UC Santa Cruz Student’s Rape Claim Leads To $1.15M Settlement

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A former University of California, Santa Cruz student who claims she was raped by a professor has settled her claim against the University of California Regents for $1.15 million for what she claims was its failure to address previous allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence by the professor.

Luz Portillo, 24, said she came forward in hopes of helping other women who might be in the same or a similar situation.

“Nothing in the world will ever take the experience back and nothing in the world will make up for it,” she said in a telephone interview. “But I didn’t want the narrative to be written for me and hopefully this will help someone else.”

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are the victims of sexual assault, but Portillo said she wanted to go public to help others.

The claim states that Portillo was raped by one of her professors and a female student who was also a university employee during a picnic and wine-tasting outing on June 13, 2015, and that the university knew for years that the professor was a sexual predator. Neither the professor nor the other student was prosecuted criminally.

The professor resigned from his university job. He did not respond to several emails seeking comment Wednesday or to a phone message left at his current employer.

Portillo said she was plied with wine at the picnic and then at the student’s home before she passed out. When she awoke nine hours later, she said she was naked and dazed. She went to police and the university and the investigations were launched.

Her attorney, John Kristensen, said no amount of money will make her whole.

“Ms. Portillo, a promising future lawyer, was scarred for life because UCSC failed to comply with its own regulations and other rules governing higher education entities,” he said. “This case is emblematic of the crisis of sexual assault on female students at our nation’s institutions of higher learning.”

UC Santa Cruz is one of more than 200 colleges and universities under federal investigation for how they handle sexual assault. The case has renewed focus on the problem of sexual assaults involving college students and raises questions about what obligations a university has to inform students and when it’s time to go public.

The Santa Cruz campus never alerted students to the two investigations or their outcome.

In a statement, UC Santa Cruz said it acted quickly upon learning of the allegations “which appeared to be clear violations of the UC Santa Cruz policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment.”

Before the professor resigned, he was removed from his position, placed on leave and barred from all contact with students, the statement said. When formal disciplinary proceedings began, he resigned.

“Until today’s statement by attorneys representing the victim, we have avoided public comment to protect the student’s privacy,” Chancellor George Blumenthal and Interim Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Herbert Lee said.

A spokeswoman for the regents directed all questions to the university.

Portillo said during the investigation she did not feel like the university was on her side.

“I had to become my own advocate,” she said.

 

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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