Worcester college drops controversial defense in rape lawsuit

Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute. –Matthew Healey / The Boston Globe

Worcester Polytechnic Institute will apparently no longer employ what some thought was a victim-blaming defense in a lawsuit filed by a student who was raped during a study abroad trip, according to court records.

The school drew ire last month after it was revealed that attorneys argued in court filings that the female student was partially responsible for her assault. She was drunk when she followed her apartment security guard to the roof, they wrote, and “put herself in the unfortunate position where the risk of sexual assault was greatly increased.”

The Boston Globe reports that the school is no longer using that defense. A joint court filing Thursday noted prospective mediation in the case.

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After the defense was made public, WPI President Laurie Leshin wrote in a letter to students that an old insurance carrier was litigating the case and that “their legal approach and language have not been vetted or approved by the university.”

On Thursday, the schools’ attorneys were withdrawn and two new lawyers were entered.

The victim, identified as Jane Doe in court filings, was raped by a security guard at her study-abroad residence hall in Puerto Rico in 2012. The security guard, William Rodriguez, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

WPI officials and attorneys for the victim and did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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