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Lawsuit filed over rape allegations at Univ. of Iowa fraternity

Protest at Fiji house in Iowa City.
Protest at Fiji house in Iowa City.
Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 1:32 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 2:59 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A University of Iowa student has filed a lawsuit claiming two members of a fraternity raped her last year and alleging it was a planned and coordinated effort by other fraternity members.

The allegations first published in an online petition earlier this year demanding criminal charges and for the Phil Gamma Delta fraternity to be kicked off campus sparked protests outside the Fiji - or Phi Gamma Delta - fraternity house and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office. Despite a search warrant showing Iowa City Police had photographic evidence in the case, no charges have been filed against the two men. Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness has told KCRG-TV9 that her office is still pursuing criminal charges in the matter.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, attorneys for Makena Solberg claim two Fiji members raped her while she was intoxicated during a party at Fiji in September 2020. The lawsuit claims the two men “planned and conspired to lure Plaintiff into one of their bedrooms at the residence” and raped her. It goes on to say the men “filmed or photographed the sexual activity without Plaintiff’s consent and while she was in an intoxicated, physically impaired, and physically vulnerable state of which Defendants Steffen and Meloan were aware or should have been aware.” It says the two men then widely shared those videos and photographs among the frat members and others.

The lawsuit says Solberg had no memory of what happened for days after until a friend made her aware of the photographs and video that were circulating.

The lawsuit claims other members of Fiji, including officers of the fraternity, later instructed members who had received the photographs and video to delete the files and “to not report the incident, but instead to maintain silence and solidarity on the matter.” It goes on to claim the “sexual assault took place as a coordinated and planned effort by fraternity members, including but not limited to Defendant”, but it does not name any other members specifically.

The lawsuit also alleges Fiji members and officers “knew or should have known of prior bad acts of Defendants and failed to take appropriate preventative actions.”

The lawsuit names both the two members as well as the University of Iowa chapter and the national Fiji organization. It does not give a specific demand for damages other than “damages in an amount that will satisfactorily punish Defendants and provide future deterrence to others.”

Makena Solberg sat down with KCRG-TV9′s Beth Malicki to speak about the lawsuit and allegations. Portions of that interview with air Tuesday on the KCRG-TV9 News at 6 and 10.

The two men named in the lawsuit, the University of Iowa Fiji House and the national Fiji chapter could not be reached for comment, despite multiple attempts. An attorney was not immediately listed for the defendants.

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