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Lawsuits & Litigation

Lawsuit: Eastern Michigan University Covered Up Sexual Assaults, Protected Fraternities

— March 25, 2021

The university’s Title IX director allegedly try to dissuade some women from reporting assaults, saying they wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Nearly a dozen women have filed a lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University, alleging its Board of Regents covered up a series of sexual assaults perpetrated on and near the college’s campus.

The Detroit News reports that the complaint was filed by eleven women, all of whom are anonymously named as “Jane Doe.”

The lawsuit names as defendants Eastern Michigan University, its governing board, the campus police department, and several fraternities, which include Alpha Sigma Phi and Delta Tau Delta.

According to the 166-page lawsuit, fraternity members themselves revealed and then sought to cover up details of numerous sexual assaults. At one Alpha Sigma Phi meeting—termed a “Mystic Circle”—members purportedly sat in a circle in an unlit room. There, one woman publicly accused a fraternity brother of raping her.

The university, suggests The Detroit News¸ did not take adequate action to follow up on that woman’s registered complaint.

Five other plaintiffs, adds the Detroit Free Press, had accused a single man—24-year old Dustyn Durbin, of Frenchtown Township—of sexual assault.

Gavel and law books; image by Succo, via
Gavel and law books; image by Succo, via

Collectively, they told the Press they believe Durbin is a serial predator who should’ve been caught and punished by their school.

“I think lots of protocols should have been in place for this not to have happened and they weren’t,” one woman told the Detroit Free Press on condition of anonymity.

One of the EMU officials named as a plaintiff is Melody Werner.

Werner, says the Press, served as Eastern Michigan University’s Title IX director before taking a position at Michigan State University in 2019. During her time with EMU, Werner allegedly failed to report accusations to law enforcement—enabling one suspected rapist to “continue his serial sexual assaults.”

Despite her position putting her in close proximity to sexual assault survivors, Werner “was neither an investigator nor trained in conducting forensic interviews of sexual assault victims.”

Nevertheless, the lawsuit states, “Defendant Werner was the gatekeeper of sexual assault claims at EMU.”

One victim said that Werner went so far as to tell her there was no point in reporting her assault, since her assailant’s fraternity brothers wouldn’t back the claim.

“There is no point in reporting it,” Werner said. “They’re in a fraternity. [The] Greek community is going to back them up.”

Werner allegedly discouraged other women from reporting their assaults—some of which took place off-campus—saying law enforcement would not believe them.

In a statement, attorney Todd Flood said the lawsuit intends to both hold Eastern Michigan accountable while ensuring a cultural change.

“This case is all about fighting for these victims’ rights and changing the culture of what exists today to recognize the difference between right and wrong,” Flood said.

The lawsuit seeks a judgment of at least $75,000.


11 women file lawsuit against EMU, saying it mishandled sex assault claims for years

EMU officials covered up dozens of ‘brutal rapes,’ lawsuit alleges

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