Former student files civil suit against WVSOM for mishandling sexual assault

By Sarah Mansheim

A former student has filed a suit against the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, alleging the school mishandled her 2012 sexual assault case. The complaint was filed in federal court in Beckley on Jan. 23, and alleges WVSOM’s “gross mishandling of her complaint of sexual assault by another student.”

The complaint was filed by Nicole Rex, who no longer lives in the area, and names the school, WVSOM President Michael Adelman, and WVSOM employees Leslie Bicksler, Elaine Soper and Jeffrey Shawver in the suit. Rex is represented by The Marsh Law Firm in New York, NY.

The complaint alleges that the school punished Rex after she reported the assault, failed to collect critical evidence that she had been drugged, imposed a no contact order against her, prohibited her from discussing her case with friends, professors or a therapist, and breached confidentiality when staff members discussed the matter with each other and other students. The complaint continues that the school eventually encouraged the victim to leave WVSOM, leaving them in violation of Title IX requirements, which prohibits any sexual discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity.

While a first-year student at WVSOM, Rex says she was sexually assaulted by another student at an off-campus party. Rex says she was given diazepam, which the complaint calls a “common date rape drug,” causing her to black out for over four hours and wake up to being raped. The party and the rape are alleged to have taken place at the home of the son of an assistant dean of WVSOM.

The complaint calls the school’s handling of her case “woefully inadequate,” alleging the school failed to protect Rex’s privacy or safety. It states that Greenbrier County Magistrate Brenda Campbell issued a two year order of protection against Rex’s alleged rapist, calling his behavior “shocking.” Despite the legal decision that a sexual assault had occurred due to Rex’s “substantial intoxication,” the extent of the perpetrator’s punishment by the school was to complete a five-page paper about why drugs are harmful (he admitted to smoking marijuana at the party) and do 10 hours of community service. He remained at WVSOM, and remained eligible for a letter of recommendation for residency training after graduation. The male student was never indicted in Greenbrier County Court for the alleged sexual assault.

WVSOM was unable to discuss the lawsuit with the Mountain Messenger. Associate Vice President for Administrative Affairs Marilea Butcher said that in addition to not being able to discuss pending litigation, the school is also prevented by law from discussing current or former students.

“We believe WVSOM has acted timely and appropriately in accordance with state and federal laws including Title IX,” she said. “WVSOM doesn’t tolerate sexual assault and discrimination.”

Last May, WVSOM was listed as one of 55 schools in the U.S. who are under federal investigation for the mishandling of sexual assaults under the Title IX law.


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