University of Michigan junior Josephine Graham, who signed on to support a class action complaint recently filed against the school for its handling of allegations of sexual abuse against late former doctor and athletics program physician, Robert Anderson, is urging a federal judge not to dismiss the case. The complaint is a companion to a suit filed in March 2020 by survivors of Dr. Anderson, and was filed in order to better respond to and ultimately prevent future sexual violence at the university.
As reported by Law360 (subscription), this comes after the school argued last month that Graham’s “legally frivolous” case should be thrown out on the grounds that she herself never experienced sexual violence and should not be able to claim any injury based on fear alone.
Graham, who accused the school of violating Title IX by fostering a toxic environment where sexual violence is manifestly given a pass, has said she doesn’t need to experience sexual violence first-hand to suffer real and ongoing harm, as the university culture that minimizes and disregards the ongoing threat of women being attacked without consequence is itself a serious harm. Graham attributes her markedly increased risk of sexual abuse on the Michigan campus to the university’s alarmingly and extremely inadequate policies surrounding sexual abuse.
Lieff Cabraser partner Annika K. Martin, who represents both survivors of Anderson and Graham, said the university is trying to evade accountability. “Despite acknowledging their role in allowing Dr. Robert Anderson to sexually abuse thousands of students over the course of decades, UM argues that no one — including former students, current students, and the court — has standing or authority to hold it accountable,” she told Law360 in a statement.
In response to the claims from multiple lawsuits, on July 15, UM announced a number of changes it’s making to its sexual misconduct policies. However, as MLive reports, former Michigan student athletes who suffered abuse by Anderson, along with victim advocacy experts, say the university’s new sexual misconduct policies are likely to fall short.
“How can an institution be allowed to fix itself, when it knew about, and harbored for decades, a sexual predator of hundreds of victims like those of Anderson?” asks Jon Vaughn, one of Anderson’s many, many survivors. How indeed.