A woman who says she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student at St. Francis Xavier University has launched a civil lawsuit against the school, alleging it “enabled a predator” and failed to protect her and other students.
The woman, whose name is protected under a publication ban, is one of several students at the Antigonish, N.S. school, accusing former student-athlete Omogbolahan (Teddy) Jegede of sexual assault and harassment.
“St. Francis Xavier University’s (St. FX) failure to take a survivor-centered and trauma-informed approach to sexual violence enabled a predator to sexually harass and assault multiple students, including myself,” she said in a statement.
“The trauma from a sexual assault is devastating.”
Jegede, who played football for the school, is facing four sexual assault charges in relation to the alleged incidents. The lawsuit, filed last week in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, also alleges he assaulted two other female students, though those cases have not proceeded criminally.
The lawsuit alleges the school failed to perform its duties to oversee the care, control, and protection of its students. None of the allegations, either criminal or civil, have been proven in court.
School ‘failed to act’: victim
According to the lawsuit’s statement of claim, the woman said she was assaulted by Jegede following a gathering in her residence room in September 2022.
More than two years prior, the lawsuit alleged, the school was contacted by a student about an alleged sexual assault by Jegede in January 2020.
It also said another female student was sexually assaulted in 2021, and two more in February 2023.
The statement of claim said the plaintiff and other victims had multiple meetings with St. FX in March of this year, and asked that Jegede be removed from campus “to protect the survivors, as well as the St. FX community.”
But while Jegede was banned from his on-campus residence on March 10, he was still allowed to continue to attend on-campus classes and use the school facilities, the lawsuit said.
“St. FX’s position was that, due to Jegede’s contract for housing and a meal plan, and procedural fairness they would not immediately ban him from campus,” it said.
The document also alleged the school “dissuaded the survivors from pursuing criminal charges until its investigation was conducted.”
On March 15, the plaintiff reported the alleged sexual assault to the RCMP. Jegede was banned from campus the following day, the lawsuit stated.
In April, he was charged with four counts of sexual assault for the alleged incidents on Sept. 25, 2022, and Feb. 10 and 11, 2023. He is due back in Antigonish Supreme Court on Sept. 5.
The statement of claim said the school “knew, or ought to have known, that one of its students. and more specifically Jegede, displayed sexually abusive tendencies.”
It said the school was “negligent” and breached its duty of care to protect the plaintiff and other students.
“When faced with all the warning signs of a serial sexual predator on campus St. FX failed to act, leading to further sexual violence,” the woman said in her statement, provided through lawyer Liam O’Reilly.
She said she made the “difficult decision” to withdraw from St. FX and continue her studies elsewhere, breaking a three-generation family tradition of studying at the university.
“I am sorry that I won’t be able to carry that tradition on,” she said.
“Sexual violence on Canadian university campuses is rampant. Universities, including St. FX, need to protect their communities by taking a proactive approach to stop sexual violence. Universities who fail to take a proactive approach are complicit in on-campus sexual violence.”
The school has previously faced criticism for its handling of a 2017 sexual assault case, after a woman reported a sexual assault to the school.
City of Yellowknife ordered to evacuate due to nearby N.W.T. wildfires
N.W.T. wildfires destroy town of Enterprise, threaten Yellowknife: ‘Everything I loved in life is gone’
While the university found the accused responsible, it quietly set aside its decision to suspend him for the next academic year – without notifying her – when he appealed. The woman was devastated to discover him on campus and ended up leaving the university.
That same year, two football players were also accused of sexual assaulting another student.
In both instances, the three men were acquitted in their subsequent criminal cases, but the lawsuit alleged the school “failed to protect sexual abuse survivors, especially those who are victimized by student-athletes, despite repeated sexual abuse incidents and calls for reform and (further) protection.”
In a message to the campus community Wednesday night, provided to Global News by a St. FX spokesperson, acting president and vice-chancellor Amanda Cockshutt said the school wanted to “assure the campus community that our policies and procedures related to sexual violence are survivor-centred and trauma-informed.”
“We follow these policies, procedures, and response protocols, which were developed and reviewed by members of the Sexual Violence Prevention Committee and leading experts in the field,” she said.
“St. FX does not tolerate sexual violence and we remain committed to the safety of our students, faculty, and staff.”
However, the lawsuit argued the “current processes are contrary to a survivor-centered and trauma-informed approach.”
“St. FX’ s approach to sexual abuse accommodates alleged perpetrators, of on-campus sexual abuse, by allowing them to continue their studies on-campus and to access St. FX facilities despite posing a danger to survivors and the broader St. FX community,” it said.
“St. FX failed to immediately ban alleged sexual abuse perpetrators from campus, even when there has been a series or multiple disclosures of sexual abuse against the same perpetrator.”
The school’s sexual violence response policy was developed in 2016 and updated in 2020 following a review from the Canadian Centre for Legal Innovation in Sexual Assault Response.
The policy states that after a student is accused of sexual violence, the school may impose “immediate measures,” which range from no contact/communication orders, to restricting access to the campus, up to and including a ban.
The St. FX spokesperson could not comment further on the allegations outlined in the lawsuit.
“We are limited publicly about what we can say with respect to a filing before the courts,” they said. “We will be able to respond and address further through the court process.”