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Stanford Failed to Stop Sexual Predator for Years, Lawsuit Alleges

A lawsuit has accused Stanford University of systematic negligence for failing to stop an alleged sexual predator accused of assaulting numerous women during his time at the university.

The complaint, filed Monday, alleged college staff failed to connect the dots accusing the male student, identified only as "Mr. X," of sexual assaulting four female students over the course of four years.

In many cases, staff implied the alleged victims were themselves to blame, according to the lawsuit, even suggesting that one of them should take a drive to the beach to "deal with her rape."

After years of warnings, Stanford did eventually find Mr. X responsible for several charges of sexual assault, the lawsuit said, banning him from campus and imposing no-contact orders, according to the suit. But the university still awarded him both his bachelor's and master's degrees.

Image: Stanford University's campus is seen from atop Hoover Tower
Stanford University's campus is seen from atop Hoover Tower in May 2014. Beck Diefenbach / REUTERS

"By acting with deliberate indifference to that notice, Stanford subjected the women to sexual violence and deprived those women ... of equal access to educational opportunities," according to the suit, filed by advocacy group Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) on behalf of one of the alleged victims at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

In a statement to NBC News, the ERA added: "Institutions like Stanford need to be held accountable for their failure to recognize the severity of these crimes and to comply with Title IX."

Stanford said in a statement that sexual assault and misconduct were "abhorrent and antithetical to the values of our campus," but suggested it was not able to act because one or more of the victims did not want to pursue formal charges.

"Without the cooperation of victims, regrettably the university is very limited in what it can do," the statement said. "Nonetheless, we provide support to sexual assault survivors and will investigate and adjudicate cases if survivors later change their mind."

The statement added: "We cannot comment on specific facts of this lawsuit due to privacy laws. We have sympathy for the plaintiff in this case, but we will be vigorously defending the lawsuit as we believe that Stanford has acted with appropriate diligence and compassion within the constraints of privacy laws. We will be filing a response in court shortly."

Stanford was the focus of international attention earlier this year after former college swimmer Brock Turner was given six months behind bars after being convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault. He was released after serving three months.

Image: Protesters hold signs to raise awareness of sexual assault at Stanford University
Stanford University saw protests at its commencement ceremony in June over the Brock Turner case. Elijah Nouvelage / REUTERS

The plaintiff in Monday's suit, identified only as "Ms. Doe," started dating Mr. X around Nov. 2013, unaware that he had a history of alleged sexual assault, according to the complaint. It added that after ending the relationship months later, Ms. Doe was sexually assaulted by Mr. X after refusing his demands for oral sex.

She had no idea he was first accused of sexual assault in Sept. 2010, when he was alleged to have repeatedly sexually assaulted another female student, identified as "Ms. A," over the course of several months. The complaint said this culminated in Mr. X strangling Ms. A "nearly to the point of unconsciousness" before whispering "no one will notice when you die" and raping her.

Ms. A told several university officials about the allegations, one of whom noted she was wearing a sweater that revealed part of her shoulder and asked her to consider whether she "placed herself in potentially risky situations because she wanted to appear sexually available," according to the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, another suggested she take steps to "deal with her rape and improve her mental health, such as renting a car and going to a beach."