Former Student Files Complaint Against Northeastern Over Rape Case

Northeastern University. –The Boston Globe

A former Northeastern student has filed a Title IX complaint against Northeastern University over the school’s handling of her 2011 rape complaint. Katherine Rizzo filed the complaint on Wednesday, according to Buzzfeed.

Rizzo told Buzzfeed that Northeastern ruled that her alleged attacker was held to too high a standard for consent. While waiting for the appeal, that student transferred to another school, according to Buzzfeed.

Rizzo's story shares the same themes as many other rape survivors' accounts: In her complaint, Rizzo claims administrators discouraged her from reporting her assault and failed to inform her of her rights. They did not help her negotiate the lengthy adjudication process or provide her with mental health resources, even after she told the university she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rizzo's assailant was a friend and fraternity brother she knew from Greek life events. She says she repeatedly told him she did not want to have sex when they went home together after a party, but that he had sex with her anyway and did not stop until he had finished, even though she told him he was hurting her. It took her a few hours to realize she was raped.

Rizzo said the health and counseling service at school said they would not provide follow-up care in her case, and that she should seek out a rape crisis center instead, according to Buzzfeed.

Her assailant was initially found responsible in the case, but he appealed, saying the hearing held him to a higher standard than is required by the school. In the hearing, he was asked to provide proof of verbal consent, according to Buzzfeed.

Northeastern's Code of Student Conduct (CSC) defines consent as "a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity proposed by another" and states that consent requires "mutually understandable and communicated words and/or actions demonstrating agreement to participate in proposed sexual activity."

"[My assailant] thinks that just because I didn't punch him in the face, I consented," Rizzo said, "and the school apparently thinks that's a valid argument too."


Northeastern did not comment to Buzzfeed.

The school was not among the 55 universities listed by the Department of Education for violating sexual assault rules under Title IX. Six schools in Massachusetts were on that list, released May 1, including, Harvard College, Harvard Law School, UMass Amherst, Boston University, Emerson College, and Amherst College.

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