A lawsuit filed in Durham County—and then shuttled to the North Carolina Middle District— earlier this month alleges the stepson of former Duke University provost Peter Lange participated in at least one sexual assault of a female student.
The complaint states a former Duke University student was “subjected to a drug-facilitated rape” by two students, including the stepson of Lange, who at the time was provost of the university. Lange is no longer provost, but he is listed as a professor with the university’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
After the assault the woman reported it to university officials and the Duke Police Department. The two students involved in the woman’s assault had been named in similar sexual misconduct cases around the time she was assaulted.
Within weeks of the woman’s report, another student told assistant dean Christine Pesetski that he saw the two men and a third “employ the same modus operandi that was used in the drug facilitated rape of Plaintiff with a female student who was visiting from another university,” the lawsuit says.
That student’s report to Pesetski said two of the three men took the visiting student (who was “clearly impaired, isolated, and unfamiliar with the dorm”) and one of them brought her into a room and “soon thereafter sounds of sexual activity could be heard.”
Then, according to the lawsuit, about forty-five minutes later two men walked into the room without knocking and more “distinct sounds of sexual activity” could be heard while all three men were in the room with the visiting student.
Another report of the three men being involved in a similar sexual misconduct case, was described by an investigating officer from Duke as a “gang rape.”
However, details from other two reports were not disclosed to the plaintiff.
One of the men—the provost’s stepson—lied to the police about a video of the assault, according to the lawsuit. After lying to the police about the video, investigations were able to get a copy of it from the man’s cellphone and then he admitted to “secretly” videotaping a portion of the assault. A Duke police investigator then told officials he’d committed a felony under North Carolina law.
In July 2013 the stepson was put on probation for “violation of the University’s sexual misconduct policy.” The suspension was the only sanction the man received after assault reports.
Duke’s Office of Institutional Equity ruled placing the man on probation was a sufficient solution for the “hostile educational environment” the woman was experiencing after the assault. It also found the University's’ response to the assault was “sufficient to meet its obligations under Title IX” and that the University would do “nothing more to address the reports and evidence of the sexual misconduct” from the three men.
The woman’s lawyer, Bob Ekstrand of Durham, argues in the lawsuit that the woman’s civil rights were violated because the two men she said assaulted her were “motivated by gender” and “conspired to interfere with (the woman’s) exercise or enjoyment of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States or North Carolina.”
As a result of the assault the woman has “suffered and continues to suffer compensable harms.”
No trial date has been set, but the plaintiff has asked for a jury trial. Judge Catherine Eagles has been assigned to the trial.
This isn’t Duke’s first go around with a Title IX suit. In January it was announced that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights had opened up an investigation into the university's handling of sexual misconduct and harassment cases.
That investigation was initiated by a complaint filed by a student, but no details about the incidents that led to the complaint are available because the Office for Civil Rights only releases information once an investigation concludes.