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Former Stony Brook University student speaks out on alleged sex assault

Sarah Tubbs, 22, of Westchester County, speaks about

Sarah Tubbs, 22, of Westchester County, speaks about her alleged sexual assault last year as a student at Stony Brook University, March 10, 2015. Tubbs and her lawyer, Amy Attias, right, are suing the school for improperly responding to her report. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The Stony Brook University graduate who is suing the school, alleging it improperly responded to her sexual-assault claim last year, said Tuesday she tells other students to "go to an outside law enforcement office and not university police" to report a similar crime.

Sarah Tubbs, 22, a resident of Montrose in Westchester County, said the lack of empathy, the untimely response and the traumatic event of having the university adjudicate the case motivated her to push forward with a federal civil case against the 24,000-student university.

"It's not easy to come out about this. If I survive this system, barely, then no one will have to go through what I did," said Tubbs, speaking at her first news conference, held in her lawyer's office in Ossining.

A campus court, in its initial handling of the case, found in May that her alleged attacker was not responsible. Tubbs appealed that decision in August, and on Friday she was notified via an emailed letter that the same panel upheld its decision.

The letter from university officials said the panel was reconvened because in August it was determined "a significant procedural error occurred during her initial hearing."

Tuesday, the university said in a statement: "We cannot discuss the specifics of this case; what we can add is that in general, when a specific issue needs to be reviewed, much like a remand in a standard court case, the original panel that heard the case is the only fact-finder that can address the issue in the context in which it was heard."

Tubbs filed a lawsuit in federal court in White Plains in January. The suit claims the university violated federal civil-rights guidelines for adjudicating sexual-misconduct cases, and asks for attorney's fees and undetermined monetary damages. The first court date is scheduled March 25.

Newsday is not publishing the name of thealleged assailant, a male Stony Brook student, because he has not been criminally charged.

The alleged incident occurred Jan. 26, 2014, during Tubbs' senior year. She drank alcohol at a campus party, and claims her mixed drink was switched with straight liquor in an attempt to get her more intoxicated, she says in the lawsuit. Later, in the male student's dorm room, she blacked out at several points, the lawsuit says, and though she withdrew her consent for sex, she was forced to perform sex acts.

Two days later, at the urging of friends, Tubbs filed a sexual-assault report with campus police, the lawsuit says. She said she had to prepare her own case and question her alleged assailant at a university disciplinary hearing.

School officials have said they follow federal procedure and give students who report sexual violence the option to confront their alleged attacker or have a university representative "prosecute" the case on their behalf.

Tubbs, who said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was accompanied by a therapy dog yesterdayTuesday.

The process discouraged her from reporting the alleged assault to off-campus law enforcement, she said, because the university's police made her feel as if she wouldn't have a case.

Stony Brook is one of 11 colleges and universities in the state and more than 90 nationwide under investigation for their handling of sexual-violence claims.

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