A federal lawsuit alleges Loyola “mishandled and underreported” sexual assault complaints since 2011, and attorneys involved in the case now say seven additional women have come forward.
The federal civil lawsuit was first filed against Loyola University of Chicago last year.
“I just want to see a lot more support for survivors,” said graduate student Maddie Kane.
Kane says a student sexually assaulted her at a frat party in 2020, according to court records.
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“No one ever thinks it’s going to happen until it happens,” she said.
Her sorority friends encouraged her to notify the frat house.
“That fraternity was very respectful. They believed me and they had a meeting to remove that individual,” she said.
She also reported it to the university, which assigned her a male caseworker.
“It’s a really humiliating process, especially one on one with someone you just met—a man that you didn’t chose to talk to, “ Kane said.
Kane said Loyola decided not to punish the student she reported.
Under Title IX regulations, all colleges and universities receiving federal funding must investigate and “provide a live hearing” of any complaint of sexual harassment, which includes sexual assault and violence, according to the Department of Education.
Kane said that no one at the university recommended that she report the incident to local police but added “it was mentioned in the list of options in an email and on their website.”
Loyola’s website does mention calling police as an option for sexual assault, but also says in part “if an arrest is made…you may have to testify,” adding “this can be an incredibly stressful and emotional experience.”
Marissa Sepulveda said as a freshman, Loyola “discouraged” her from going to police when she told the university she was sexually assaulted in on campus in 2019, according to court records.
“Because it was only sexual assault ... they said that it would be harder for that person to be criminally charged, “ Sepulveda said.
The university did investigate her case, she says, and punished her attacker, but only after the same person “violently raped” another Loyola student, according to court records. A police report was filed in the second incident. The university expelled the student.
“I was angry. I was, 'Oh, my God,'” Sepulveda said.
Months later, Sepulveda says someone else raped her inside a Loyola dormitory bathroom. She also reported that to the university and it investigated.
“The response they gave me was, 'Yes, he was responsible for four different acts of misconduct, including rape. But he is still going to graduate,'" said Sepulveda, who chose to leave Loyola before completing her degree.
“Allowing a university to conduct its own internal investigation is very problematic," said attorney Ashley Pileika, who represents three women suing the university.
Pileika says seven more current and former students are joining in the lawsuit this week bringing the total to 10 women.
“It’s still going on. There’s still been underreporting violations that are ongoing that are endangering students at Loyola," Pileika said.
The university responded to NBC 5’s questions in an email saying that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
“Loyola University Chicago is committed to ensuring that reports of sexual misconduct are addressed consistent with federal and state laws and the University’s institutional values and educational mission," the university’s email stated. "The University’s Comprehensive Policy and Procedures for Addressing Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct, and Retaliation is available on the Office for Equity and Compliance webpage at www.luc.edu/equity. The OEC webpage also provides information about community resources, including supportive measures for complainants, respondents and witnesses."
NBC 5 Investigates has learned while schools are required to investigate sex crime under Title IX—the federal law does not require school to report them to police.
“Colleges are not required to report to law enforcement, “ said Pileika, even if the person accused is found responsible by the university.
Illinois colleges and universities are required to publish their crime statistics each year under the Clery Act and must also send their annual crime data to the Illinois Attorney General.
NBC 5 Investigates looked at the most current Loyola reports for sexual, domestic, dating and stalking crimes reported to the Illinois Attorney General's office.
In 2020, the university received 15 formal complaints and 48 anonymous reports of sex crimes. Of the cases investigated, Loyola disciplined five students.
In 2021, Loyola received 17 formal complaints and 96 anonymous complaints. The school disciplined seven students.
“If this was happening anywhere else besides a college campus, if this had been reported to law enforcement, I mean, these individuals would be facing serious felony charges, “ Pileika said.
Loyola University did refer seven cases to police since 2020, according to reports to Illinois Attorney General’s office.
Under Title IX, schools are not required to report specific sex crimes or investigation findings to police.