HARTFORD, Conn. — Two former undergraduate students are suing their alma mater for allegedly violating Title IX and the school’s handling of their sexual assault reports in 2017 and 2018.
“We want to be heard and recognized and want there to be change so that the people that come after us don’t have to spend four, five years the rest of their life, just to survive,” said Jazmin Johnson.
For the last five years, Jazmin Johnson and Caila French have been doing just that, surviving after a freshman year at Trinity College they say was anything but normal.
“This needs to be addressed in a way that it is taken seriously,” said French.
Three weeks into Johnson’s freshman year, she said she was sexually assaulted by another student, a varsity athlete.
Nine months later, in June 2018, French said she was raped by the same student.
Now, they are both suing Trinity College, saying their sexual assault reports were mishandled.
These events bring the two strangers together.
“When I was going to begin my investigation. I was thankfully through a mutual friend, introduced to Jazmin,” said French.
“That was the moment when we realized that this was bigger than the two of us, well bigger than ourselves and that we needed to do something about what we were facing,” said Johnson.
The lawsuit lays out the timeline. Trinity was notified of Johnson’s assault in September 2017. A no contact order was put in place against her fellow student just two months later, but the school did not start a formal investigation until more than a year later, October 2018 after Jazmin requested it.
“I think that’s more common than we think the general public would think that it is for survivors to wait to come forward,” said Bridgett Koestner with Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
Koestner is a policy manager at Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence working hands on with agencies to develop anti-sexual violence policies.
“The challenge is an institution can implement these supportive measures as no contact orders. However, for a student who has recently gone through this trauma or doesn’t understand this process, that may very well to them look like a formal investigation,” said Koestner.
After the formal investigation began, the student-athlete both women say attacked them was suspended from Trinity for a year in May 2019, 17 months after the assault.
“My entire college experience is tainted by this,” said Johnson.
In response to our request for comment, an email from Trinity College claiming to have no comment during pending litigation. Still, telling us: “The college supports students’ rights regarding confidentiality, no-contact orders, or requests for an impartial disciplinary investigation, including when to commence formal investigations."
According to the lawsuit, the college also failed to maintain records of French’s and Johnson’s complaints. The lawsuit also describes Trinity having at least five Title IX coordinators in five years.
“Putting survivors first is what we really want,” said Johnson.
The student the women accused eventually going from suspension to expulsion at the conclusion of French’s case just a month before she graduated in 2021. She reported her case in 2018. The lawsuit explained they did not start investigating it until 2020.
“Using our voices as a tool is important because it’s important to shine light on that it doesn’t stop after one night. It builds and it changes you and it’s hard,” said French.
That’s why they say they filed this lawsuit. Now graduates of the College, thousands of miles away from each other, one in Maine, the other in California still bonded and impacted by the assaults on the campus.
“We have so much unconditional love and support for each other that, sorry, that no matter what, no matter how scary, how big or how whatever that it’s going to be OK,” said French.
French and Johnson said they are hoping for a jury trial, though they know that will be emotionally challenging for them.
Trinity College tells FOX 61 it supports their rights to bring their experience to a close.
DeAndria Turner is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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