She told her Christian college she was raped. Then she was banned from campus

Simon, who as an attorney has handled Title IX cases for more than a decade, said the off-campus carveout implemented by the Trump administration “gives cover to schools that want to sweep sexual assault under the rug, as was done to Mara.”Louk majored in modern music at Visible, a small school with two buildings in downtown Memphis that enrolls just over 100 students. She focused on songwriting and hoped to start a career as a singer-songwriter.

On Nov. 2, 2021, a male classmate, who is not named in the complaint, came over to her apartment to play board games. It was the first time they’d spent time alone together, and that night he sexually assaulted her, the complaint states. 

Louk told an administrator of the alleged assault the next day. She said she shared classes with the student, and she wanted to ensure he wouldn’t harass her on campus.

“I didn’t expect them to actually expel him, but I did trust them enough to get a plan in motion to keep him away from me and other students,” Louk said.

Louk filed a sexual assault report with Memphis police on Nov. 4, law enforcement records show. The following week, an officer called Louk to tell her that they did not have enough evidence to make an arrest, she said. The Memphis Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. 

The accused assailant is not being named because he hasn’t been charged with a crime. Attempts by NBC News to reach him were unsuccessful.

On Nov. 15, a Visible Music College administrator told Louk and her parents that because police declined to charge the accused student, “there’s really nothing we can do at this point, so he will be attending classes like normal,” according to an audio recording of the meeting shared by Simon. Another administrator said if Louk disagreed, she should “take it up with the Memphis Police Department.”

The meeting’s focus then shifted to Louk’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend. According to the complaint, the accused student had told the college that Louk had sex with her ex-boyfriend that semester, and the ex-boyfriend had confirmed it. Louk said it was untrue, but administrators told her she would be disciplined for breaking school rules. 

“It felt like a movie,” Louk said. “It didn’t seem real; it didn’t feel real. I kept thinking this is just a crazy, horrible nightmare, and hopefully one day I’ll wake up from it.”

The college wanted Louk to sign what it called a “pastoral care contract,” confessing to breaking rules on premarital sex. According to a copy of the contract reviewed by NBC News, Louk would be required to finish her degree online, barred from campus and prohibited from talking to other students about her alleged assault.

“We strongly believe that these restrictions will aid in bringing some needed structure, and will ensure that you are able to address the spiritual and emotional issues behind the infringements,” the contract stated.

“I kept thinking this is just a crazy, horrible nightmare, and hopefully one day I’ll wake up from it.”

Mara Louk

On Nov. 24, the college issued a short statement to Louk stating that it would not do its own investigation of the alleged rape because the school did not have jurisdiction over an incident that took place off campus, citing Title IX regulations, according to the complaint. (The college has a dorm, but Louk lived in an apartment.) Louk was outraged, particularly because the school planned to punish her for allegedly having premarital sex off campus. 

“They weren’t going to help me basically because it was off campus,” Louk said, “but with a separate situation that was also off campus, they were going to handle that and punish me for it.”

Many universities give amnesty to students who report sexual assaults that occur while they are breaking school rules, including bans on alcohol and drugs. In 2017, Brigham Young University, a private school backed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, implemented an amnesty policy for students who are victims of or witnesses to sexual assault. BYU enacted the policy after facing criticism for attempting to discipline students who reported sexual assaults for violating honor code rules against premarital sex or being in the bedroom of someone of the opposite sex.

Louk declined to sign the pastoral care contract. She finished the fall semester online and then withdrew, moving home to Iowa. She was nine credits shy of obtaining her bachelor’s degree. 

Back in Iowa, she felt alone, shoved out of the community she had built in college, she said. Had she been allowed to stay, she would have graduated this week.

“Along with what the school did to me being completely illegal,” she said, “it was completely immoral — especially with a school that claims to demonstrate Christian morals and values. It’s the complete opposite of what Jesus would do.”

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