School District Claims Student ‘Was Herself Responsible’ For Being Raped

Written by Ian Millhiser

Two teachers at Moraga middle school in northern California sexually abused Kristen Cunnane in the 1990s. One, former P.E. teacher Julie Correa, received an eight year sentence for committing multiple sex crimes against Cunnane. The other, former science teacher Daneil Witters, committed suicide after several students came forward with allegations against him in 1996.

Now an adult, Cunnane filed a lawsuit against the school district that employed these two teachers, seeking compensation for being raped and abused for several years. In response to her legal complaint, the district offered a surprising defense:

Defendants allege that Plaintiff was herself careless and negligent in and about the matters alleged in the complaint, and that said carelessness and negligence on said Plaintiff’s part proximately contributed to the happenings of the incident and to the injuries, loss and damages complained of, if any there were . . . .

[Alternatively, d]efendants allege that Plaintiff was herself responsible for the acts and damages of which she claims herein, and by reason thereof is estopped from obtaining any damages as result thereof.

Just in case this dry legal language is not clear, the school district claims that Cunnane was “herself responsible” for the fact that she was repeatedly sexually abused by her school teachers, beginning at age 12. Or, just in case a jury won’t buy that claim, that she was “careless and negligent” in the matter of her own rape.

To be fair, the most likely explanation for how the school district could have come to make such a claim is more of an indictment of the district’s lawyers than of its administrators. The school district’s legal filing is almost entirely boilerplate language of the kind that careless attorneys might copy and paste into a document without considering its implications — or its likely emotional impact on a child sex abuse victim. The district, however, is not apologizing for its claims. Instead, it released a statement claiming that “this is a significant case that could have serious consequences for our school district. . . . As a result, at this point in the proceedings we have an obligation not to waive any potential legal lines of defense.”

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


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Navpreet K.
Navpreet K.5 years ago

How is that even possible?

Edvanir L.
Edvanir L5 years ago

Where are we? In India? Pakistan?

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

We have to stop allowing this. I mean truly. If a rape victim is blamed TURN IT AROUND on the ones pointing the finger. Rape is NOT the victims fault. I was carjacked and sexually assaulted last august, and the way I was treated by the local police was lacking. They make a victim feel that they didn't do what was necessary to avoid the incident. I had a gun in my face, yet they asked me why didn't i run? Why didn't I run over the pedestrian? why didn't I try to grab the gun? I shit you not. They questioned ever decision I made (or didn't make) and ultimately nothing was done. This system is wrong. It is NOT working, and women need to take a stand

Deb L.
Deb L.5 years ago

The school should be shut down. All the admin and attorneys should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. So much for protecting the offenders and not the victim! What creeps!

Annmari Lundin
Annmari L5 years ago

Some posters here argue that it's somehow suspicious the victim waited 16 years to bring suit. First of all, she was 12 when the molestations began and it has to have been devastating for her to be the target of those two predators. Noone that haven't been in that position can ever fathom how long it will take to overcome such a horrible attack on an individuals trust, body and psyche.
Secondly, the school district's response to the suit is not about the time passed but focusing on the responsibility of the victim, which in itself is a way of siding with the perps to cover the district's responsibilities.
Thirdly, we don't know Ms. Cunnane and know nothing about her life since the sexual abuse took place. Maybe she have tried bringing this to light before. Maybe she needed this time to move forward. We don't know the reasons.
Forth, blaming feminists for abuse of children is not a way to stop anything. Only to draw focus away from why cases like these continue to happen. If it weren't for feminists, a lot of these perps and their actions would have gone on unnoticed. Realize that a lot of feminists have been ridiculed and considered to be insane, for reporting rapes and sexual abuse against children!

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon5 years ago

The response of the district is atrocious. Filing a claim for damages is questionable in view of the fact that the actual abusers were named, one serving a prison term and the other taking their own life in response. I don't understand how a financial claim against the district is called for, or will do anything real to help someone who was abused.

It us terribly sad that this happened to Ms. Cunnane, and equally sad that she has not been able to release the experience in adulthood and find more peace in her life. I wish her that peace whether she is able to be paid for her suffering or not.

I know many people will disagree with me, some violently so, but I have seen too many people suffer more than they should because they refuse to allow themselves to be helped beyond whatever terrible event(s) they suffered as children, and seeking financial damages has done nothing to help any of them.

Jaime Dough
Angelus Silesius5 years ago

Non-consensual sex is never acceptable.

Jan W.
Jan W5 years ago

...and here I thought it was the schools responsibility to keep the children safe. I was also under the impression that 12 year olds aren't usually physically nor emotionally capable of stopping an adult predator.

hmmmm, my bad.

June Lacy
June Lacy5 years ago


James Wilcox
James Wilcox5 years ago

Thanks for the green star Harley. I thought I would get more negative responses for challenging the concept of "rape culture." We really do need to focus on child abuse to end violent behavior in adults.