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Rape survivor sues Georgetown College, alleges lack of support and inadequate security

Ava Stokes
Posted at 4:25 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 20:59:03-04

(LEX 18) — In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, rape survivor Ava Stokes accused Georgetown College, her volleyball coach, and multiple college administrators of attempting to silence her after the attack, and failure to provide security that would’ve prevented the attack.

Cody Arnett, 36, was convicted in Julyof the 2018 rape and the jury recommended he serve life in prison.

After Arnett's conviction, Stokes spoke publicly for the first time about the 2018 attack withan emotional social media postand an interview with LEX 18. She said that she wanted to come forward and show other survivors of sexual assault that they should be proud of the fact they survived.

Before the lawsuit was filed, Stokes had been critical of how Georgetown College handled the aftermath of the attack.

"From the minute that it happened until the minute I was finally able to say my piece and have my voice heard, they wanted it to be swept under the rug," Stokes told LEX 18 in an interview this summer.

After Stokes' assault, representatives of the college created a hostile environment, harassed Stokes, and "attempted to silence her in order to cover up her story," the lawsuit alleges.

The hostile environment also prevented Stokes from "enjoying her equal right to equal athletic and educational opportunities," the lawsuit alleges.

"They needed to support me, period. Not support me more, because they weren't supporting me at all," Stokes said of the college this summer. "When I did recruiting when I first got there, they looked my parents in the face and said that they would take care of me, that they would look after me, and that they would support me."

The lawsuit also accuses the university of failing to provide necessary safety measures at the campus apartments. Measures like automatic locks, safety patrols, and self-closing door hinges should’ve been in place before the attack, the lawsuit states.

"The intruder on Defendant Georgetown College's campus was able to stalk potential victims, attempt to enter multiple buildings, and eventually break-in to a women's dormitory room and arm himself with a knife to commit an act of horrific sexual violence of a period of multiple hours without Defendant Georgetown College or its security ever being alarmed to his presence," the lawsuit states. "After fearing for her life for over two hours while suffering an unthinkable and vicious attack, Plaintiff was only able to escape the ordeal by managing to grab the intruder’s knife and stabbing him, eventually causing him to flee."

In a statement made in August, three years after the attack, the college wrote that it had implemented new safety measures. The lawsuit alleges that the statement and improvements show that the college knew of the deficiencies and highlights how "easily and affordably" the improvements could've been made.

Georgetown College previously failed to inform students, parents, and potential students of instances of crime on campus, the lawsuit alleges. Hambrick Village, the campus apartment where the attack occurred, had had a “longstanding problem” with trespassing, theft, and sexual harassment, and assault, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit calls for a jury trial and for Stokes to be awarded compensatory and punitive damages.

Georgetown College released the following statement after the lawsuit was filed Wednesday:

"We are aware of the complaint that was filed earlier today, and we have referred it to our attorneys for a response in accordance with the court's rules. Since the matter is now pending in court, we will have no further comment."