Rape victim demands a jury trial over university’s failure to provide a safe environment under Title IX

A woman who was sexually assaulted by University of Evansville basketball coach Walter McCarty is suing the university for its violations of Title IX protections designed to shield students from gender discrimination and violence. The woman, a former student identified only as Jane Doe, found a campus in thrall to McCarty’s celebrity, which allowed a sexually hostile culture to flourish as multiple complaints to campus officials about McCarty’s escalating pattern of sexual harassment and misconduct were met with inaction.

The suit describes campus officials’ deliberate indifference to a long string of student, employee, and community reports about McCarty’s sexual misconduct. Rather than acting decisively to protect students, the suit explains the university only gave verbal warnings to the former NBA star in response to the series of documented reports, which began in June 2018. McCarty sexually assaulted Doe in December 2019.

After her assault, Doe experienced severe stress, academic setbacks, and threats of retaliation from McCarty.

“The female students and employees who experienced this pattern of harassment and sexual misconduct are real people, real women who simply wanted a safe environment to learn and work in, and our university failed us,” said Doe. “I am heartbroken that my school knew about Coach McCarty’s misconduct before what happened to me and looked the other way. I will continue to go through this difficult process of holding the university accountable, because I want to prevent other women from going through the same thing I did.”

The university hired McCarty in March 2018, and Doe became a student athletic trainer for the men’s basketball team McCarty coached in April 2019. During that period, McCarty’s status as a former NBA pro made him a revered figure in the campus community. McCarty’s position as her superior put Doe in an uncomfortable situation when the coach began sending her inappropriate messages on Instagram, Snapchat, and text which escalated to him pressuring her to visit his home. When Doe acquiesced to the coach’s repeated insistence that she come to his residence on December 9, 2019, she texted that she could only stay for five minutes. But once inside, the 6’9″ McCarty began grabbing the petite, 5’1″ Doe, who froze in fear as he sexually assaulted her.

Doe reported the assault to a campus counselor on December 12. Her report became one of several that put the university on notice of McCarty’s misdeeds, but the university let McCarty off only with a verbal admonishment, with no real monitoring or follow-up.

“It’s stunning that this university shrugged off a lengthy series of complaints, made to multiple campus officials,” said Doe’s attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel. “If the university had just paid attention to what a long string of women were trying to tell them, it could have stopped a woman from being raped. It was no secret to university officials that McCarty was a predator, and they sat on their hands and did nothing.”

During McCarty’s tenure as head coach from March 1, 2018, through January 21, 2020, the list of misconduct complaints reported to the university which preceded Doe’s sexual assault include:

  • A June 6, 2018 report known to both the director of athletics and a university board member that McCarty had acted inappropriately with a woman at a local restaurant.
  • A July 2018 report to the school’s administration that McCarty had been sending persistent and unwanted messages to a university employee, inviting her to bars, restaurants, and his home.
  • A September 2018 report made to the dean of students that McCarty sent a female student unwelcome and harassing text messages.
  • Multiple reports from fall 2018 through summer 2019 that McCarty routinely sent a female employee in the athletic department inappropriate messages inviting her to attend events with him and asking to see a photo of her wearing a swimsuit.
  • A June 2019 report made the university vice president of student affairs and the dean of students that McCarty sent a former student private Instagram messages that made her uncomfortable.
  • A November 5, 2019 report made to the campus Title IX Coordinator that McCarty had for weeks been giving uncomfortable attention and initiating unwanted physical contact with a female student who worked in the University Center Café Court.
  • A December 11, 2019 report made by two high-ranking university employees raised concerns about McCarty’s alleged behavior with others in the university community. This was two days after McCarty’s sexual assault of Jane Doe but one day before she anonymously reported the assault.

After Doe decided to pursue a complaint against McCarty, at least two more women came forward to report his sexually predatory behavior and described additional incidents of misconduct consistent with McCarty’s established pattern: inappropriate messages and using his stature as leverage to subject vulnerable women in and around campus to sexually abusive situations.

“The school was given more than ample notice of McCarty’s pattern of harassment and inappropriate conduct with female students, employees, and community members,” said co-counsel Jeff Gibson. “Despite this ample notice, they failed to take meaningful action, and instead allowed McCarty to continue.”

Attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel has represented sexual abuse survivors in high-profile cases, such as the Larry Nassar litigation against the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, victims of abusive doctors at the University of Southern California and the University of Michigan, and clergy abuse survivors in New York and survivors connected to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  Michelle is licensed in Texas and New York.

Attorney Jeff Gibson, partner at Wagner Reese, LLP, regularly represents victims of sexual violence. His experience includes representing and assisting Olympic-level athletes, clergy abuse victims, and residential treatment facility patients. Jeff is a member of a national alliance of sexual abuse lawyers who dedicate their practice to representing survivors and victims of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sex trafficking.