university was being roiled by battles over how the administration handled reported assaults. One student, Emma Sulkowitz, carried a 50-pound mattress everywhere she went on campus until her graduation in May of 2015 to protest the school’s handling of her allegation that she was raped in her dorm room.
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