Protesters want UNA apology for sexual assault lawsuit response - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Protesters want UNA apology for sexual assault lawsuit response

A protest was held at UNA in support of an alleged sexual assault victim. (Source: WAFF) A protest was held at UNA in support of an alleged sexual assault victim. (Source: WAFF)
FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) -

Nearly 100 people participated in a demonstration on the University of North Alabama campus in Florence on Thursday night in support of a former student who is an alleged sexual assault victim, and in protest of how the school first responded to a lawsuit against UNA.

The lawsuit claims the school covered up allegations against a now-former professor. Protest organizers said the university's initial response perpetuates a rape culture and victim-blaming.

READ MORE: Former UNA professor accused of sexual assault

During the demonstration, there was a moment of silence on behalf of victims and walk of solidarity with "Jane Doe," the unnamed former UNA student who claims, through a lawsuit, that then-UNA professor David Dickerson sexually assaulted her.

On display was the initial statement from the university concerning the allegations, which suggested the woman is making false claims in order to get money. Read UNA's initial response here.

"They attacked Jane Doe's character. They basically called her a liar, said there was nothing to believe in her story and said she was only extorting them for money. So why would another survivor want to come forward if they're met with that kind of aggression?" said Ashley Massey, a UNA student who helped organize the protest.

The first statement released by UNA came after the lawsuit became public. The school quickly took the statement down from the UNA website and the school's social media pages.

READ MORE: UNA says ex-professor 'violated university policy' in student sex assault case

The protesters' top concern is how the university's initial stance could affect victims' willingness to come forward.

"They basically said, 'We don't care about victims.' And if a victim feels the administration of this school they go to does not care, then why would law enforcement care? Why would a judge care? Why would a jury care?" said Emily Emfinger-Johnson, a Florence resident and protest organizer.

Organizers said they and others will be watching for an apology from UNA and looking for accountability for what they believe was victimizing the victim of sexual assault.

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