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Meanwhile, at least one other student reported John for assault or harassment, and Mc Caskill met with John to talk about that case. Melissa says she later found out — from a friend and via a text from John himself — that Mc Caskill had mentioned her name during the meeting with John.

Frustrated and angry, she sent Mc Caskill an email alleging a violation of her confidentiality and criticizing the two-month delay, and copied several senior university officials.

That month, Melissa sent Mc Caskill an email describing John’s behavior, including the sexual comments, and asked if Mc Caskill would be available to meet with her in person the next day. “The matter that you are referring to has been brought to my attention.” By that time, Melissa says, John’s behavior had escalated: He was bullying her at every opportunity — in class and on Facebook — and messaging her as late as 1 a.m., asking to come over to her place.

When Mc Caskill met with her, Melissa says, she described the abuse, while insisting that her anonymity be maintained. “I even asked to leave out blind-related details because it would be obvious [to John] that it was me.” John was popular in their program, and she feared his friends would retaliate against her.

Their stories, experts say, offer a window into the dire need for all universities to do a better job of tackling sexual assault among students with disabilities, and into the possible legal ramifications of their inaction.

Over the next year, John’s behavior continued, but because he and Melissa were a part of the same small academic program, avoiding him wasn’t an option.

As the nation’s only liberal-arts institution specifically designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, Gallaudet is undoubtedly unique.

So in August 2012, she reported John’s actions to the Office of Student Conduct, which suggested she also contact the university’s Title IX coordinator, Sharrell Mc Caskill, because of the sexual nature of her complaint.

Every university that receives federal funding is required to designate a Title IX coordinator, whose responsibilities include promptly investigating or overseeing the investigation into complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and domestic or dating violence. “I apologize that I may have overlooked your email,” Mc Caskill’s response read.

In a subsequent message, she attached a screenshot of John’s text message.

Citing confidentiality obligations, Gallaudet declined to comment about any individual claims involving students, and Mc Caskill did not respond to requests for comment.

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