Former student sues SMU for mishandling 2012 sexual assault

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A former SMU student filed a federal lawsuit against SMU Friday. The former student claims that University officials created “a hostile, dangerous environment” for him after he reported being sexual assaulted on campus in 2012, according to reports by The Dallas Morning News.

The victim’s alleged attacker, John David Mahaffey, was arrested and charged with a second-degree felony after he was accused of forcing a male student to give him oral sex behind the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house and then assaulting the student again in a campus parking garage. The Daily Campus broke the news of Mahaffey’s arrest in 2012.

Mahaffey was indicted by a grand jury in November 2012. A few months later, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges.

The lawsuit filed Friday claims that SMU mishandled the aftermath of the assault that the victim had no choice to withdraw from the university, The Dallas Morning News reported. The victim was a part of the Hunt Scholars Program and abandoned his scholarship upon withdrawing.

The hostile situation was created by SMU issuing a detailed crime alert to the student population shortly after the crime was reported. From the alert reported a male-on-male assault, places that it allegedly occurred and that the victim knew his attacker.

“The manner in which they reported the crime was insensitive to his rights to confidentiality,” said Mike Guajardo, the former student’s lawyer. “When the crime alert was reported, it clearly alerted the perpetrator that he had filed a complaint, and within two minutes my client gets phone calls and texts from the perpetrator.”

The victim also received harrassment from his roommates and his fraternity brothers. He was moved to a different dorm on campus, but began receiving mysterious phone calls and knocks on his door. This hostile environment eventually forced him to leave the university.

The lawsuit also alleges that Assistant Provost Linda Eads attempted to talk the victim out of reporting the assault to other authorities.

Guajardo said Eads tried “to dissuade and discourage my client from cooperating with public law enforcement, that’s a big violation of Title IX.”

Guajardo said his client is seeking damages from SMU for “the physical, emotional, psychological, educational, professional and economic harm caused to him by SMU.”

The Daily Campus will report more information as it becomes available.

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