Woman sues three Louisiana universities over failures to report sexual assault allegations
A woman is suing three Louisiana universities and one police department over failures to report information about a handful of sexual assault allegations against one student, saying their negligence led to her being raped.
Louisiana State University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Louisiana Tech University and the Lafayette Police Department “chose to disregard their most basic duties … refused to share information concerning reports of student sexual assault, (and) continued to employ disjointed approaches to sexual assault complaints,” the lawsuit filed by woman using the name Jane Doe states.
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The suit comes after a USA Today investigation in May 2021 revealed the practices of the universities and the Lafayette Police Department had enabled one student, Victor Daniel Silva, to jump between schools after being repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct.
Silva entered LSU in 2014 and changed schools three times, each transfer coming just months after a new sexual misconduct allegation, before he graduated from UL in 2020.
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Six women reported him for sexual misconduct while he attended the various schools, which should have been shared among the universities he attended under a 2015 law, but officials repeatedly failed to communicate the allegations made against him.
“All of (this) emboldened Victor Daniel Silva, a serial sexual predator who raped Ms. Doe in September 2018, when they were both students at Louisiana Tech University,” attorneys with Washington, D.C.-based Fierberg National Law Group wrote in the woman’s demand for a federal jury trial.
“Unknown to Ms. Doe at the that time, from 2014 to 2018, and before Ms. Doe ever met Silva, five women had reported Silva to Louisiana public universities and law enforcement for rape and other criminal sexual misconduct.”
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, one year after USA Today’s investigation was published. Attorneys for the woman wrote that she first learned of the extent of the other allegations against Silva from the USA Today investigation when it was published last May.
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Silva’s first transfer came in 2015, as he moved from LSU to UL weeks after being accused of sexual assault. LSU barred Silva from campus but did not warn UL about the complaint against Silva, even after the state’s flagship public university learned that Silva had been arrested months later for allegedly assaulting another woman.
After his arrest, Silva was put on disciplinary probation by UL, though he was allowed to stay on campus. During three years in Lafayette, he was reported by three different women to the Lafayette Police Department for sexual misconduct, but none of those reports were disclosed to the university despite a reporting requirement outlined in state law.
Silva moved to Louisiana Tech in Ruston in 2018, where he was accused of sexual assault by the Jane Doe who filed the lawsuit Wednesday.
But Silva dropped out from Louisiana Tech shortly after, and the school declined to investigate the woman’s report, which allowed Silva to move back to UL in Lafayette at the start of 2019, despite university policies that prevent students from transferring while under investigation for sexual misconduct.
Lafayette Consolidated Government spokesperson Jamie Angelle referred the Daily Advertiser to LCG's Legal Department for comment.
A representative for LSU did not respond to requests for comment Thursday, but UL System President Jim Henderson, who represents UL and Louisiana Tech, issued a statement Thursday afternoon.
“The work of the last two years to prevent power-based violence on college campuses in Louisiana was informed by deeply troubling narratives," Henderson said in an emailed statement.
"A pillar of these advancements ensures effective communication between institutions and local law enforcement. Act 439 of the 2021 legislative session built on the work of Act 172, advancing our policy environment and illustrating the importance of continuous evaluation of policy and practice to protect students.”
USA Today has previously reported allegations of sexual misconduct levied against Silva that occurred prior to his time at LSU, UL and Louisiana Tech.
“Ms. Doe was denied criminal justice unfairly,” her attorney Monica Beck said Thursday. “She now seeks civil justice to hold those responsible for the harm they caused her in whatever way a jury sees fit.”
Daily Advertiser reporter Ashley White and USA Today reporter Kenny Jacoby contributed to this report.