Northwestern’s advocacy center for sexual assault victims (the Center for Awareness, Response, and Education, or CARE,) decided to stop working with the Medill junior in the Title IX lawsuit that has rocked Northwestern after realizing she would be suing the school.
It may seem odd for a center which purports to advocate for victims to deny its services to one, but in an interview, the student who is suing Northwestern for allegedly failing to act on a sexual assault complaint she made against professor Peter Ludlow cited an email from CARE which said it would no longer provide services to her.
Eva Ball, CARE’s Coordinator of Sexual Violence Response Services and Advocacy, wrote directly to the student last September that as a university employee there is a conflict of interest in them continuing to work together. The student had been working with CARE for over a year.
The email, which was verified by THE CHRONICLE, went on to recommend victim advocacy and counseling services outside of Northwestern.
At the time the email was sent, the student was months away from actually filing suit against Northwestern, which happened this February.
“It came as a surprise that after supporting me for all these years, [Ball] would say ‘we aren’t supporting you anymore,’” the student said.
It’s unclear whether CARE acted alone in denying services to the student or whether the university instituted such a policy for all its employees once it became clear she was going to sue the school over its alleged inaction in continuing to employ Ludlow, who the university found “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” against the student.
When asked why CARE stopped providing support to the student, Eva Ball declined to comment and referred THE CHRONICLE to Northwestern spokesman Al Cubbage. Cubbage also declined to comment. Ball is one of the signatories of a response to a petition from faculty and students demanding changes to Northwestern’s sexual assault policy.
THE CHRONICLE was able to speak, however, with Suzie Campbell, department assistant at CARE. She said “we support all Northwestern students,” but when pressed on the matter, clarified that “we’re definitely here to support you, but lawsuits complicate things.”
Experts told THE CHRONICLE that such a case – of a university support center denying services to a victim who is potentially suing the university over Title IX violations – was complex.
“Once there’s a lawsuit it’s quite possible that all agents of the university might be told not to have contact [with the victim,]” said Connie Kirkland, the former head of Sexual Assault Services at George Mason University.
“I think it’s a shame if the support center stopped its services and that it was cut off in such an unorthodox way,” said Kirkland. “Whether it was retaliatory is one question, but whether it’s perceived or felt as such is another.”
Peter F. Lake, a professor of higher education law at Stetson University, said “there has been a strong current of guidance from the DOJ [Department of Justice] when a retaliatory measure is taken against a student.”
Lake added, however, that such a suit “puts the university in a tough position” since the two parties – the student and the university – are adversarial.
The student herself said she felt “betrayed.”
“I thought I would have a legit relationship with Eva even after the lawsuit,” she said. “I wasn’t suing or questioning any of their advocacy work for me. It really caught me blindsided that [CARE] would email me that.”
Full disclosure: the author of this piece is a friend of the plaintiff. This article is based on verified information and all relevant parties were included to ensure balance. In the interest of future coverage, however, the author has recused himself from writing more on this case.