Former student accuses U.Va. Professor John Casey of sexual assault

Lisa Schievelbein adds her claim to three other cases against Casey

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English Prof. John Casey has not been teaching courses or advising students during the spring 2018 semester while he is being investigated by the University. 

Courtesy University of Virginia

Dr. Lisa Schievelbein, a former University student who graduated in 2001, filed a Title IX claim against English Prof. John Casey in November 2017 with allegations that he sexually assaulted her while she was a student. Schievelbein is the fourth alumna to speak out against Casey, who has not been teaching courses or advising students as of the spring 2018 semester while he is being investigated.

Other complaints of sexual misconduct started to arise against Casey in November, citing encounters as recent as 2014. Emma Eisenberg, a 2014 graduate, alleged Casey “repeatedly touched [her] and other female MFA fiction students on [their] shoulders, buttocks, and lower backs and made sexual and gender-based comments” in her complaint to the University in November 2017. Another former student — who filed a complaint anonymously — alleged Casey “repeatedly made comments about her looks, outfits and sex appeal” in the same investigation. Within a month, a third former student, Sharon Hannigan, filed another complaint against Casey.

Schievelbein took Casey’s creative writing course in her final semester at the University and said Casey asked her to dinner in February or March of 2001 to discuss a few short stories she was writing for a different class.

“In the first couple of months he had kind of positioned himself as a mentor to me … I was really excited for the opportunity,” Schievelbein said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. 

When they went to the dinner, Schievelbein said Casey sexually assaulted her. 

“On the way to the dinner, he asked about my sex life, which put me on guard, but after the dinner … he sexually assaulted me in his car,” Schievelbein said. “He groped my breasts very aggressively and he also digitally penetrated my vagina without my consent. I was in complete shock. It was perhaps the worst moment of my entire life.”

In a statement to The Cavalier Daily through his attorney, Casey said he had a “regrettable but entirely consensual extramarital affair” with Schievelbein while she was no longer a student of his.

“She was 22 years old at the time and freely chose, as did I, to have that relationship,” Casey said in the statement. “I am very sorry that, after almost 20 years, Ms. Schievelbein has suddenly decided to claim otherwise.”

Schievelbein said she tried to avoid Casey, but had multiple non-consensual encounters after the dinner as his class continued. Schievelbein said she did not know what to do about the encounters beyond telling her roommate. 

Schievelbein’s roommate at the time, Julia Fleuret, responded to The Cavalier Daily over email regarding Schievelbein’s allegations. 

“Late one night I was in my room and Lisa came home and found me. She was upset. She had been at an event — possibly dinner? — with the professor, and he had done something distressing,” Fleuret said in a written statement. “I don’t remember if she discusses specifics with me, but it was something sexual, and it was at best unwelcome.”

After 17 years, Schievelbein said she has now come forward with her story to make sure the University has all the details necessary to handle the investigation into Casey. 

“This was literally pre-Facebook, pre-cell phone, pre-almost everything, and it was also pre-sexual assault education at U.Va. and I imagine many other schools,” Schievelbein said. “I think compared to what students receive nowadays in terms of education and learning about this stuff, it just wasn’t really on my radar back then.” 

When asked for comment on the allegations against Casey, University Deputy Spokesperson Wesley Hester confirmed the University is investigating the claims.  

“The University takes seriously any report of sexual harassment and is investigating this matter in accordance with its applicable policy and procedures,” Hester said in an email. 

In a previous email statement to The Daily Progress, Casey said “it would be premature” for him to comment on the matter while the investigation is still underway.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English, Schievelbein moved to New York, where she now works in clinical psychology. 

“My job in the past six months has been working with women who are coming out as rape victims for the first time,” Schievelbein said. “This all kind of charged me up to remember my own trauma, what I went through with John Casey.” 

Schievelbein said she decided to look up Casey in late November and discovered the other allegations of assault against him.

“I just Googled his name just on impulse and I was absolutely shocked to see the allegations from several creative writing students,” Schievelbein said. “I came forward that same night because … I thought, I need to add my voice and tell the truth so that U.Va. understands the full impact of what this man has done.”

According to Schievelbein, she had earlier decided to keep her story to herself since Casey told her she would be the last of his “affairs” — the term she said he used to refer to his relations with his students. 

“When I was in John Casey’s class, when he was sexually abusing me, he had told me that I was his third affair with a student … but that I would be the last one because —  I remember this as a direct quote —  ‘I’m getting too old for students,’” Schievelbein said. “I felt less of a duty to come forward to protect other people … but I guess in seeing the allegations by women in the last couple years that was part of my shock in that clearly my story still matters.”

After she filed her own Title IX complaint, Schievelbein said she was stunned to find out how many people were aware of Casey’s alleged inappropriate behavior.

“I’ve seen, ‘Oh yeah, this has been an open secret for years’ or ‘We all knew that he was this way,’” Schievelbein said. “It really pains me to see things like this because I didn’t know, I had no idea that I could not trust this person and if people had seen something and said something I might have been spared one of the deepest pains of my life.”

Schievelbein said she encourages members of the University community to speak out when they observe sexual assault.

“My wish is for everyone at U.Va., but particularly faculty who observe their peers and see things that don’t seem right, to actually come forward,” Schievelbein said. “It’s not okay to observe inappropriate behavior and look the other way. I hope that people will take their duties to students even more seriously than they have in the past.”

Correction: This article originally stated Casey invited Schievelbein to dinner to discuss short stories she wrote for his class. Schievelbein said Casey invited her to discuss short stories she wrote for a different class, not taught by Casey. 

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