Student suing Northwestern speaks about alleged sexual assault

We're hearing for the first time from a Northwestern University student who is suing the school, saying she was sexually assaulted by one of her professors.
February 18, 2014 8:24:53 PM PST
We're hearing for the first time from a Northwestern University student who is suing the school, saying she was sexually assaulted by one of her professors. The woman says the university mishandled her accusations.

The woman alleges despite her pleas that he stop, the professor bought her drinks, kissed her and groped her. The professor, in a statement, says it never happened.

As a matter of policy, ABC7 Eyewitness News does not identify alleged victims of sexual crimes unless they choose otherwise.

She was a freshman at the time, 19 years old and well under drinking age, when she says philosophy professor Peter Ludlow took her to several bars away from campus. She says he bought her drinks, and then despite her protests, took her to his condo in the Marina Towers.

"I was in his bed. My blouse was slightly unbuttoned. His arms were around me," said the alleged victim.

The alleged victim says she blacked out and has little recollection of what happened at various points during the night back in February two years ago. She is still a student at Northwestern in the journalism department. She says in the aftermath of the incident, she was distraught, tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized for several days.

"It continues to baffle me as to why the university has taken the course of action they have since the incident. (Meaning they haven't fired him?) Yes. Among other things, yes," said Kevin O'Connor, attorney.

Kevin O'Connor has filed a federal suit on the woman's behalf against Northwestern University alleging the school violated her federal rights against sexual discrimination according to Title IX. She was a student of the professor's the previous quarter.

Northwestern professor Laura Beth Nielsen says if the allegations are true, the university needs to take them seriously.

"We have a sacred obligation to protect our students and the environment of learning, where people shouldn't need to be afraid or discriminated against on the basis of their sex," said Nielsen.

A spokesperson for Northwestern issued a statement saying: "We don't comment on pending litigation, but the University has policies and procedures in place to protect our students and to address any such reported concerns."

The suit is against Northwestern, the professor is not a plaintiff. Nevertheless, his attorney also issued a statement denying the allegations: "Mr. Ludlow did not assault [the alleged victim] nor did he engage in any inappropriate conduct. We have corroborating evidence that [the alleged victim] propositioned Mr. Ludlow. He refused her advances."

The woman, however, stands by her story.

"It's really hard for me to talk about the groping part because it makes me uncomfortable," said the alleged victim. "He definitely did grope me."

According to the complaint, the university's office of sexual harassment prevention investigated and substantiated some of the alleged victim's story, however, not the allegation that he groped her. The professor notes he is not being sued.

The woman's attorney says he is still considering further legal action in state court.


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