Settlement reached in Utah State University frat-party rape lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former Utah State University student has reached a $250,000 settlement with the school resolving a lawsuit she filed following her rape at a fraternity house in 2015, the university announced Thursday.

As part of the settlement, the Logan-based university agreed to increase its oversight of fraternities and sororities, make updates to its harassment policies and require sexual harassment training for all students, among other changes.

“We hope this model, of turning struggle into opportunity and crisis into change, will serve as a model for other students and schools striving to make their own campuses more welcoming communities for all,” the former student, Victoria Hewlett, and school President Noelle Cockett said a joint opinion column published in the Salt Lake Tribune Thursday.

The Associated Press does not typically identify sexual assault victims, but Hewlett agreed to have her name used in the column and news coverage.

Hewlett filed suit against the university in 2016, claiming school officials knew about reports of sexual assault and heavy drinking at fraternity parties but failed to take serious action before she was raped by a fraternity brother. Her lawsuit said five other women previously reported being sexually assaulted by the man. The school has denied the claim.

Utah State has faced a string of sexual assault cases in recent years and came under a U.S. Department of Justice investigation last year.

“We recognize that we had work to do, so we’re taking these important steps because we care about student safety and believe always that we can do a better job to protect safety of students and empower students,” university spokesman Tim Vitale said.

One condition of the settlement allows Hewlett to join committees and groups focused on halting sexual harassment. Vitale said the school was thankful for her continued involvement.

The former student’s lawyer did not respond to a voicemail seeking additional comment Thursday.

Written by JULIAN HATTEM, Associated Press.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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