UConn settles more than $1.2 million lawsuit - FOX Carolina 21

UConn settles more than $1.2 million lawsuit over handling of sexual assault allegations

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STORRS, CT (WFSB) -

The University of Connecticut has settled its lawsuit over the school's handling of sexual assault allegations, totaling more than $1.2 million to five victims.

Five current and former students filed the lawsuit against UConn in the fall of 2013 claiming the college failed to take their rape and harassment allegations seriously.

"I'm really proud of these young women, because when you speak the truth to power, that's a challenge," said Gloria Allred, who is the attorney for the five women.

Both groups have agreed to avoid the "lengthy and expensive process" of litigation.

A press release said that, "while UConn categorically denies the lawsuit's allegations, the university and the plaintiffs said in a joint statement that they want to work toward the future rather than fighting over the past and, accordingly, 'have agreed to put to rest their factual disputes, settle the litigation, and move forward.'"

UConn and the plaintiffs also said they have a shared commitment to "eliminate sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, to prevent its recurrence, to address its impact on individuals and the UConn community, to make UConn the safest possible campus and, when incidents do occur, to support survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.'"

UConn President Susan Herbst said "this lawsuit may be settled, but the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has not been."

She said UConn will do all that it can to prevent sexual violence, and will hold perpetrators accountable.

"Our hearts go out to all of the victims of sexual violence. The university has taken many positive, important steps in the battle against sexual assault in recent years," Herbst said in part.

Changes from the lawsuit include enhanced training, a new assistant dean for victim support services, two staff investigators to investigations of sex assaults and related crimes. A special victims unit will be created and operated 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

"This lawsuit has catalyzed change on UCONN's campus so that hopefully, future generations of students do not have to experience sexual violence," Carolyn Luby, who was one of the women that was part of the lawsuit, said. "And if they do there will be systems in place to ensure they get the help/justice they deserve." 

Luby was the first to claim that she was sexually assaulted and said she is "glad to see UConn has taken our cases seriously." 

The women claimed not only discrimination, but also that UConn violated its obligations until Title IX, which promises the same academic opportunities to all college students attending schools that get federal funding.

"Title 9 is there for their protection and other universities should follow the law and UConn's example in working to improve their policies, procedures, and services to all victims of crimes, including rape and sex assault, so victim will be encouraged from reporting to them violations of the law or student codes of conduct," Allred said.

The largest payout is for $900,000 and the lowest is for $25,000 and will be received as soon as the suit is withdrawn.

Allred, who came from California, held a press conference on Thursday. She said her clients "want to eliminate gender based harassment and violence, and to hold perpetrators accountable."

"As a result of UConn and our state government taking my claims so seriously, I have begun to heal," said Kylie Angell.

Rosemary Richie said she is "optimistic that these steps will make a meaningful difference for all students."

Luby said she's ready to move on. 

"But my experience there will continue to inform my activism with students around the country to ensure safe campuses for all students, nationwide," Luby said.

To read the full settlement, click here.

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