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USU to pay raped student $250K to settle sexual assault lawsuit

By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News | Posted - Jul. 5, 2018 at 9:10 p.m.



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LOGAN — Utah State University will pay a former student who was raped at a fraternity house $250,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed the school and the Greek organization knew of previous allegations against her attacker and didn't take action.

The university also agreed to make changes to its sexual assault policies as part of the agreement with Victoria Hewlett.

Hewlett sued the school after Brian Relopez raped her in his bedroom at the Sigma Chi fraternity house during a July 2015 party. Relopez was sentenced in May 2016 to a year in jail for sexually assaulting two women, including Hewlett, who was 19 at the time.

"I'm extremely happy with the outcome, that the university is willing to work with us," Hewlett said. "I think they are imperative to changing this whole culture that has become of women and even men feeling like they can't speak out about their assaults."

Hewlett alleged USU was aware of previous assault allegations against Relopez by five other women, but allowed him to remain on campus, enrolled and unsanctioned.

The Gamma Kappa chapter of Sigma Chi was also aware of the allegations against Relopez but allowed him to remain an active member and a resident in the fraternity house, according to the lawsuit. Members of the fraternity also knew the Kappa Delta sorority had barred Relopez from its activities on reports he had verbally, emotionally and physically abused women in the group.

Hewlett also sued Sigma Chi and Gamma Kappa but did not agree to end her lawsuit against the fraternities.

"We worked with Victoria and her family in a collaborative process to create a set of commitments that will result in meaningful changes for student safety," USU spokesman Tim Vitale said in a prepared statement.

The university recognized it had work to do and has taken steps in the last two years to improve sexual assault prevention and response efforts, including making sexual assault prevention training mandatory for all new students, he said. It also trained employees on obligations for reporting under Title IX and adopted an amnesty program to encourage reporting.

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Dennis Romboy

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