Melina Korfonta ’25
Exec. News Editor
On September 27th, FOX 61 News reported two former Trinity College undergraduates were suing the college for allegedly violating Title IX. This Title IX violation alleges that their heir sexual assault reports were mishandled by Trinity College.
For the last five years, FOX 61 reports, Jazmin Johnson and Caila French have been just surviving. “We want to be heard and recognized and want there to be change so that the people that come after us don’t have to spend four, five years the rest of their life, just to survive,” said Jazmin Johnson
With these alleged violations taking place prior to their sexual assault reports in 2017 and 2018, surviving after a freshman year at Trinity College was “anything but normal.”
According to the former undergraduate, Johnson was just three weeks into her freshman year when she said she was sexually assaulted by a varsity athlete. Nine months later, French reported that she was raped by the same student in June 2018.
These events, however, brought the former Trinity students together––now, they are both suing Trinity College, accusing the college of mismanaging their sexual assault reports.
About to start her investigation, French “… was thankfully, through a mutual friend, introduced to Jazmin.” Meeting each other “… was the moment when we realized that this was bigger than the two of us, well bigger than ourselves and that we needed to do something about what we were facing,” Johnson described.
According to the lawsuit filed by the former students, Trinity was notified of Johnson’s assault in September 2017. Two months later, a no-contact order was implemented against her perpetrator, however, the College never began a formal investigation until over a year later after Johnson requested it in October 2018. For Johnson, however, “My entire college experience is tainted by this.”
Bridgett Koestner, a policy manager at Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, when interviewed by FOX 61, said, “I think that’s more common than we think the general public would think that it is for survivors to wait to come forward,” Adding that, “The challenge is an institution can implement these supportive measures as no-contact orders. However, for a student who has recently gone through this trauma or doesn’t understand this process, that may very well to them look like a formal investigation.” In May 2019, 17 months after the assault, action was taken by Trinity during the investigation and the student both French and Johnson reported attacked them was suspended from Trinity for a year.
In a request for comments, Trinity College told FOX 61 via email that they have “no comment during pending litigation,” however they continue to say, “The college supports students’ rights regarding confidentiality, no-contact orders, or requests for an impartial disciplinary investigation, including when to commence formal investigations.
In the report of the lawsuit, Trinity also failed to maintain records of both French and Johnson’s complaints. Part of the lawsuit also comprises Trinity’s failure to fill their Title IX Coordinator position, having at least five Title IX coordinators in the past five years. As previously reported by the Tripod, Trinity appointed Shannon Lynch as Title IX Coordinator in October 2021 which ended a two-year vacancy for the position.
The lawsuit also explains that the student-athlete being accused went through a process of suspension to expulsion a month before French’s graduation in 2021 towards the end of the case. The lawsuit details that the College did not start investigating until 2020, yet French reported her case in 2018.
When asked about their reason to pursue the lawsuit, Johnson said, “Putting survivors first is what we really want. Using our voices as a tool is important because it’s important to shine light on that it doesn’t stop after one night. It builds and it changes you and it’s hard,” French included.
Now graduates of Trinity College, these women are still impacted by their assaults every day. Even being thousands of miles away from each other, in Maine and California, Johnson and French are still bonded by their traumatic experiences on Trinity›s campus. On this bond, French said, “We have so much unconditional love and support for each other that, sorry, that no matter what, no matter how scary, how big or how whatever that it’s going to be OK.”
In light of a trial, French and Johnson told FOX 61 that they are hoping for a trial by jury, though it will be “emotionally challenging for them.”
The news of this lawsuit against Trinity College has also shined a light on other survivors› stories. The Instagram account @ trinsurvivors has over two thousand followers with 271 posts depicting events of sexual assault and abuse that have taken place on Trinity’s campus. Starting in 2020, @trinsurvivors has been “exposing rape and rape culture at Trinity College and uplifting survivors.” Through an anonymous form, anyone who has a story can anonymously tell their story and be heard. Names of assailants are redacted, however, the admin of the account keeps track of fraternity, athletic, and faculty affiliations.
According to their mission statement, @trinsurvivors is “dedicated to ending campus sexual violence through engaging with survivors and uplifting their voices, advocating for policy reform at the institutional level, and empowering other student-led survivor groups to engage in grassroots anti-sexual violence activism on campus.”
The reports detail all different kinds of events and statements from current students to alumni including: “I just wonder why Trinity is so adamant on letting a rapist graduate,” “I told my daughter when she was applying to colleges, ‘anywhere but there,’” and “I heard Dean (female) [REDACTED] say that ‘women here need to be more mentally tough.’”
Reporting on the Trinity administration’s response to a letter they sent via email in July 2020 demanding answers on how the “sexual assault epidemic on campus” was being handled, @trinsurvivors said that Trinity “could not have more clearly demonstrated a lack of understanding of our message and our work.”
Although Trinity has a Policy on Sexual Misconduct within their Faculty Manual, @trinsurvivors states that, “having a Policy on Sexual Misconduct doesn’t make the College immune from institutional failure.”
This policy states that “this file [of misconduct] will be destroyed by the Dean of Faculty three years from the date of a final resolution of the complaint” (Faculty Manual, 67). When the College erases this evidence, it fails to establish patterns of sexual misconduct beyond a three-year period. As @ trinsurvivors describes it, it “erases their [survivors] experience(s) in an attempt to deflect responsibility.”
Within the circle of faculty and staff, @trinsurvivors includes that “the institution has failed to address the fact that one of their tenured professors faces nine different reports of harassment and/or assault.”
From the hundreds of anonymous reports of sexual assault on Trinity’s campus, @trinsurvivors makes it clear that, “survivors should not feel as though their assailants are more valued than they are,” and that “survivors do not trust Trinity’s Title IX process because it has repeatedly failed us and retraumatized us in our most vulnerable moments.”
With @trinsurvivors still fighting for survivors of sexual assault on this campus, The Trinity Tripod stands with the victims of sexual assault here on Trinity’s campus. We believe these events should never happen on a college campus, especially ours.