“Lawsuit filed by former, current UT students claims Austin, Travis County fail sexual assault victims”
On Monday, a federal class action lawsuit was filed by three women who said the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the Austin Police Department violated their rights and discriminated on the basis of gender when handling their sexual assault cases.
“(The women are) coming forward for a second, third, sometimes fourth time in this lawsuit,” said Jennifer Ecklund, attorney for the plaintiffs. “They came forward once to the police, they worked with the DA’s office to try and see their cases through, some of them talked with the media to try and raise attention to what’s going on, and this is sort of their last avenue for redress, it’s their last chance to see some justice done.”
Two of the plaintiffs were UT students at the time of their sexual assaults in 2008 and 2015, according to the lawsuit. In 2015, one of the women withdrew from the University after her attack, which occurred the same year, and is now a current student after re-enrolling.
The lawsuit names the City of Austin, Travis County and five individuals — Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, former Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, former Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez — as its defendants.
“In terms of how the DA’s office functions is that women’s testimony is not viewed as enough to substantiate heinous assaults,” Ecklund said. “I think the most consistent policies and practices … result in blaming of the victim as opposed to holding the perpetrators accountable.”