Education

Florida Memorial University student was raped in her dorm, lawsuit claims

Florida Memorial University’s campus in Miami Gardens.
Florida Memorial University’s campus in Miami Gardens. Courtesy of Florida Memorial University

A Florida Memorial University student who says she was ambushed and sexually assaulted in her dorm room has accused the university of failing to protect her.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court says the freshman was sleeping in her second-floor room in the all-girls Willie C. Robinson dormitory around 3 a.m. Sept. 12, when she was woken up by two intoxicated males “who began threatening her with violence if she did not comply with their demands.” One of the men raped her while she tried to fend him off, the lawsuit read.

According to the lawsuit, the student escaped the man and ran to her neighbor’s dorm room for help. The neighbor chased the two alleged attackers out of the woman’s room. The men laughed as they fled through the fire exit door without an alarm sounding, the lawsuit read.

The lawsuit claims the men gained access to her dorm through an “unmonitored, unguarded, unsecured” fire exit door. The student charges that the university was negligent because its security cameras weren’t operational, dorm room doors did not have automatic closing and locking mechanisms and security guards weren’t staffed to patrol the dorm.

“The case is now in litigation such that the university is not at liberty to comment,” wrote FMU spokeswoman Opal Comfort in an email.

The lawsuit says the criminal attack was “reasonably foreseeable” because of four campus sexual assault reports in the past three years. Attorney Thomas Hasty, who brought the lawsuit on the behalf of the student, said he knows of one other victim who was raped on campus last year and is aware of two other rapes from 2016 and 2017. He said he is currently awaiting five years of arrest reports he requested from the Miami Gardens Police Department.

The police report for this incident is not available because it is an active investigation, Hasty said.

Miami Gardens Police did not return requests for comment.

The lawsuit also makes two references to a shooting. Hasty said those details were written in error.

Colleen Wright returned to the Miami Herald in May 2018 to cover all things education, including Miami-Dade and Broward schools, colleges and universities. The Herald was her first internship before she left her hometown of South Miami to earn a journalism degree from the University of Florida. She previously covered education for the Tampa Bay Times.
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