Lawsuit claims Iowa State University mishandled 2014 sexual assault case

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AMES, Iowa -- A former ISU student filed a lawsuit against the university on Sept. 9 claiming she was discouraged from reporting a 2014 sexual assault and suffered further victimization because of university's slow response.

On March 30, 2014, a female Iowa State freshman student reported a sexual assault to Iowa State University Police after it occurred on campus at Frederickson Court. The lawsuit claims both the police and equal opportunity office did not take her claims seriously and an advisor downplayed her experience by suggesting circumstances where it could have been worse.

The university reported a conclusion would be reached in 60 days but the report took nearly seven months. In the report, the lawsuit claims the university felt the evidence barely showed a sexual assault occurred.

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Lawsuit claims Iowa State University mishandled 2014 sexual assault case
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Lawsuit claims Iowa State University mishandled 2014 sexual assault case

In January of 2015, ISU student Patrick Whetstone was charged in the incident with third-degree sexual abuse.

The lawsuit also states that upon returning to campus in the fall of 2014, she was placed in a dorm building at Frederickson Court next to Whetstone's building and told that Whetstone has rights and should be allowed to stay in equal or better housing than her. She suffered extreme emotional distress after having to see her alleged attacker and dropped out.

Channel 13 News typically does not reveal the name of alleged sexual assault victims but since the allegations, 21-year-old Melissa's Maher`s story has become public. She recently took the stage with fifty other sexual assault survivor's during a Lady Gaga performance at the 2016 Oscars during a song called "Til' It Happens To You."

When asked about her experience, Maher said, "I stood for every person who couldn't stand up. I had also decided if I could get one person to realize they're not alone, I was doing something to help."

Melissa's attorney, Andrew Zbaracki, was unavailable for comment along with officials from the ISU Police and the University Office of Equal Opportunity.

Whetstone's trial is scheduled for Sept. 27 in Story County.

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