WPI drops controversial defense strategy in rape lawsuit - Metro US

WPI drops controversial defense strategy in rape lawsuit

A building on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute campus
Sean Svadilfari/Creative Commons

Lawyers for Worcester Polytechnic Institute have abandoned a controversial legal defense that seemed to suggest a former student who was raped during a school-affiliated study abroad program was partly responsible for the attack.

The school also removed the two attorneys from the case who conceptualized the strategy as part of a legal defense from a civil lawsuit filed by the victim against the school, The Boston Globe reported.

WPI has now agreed to settle the case without a trial, according to the report.

The attack reportedly occurred while the student, not publicly named, was studying in Puerto Rico. A security guard at the San Juan condo complex where students lived was later convicted in the assault, the Globe noted.

Attorneys in earlier filings challenged the student’s claim that school officials were negligent in their protection of students, arguing she disregarded instructions and training about how to protect herself from harm. They noted she was drinking that night and that she followed the security guard onto the roof where she was attacked.

At one point during her deposition, one lawyer representing the school asked the woman whether her parents had taught her “don’t take candy from strangers.”

Attorney General Maura Healey, who earlier called the strategy “outrageous,” commended the school for dropping the approach.

“[WPI] sent the wrong message on sexual assault. Blame should never be placed on a rape victim,” Healey told the Globe in an email.

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