STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut will pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit by five women who alleged the school did not take seriously their claims of sexual assaults on campus.
The bulk of the settlement, $900,000, will go to Silvana Moccia, a former UConn ice hockey player who alleged she was kicked off the team after reporting she had been raped by a male hockey player in August 2011.
The other four women will receive payments ranging from $25,000 to $125,000.
University officials adamantly denied that they have been indifferent to reports of assaults and did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement. They said the legal fight would be costly and bad for UConn's image.
"It was clear to all parties that no good would have come from dragging this out for years as it consumed the time, attention and resources — both financial and emotional — of everyone involved," said Larry McHugh, the chairman of the school's Board of Trustees. "In order to do this, compromise was required on both sides, which is reflected in the settlement. I hope this resolution will help the students find closure on this issue."
The university remains the subject of a Title IX investigation by the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights.
The high-profile case is one of several underscoring the issue of sexual assaults on campuses across the country. The prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses took on new focus in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State and after a high-profile battle on Capitol Hill about military sexual assault led college campus assault victims to demand the same attention.
Sexual violence investigations are pending at nearly 70 postsecondary institutions whose actions, policies and procedures are being questioned.
Colleges and universities need to do a better job investigating sexual assaults, said Christopher Mallios, an attorney at Washington-based AEquitas: The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women. Schools should have investigators who are trained by experts who know how traumatizing sexual assault is, he said.
"You're dealing with victims of sexual trauma. The last thing you want to be doing is re-traumatizing the victims," Mallios said.
The UConn lawsuit alleged discrimination based on gender and retaliation in violation of Title IX, which guarantees equal educational opportunities to students at schools that receive federal funds. It sought unspecified monetary damages and changes in university policies.
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