USF under federal investigation, accused of mishandling sexual assault case

Sexual assault investigations have climbed to national attention in recent months, with cases like Jameis Winston’s at Florida State ranking high on the list of 95 universities under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) — USF was added to this list in September. 

Under the DOE, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating if USF “failed to provide prompt and equitable responses to sexual harassment or sexual violence complaints,” whether any failures subjected any students to “a sexually hostile environment” and if the university retaliated “by taking her off the work schedule after she reported the sexual violence.”

As first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, the accuser said the university failed to properly investigate her case, in which she claimed to have been sexually assaulted as a student in February. 

While the woman didn’t report the incident to the police, fearing they wouldn’t act because she was in a relationship with the man who assaulted her, she told officials at the university. In both an investigation and an appeal, the university found “no cause” for the allegations of sexual harassment, sexual battery and retaliation due to insufficient evidence, according to the Times.

In an interview with The Oracle, the 22-year-old woman said she appealed the university’s investigation to the OCR, which started an official Title IX sexual violence investigation Sept. 3.

Though the woman wanted anonymity as a victim of sexual assault, she told The Oracle her story of her sexual assault “wasn’t fully told in the report.”


Before the alleged assault last February, she was dating a man at her on-campus job.

The man, who she is accusing of sexually assaulting her, declined to comment on the incident to the Tampa Bay Times.

While visiting her at her apartment off-campus after work, the man got into a conversation with her about ending their three-month relationship, the woman said in an interview with The Oracle.

Later in the evening, she said he forced himself on top of her demanding oral sex. 

“What are you doing?” she said she asked the man.

“What do you think I’m doing?” she said he said while forcing his erect penis into her mouth.

“I panicked and went blank … I just stayed still,” she told The Oracle.

She said he soon got off her, and asked why she was just staying still.

“He gave me this look that said ‘I dare you to say no,’ and I had so much fear I didn’t want to do,” she said. 

According to her, he then grabbed her hair and pulled. After a few tugs, she said she pulled away and he asked her “What the f— is your

She said her roommates weren’t home and she was nervous, and didn’t know what to do. Though she said she didn’t say “no” to him, she kept freezing up.

“Can’t you see I’m trying to have sex with you?” he said, according to her.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Then what are you
waiting for?” she recalled him saying.

“At this point, I didn’t fight back anymore because I was afraid. I was afraid of what he might do if I continued to refuse,” she told The Oracle. “I was afraid he would hurt me, I didn’t know if he would choke me … At that point I stopped giving up a fight, and just gave in and did
something I didn’t want to do.”

He then continued to force himself on her, and after he finished and went to the bathroom, she said she got up and ran to the kitchen to cry.

A few weeks later, she said she went to her boss who offered to move her — and not the man — to another work location. She said her boss told her that was all that could be done, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The next day she went to the Center for Victims Advocacy and Violence Prevention, where she was told her story to an
advocate who told her that it was against USF policy for a supervisor to not forward allegations of sexual assault to the university.

During the following week, the accuser said she was removed from the work schedule and is no longer in the job’s computer system. 

In a previous statement to The Oracle when USF was added to the growing list of 95 universities under federal investigation for Title IX violations in September, USF Media and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman said the university promptly began investigation of the incident.

“The two individuals involved were acquainted with each other and the
university determined the safety of students and the USF community has not been compromised at any time,” Freeman said.

At the time, USF’s Title IX Coordinator and Chief Diversity Officer Jose Hernandez deferred comments to Freeman. While the accuser told The Oracle her “statements were changed” by the university and the reports include a “lot of
inaccuracies,” Hernandez told the Times this was the first time the university has been investigated for a
“sexual violence” case.

“An individual might say, ‘That’s not what it was,’” Hernandez said, according to an article by the Tampa Bay Times. “We follow the
evidence we’ve collected. I can assure you we don’t
fabricate evidence. That’s not our job to fabricate or change or tamper with our evidence.”

If someone felt that investigators did manipulate the evidence, they could cite that as a basis for their appeal, Hernandez told the Times.

According to the Times, the Department of Education receives about 10,000 civil rights complaints per year, and must then decide which will lead to an investigation, whether it has jurisdiction, whether the complaint was filed in a timely manner, and whether the allegations raised are clear and complete.

“Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on the
merits of the case,” said Denise Horn, assistant press secretary at the DOE, according to the Times. “Rather, the office is merely a neutral fact-finder.”