California Woman Receives Largest Title IX Settlement After Mishandling of Allegations

Imagine you miss your graduation because you are in the hospital. Now imagine you're in the hospital, missing your graduation, because you were raped and the heinous crime was committed by none other than your professor who is speaking at your graduation, the one you are missing. And when you report it to your school, they basically shrug it off. Sounds like a nightmare, right? Well, it is the nightmare Luz Portillo lived on June 14, 2015. And because of it, Portillo just got the largest settlement in Title IX history

According to BuzzFeed, University of California Regents settled with Portillo and her lawyers for $1.15 Million for its mishandling of her sexual assault by a faculty member January 31.  The settlement, according to her lawyers, is the largest or one of the largest Title IX settlement in history. The settlement, however, does not include an admission of negligence on behalf of the university, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The lawsuit was brought against the university because, according to Portillo and her attorneys, they previously ignored other sexual harassment claims the faculty member which enabled him to rape Ms. Portillo. Portillo told BuzzFeed her attacker was known for "inviting students for beers, had one time 'moved a class to the bar' and allegedly dated other students." 

The lawsuit stated that the University knew about the predatory actions of the professor, prior to the assault before but never attempted to stop him, making them culpable. Portillo’s lawyer, John Kristensen, said “Prior to the June 13, 2015 rape of Plaintiff, UCSC was aware… that the Professor was sexually harrassing students in direct violation of its own faculty code.” He also said the University “remained indifferent” to these allegations and did not investigate or reprimand the professor. Portillo maintains this, telling BuzzFeed she received "very little help" from the University but found support in "other women from other schools who went public with their sexual assault."

The accused Latin American professor, Hector Perla Jr., had been accused of both sexual harassment and fraternizing with students before the night of Portillo's attack. On the night Portillo was raped, she alleges Perla took her and another student out for wine tasting, under the guise of celebrating the students' graduation. While there, he made her and the student drink copious amounts of wine, getting them drunk. He subsequently took the pair back to his house, where he made them drink even more and then forced them to have sex. Portillo was not full conscious and therefore unable to consent to any sexual relations. Portillo reported the rape to the school, which she says “minimized what happened.”

UCSC, however, denies this telling of events. In fact, they posted a response to the settlement Monday January 31, 2017. “As soon as these allegations were reported, the campus acted swiftly to address the victim’s claims, which appeared to be clear violations of the UC Santa Cruz policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment.” In the statement, they also claim they took immediate action and that they immediately launched inquiries when warranted.

Perla resigned from his position as assistant professor June 2016 after the University began formal disciplinary hearings regarding the incident. Portillo told BuzzFeed she now plans to go to law school, which she put off because of her assault.