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UPDATE: OSU officials 'saddened' by claims; Riley says he was committed to 'harassment-free culture'

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Former OSU head coach Mike Riley says he tried to create a 'harassment-free culture' in his college football program. Riley is a defendant in a $2.5 million federal lawsuit by a former OSU student who says she was attacked in 1999 in the same apartment where another woman was assaulted in 1998 by OSU football players.A 34-year-old Hillsboro woman who says she was sexually assaulted 16 years ago by a cousin of an Oregon State University football player in the same apartment where Brenda Tracy was attacked a year earlier is suing the university and former football coach Mike Riley.

Kristin Samuelson, who was an OSU freshman in 1999, is seeking at least $2.5 million in damages. Among her claims, Samuelson said the OSU football program failed to take serious action to stop violence against women by athletes and the people around them. That inaction, she claimed, led to her October 1999 assault.

Steve Clark, OSU vice president for university relations, said that the school disagreed with the lawsuit’s premise and would refute Samuelson’s claim that university actions in the 1998 Brenda Tracy case led to her assault a year later by a young man visiting the campus.

Clark also said the university would challenge any monetary damages claimed by the lawsuit, because the school had no responsibility in the assault.

“Oregon State University and its administrators are greatly saddened to hear of Miss Samuelson’s experience in 1999,” Clark said. “This is a university that has worked very hard to address sexual violence in the past decade or more.

“Even before the Brenda Tracy matter, OSU had been working to support sexual assault survivors. When we hear about matters like this, we are sad. We are very sympathetic to victims of sexual assault.”

Clark said that in the past two decades, OSU administrators have worked to prevent sexual assaults on campus. All students, including athletes, are required to take courses on preventing and reporting sexual violence, he said.

“We know this is not just a problem among college athletes, it’s a problem among all of society,” Clark said.

No court date has been set for the case.

Riley is now the head football coach at the University of Nebraska. By 1999, Riley had left OSU to coach the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

In a statement released Wednesday, Sept. 2, by the University of Nebraska’s Athletic Department, Riley said he was “committed to a harassment-free culture in our football program.”

“Yesterday, I was made aware of a complaint filed in the state of Oregon concerning a previously unknown incident to me in October 1999,” according to Riley’s statement. “I cannot comment on any matter in the legal process. However, I am committed to a harassment-free culture in our football program and I am continually seeking ways to expand our student education program. Sexual assault is a horrendous crime and has no place in our society.”

'Risk of rape by student athletes'

Samuelson claims in a 12-page lawsuit filed Monday, Aug. 31, in U.S. District Court in Eugene, that a young man related to an OSU football player assaulted her at an apartment complex where football players lived while she was incapacitated by a spiked drink. She says university officials compounded the assault by mishandling her case after she reported the incident. The university also failed to offer her any meaningful help after the assault, Samuelson said in the lawsuit, failed to take corrective action or adequately investigate her claims.

Samuelson’s claims are similar to those made last year by Tracy, who told local news reporters that she was sexually assaulted in 1998 by at least four OSU football players. According to her lawsuit, Samuelson did not know until early this year that in 1999 “OSU had actual knowledge of the risk of rape by student athletes and thus that it was foreseeable that female students would be raped in the future, and that OSU had failed to re-evaluate its sexual assault prevention policies and procedures, training, investigation methods, football culture and system for supporting students who had been raped, and had failed to create and implement more protective and supportive and rehabilitative methods, policies, and practices.”

Samuelson’s lawsuit claims her assault happened in the same apartment where Tracy was attacked a year earlier. According to the lawsuit, OSU football coaches and officials were aware of the problems but failed to take action other than a single-game suspension for one of the players involved in Tracy’s attack.

Humiliation and emotional distress

Samuelson’s lawsuit claims she was sexually assaulted on Oct. 9, 1999, after she attended a party in an off-campus apartment. She said that during the party a young man, who told her he was visiting from Portland, gave her an open can of beer. Samuelson said she took two drinks from the beer and “became woozy and fuzzy-headed.”

Samuelson discovered late last year that the young man was the cousin of an OSU football player who was implicated in the 1998 assault on Brenda Tracy in the same apartment.

According to lawsuit, after she vomited outside the party, Samuelson said the young man walked her to a nearby apartment on Northwest 20th Street, “where some OSU football players lived.” Samuelson’s lawsuit claimed the beer was most likely spiked with GHB, a date-rape drug.

Samuelson's lawsuit claims that “when she first regained consciousness, she was in a bedroom with OSU football jerseys and team pictures on the walls. She was being sexually assaulted by the young man who had offered her the beer. She was unable to move her arms or legs to fight back.”

After waking “disoriented, naked and alone, in the same bed, in the same room,” Samuelson left the apartment “as fast as she could.”

Two days later, Samuelson said she reported the assault to an OSU sexual assault counselor at Student Health Services, who was unsupportive and “took no action.” Samuelson did not report the attack to Corvallis police, partly because she felt discouraged by the sexual assault counselor's actions.

Samuelson's lawsuit claimed that the “sexual assault counselor’s words, inaction and blame, caused (her) to feel even more shame, humiliation and emotional distress than she had felt after being assaulted, was dissuaded from seeking any further help from OSU, and consequently did nothing more to hold her perpetrator accountable for his crime.”

Even though she was a good high school student, Samuelson claimed the assault left her distraught, isolated and anxious. She didn’t attend classes and eventually left school after her first year.

Samuelson eventually finished college at Portland State University.

Kevin L. Harden is digital media editor for Pamplin Media Group. 503-546-5167. email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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