SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) A man who accuses a former university administrator of groping him testified Wednesday he didn’t tell anyone about it for several years partly out of fear he’d be perceived as gay.
The accuser, who now works as a college coach, is among three former students who filed a civil rights lawsuit against Isaac Sanders, former East Stroudsburg University’s vice president of advancement. The lawsuit accuses Sanders of molestation or unwanted sexual touching while the plaintiffs were students at the Pennsylvania university.
Sanders was fired six years ago following an investigation by the agency that oversees Pennsylvania’s state university system. He has consistently denied wrongdoing and has never been charged with a crime.
The man who says Sanders groped him told a jury in federal court that he was raised in a city neighborhood where it wasn’t acceptable to report crime.
”It’s not socially acceptable to report a murder, a burglary, any kind of crime in your neighborhood,” said the man, adding he didn’t agree with it. ”And if these things are unacceptable, how am I going to tell someone a man touched me?”
He also said he didn’t want to be perceived as vulnerable or weak and feared he’d have to deal with rumors he had invited Sanders’ advances or liked them.
”It’s not my cup of tea,” he said. ”It’s not what I do.”
The man said he didn’t trust campus officials, anyway, believing they were aware Sanders was taking advantage of students.
The students’ 2009 lawsuit named top East Stroudsburg University administrators as defendants along with Sanders, alleging they knew about the abuse but failed to stop it. A judge later dismissed them from the case.
The other two accusers testified earlier in the trial that Sanders used his high-powered job to offer them scholarships, gifts and campus jobs, then assaulted them.
One of the men told the jury that Sanders grabbed him by the head and forced him to give Sanders oral sex while they were in Sanders’ SUV, and he alleged several other acts of forced oral sex.
His graphic account prompted skepticism from Sanders’ attorney, who asked the man, who was in his early 20s at the time, why he would keep going back for more abuse.
Defense attorney Harry Coleman also noted the accuser had failed to report Sanders to the university.
”There really was nothing to report, was there?” Coleman asked the man.
The man insisted he was being honest about what had happened to him. He explained he repeatedly allowed himself to be alone in Sanders’ presence – and didn’t tell anyone about the abuse – partly because he was still dealing with the effects of severe childhood sexual abuse and ”I didn’t have enough respect for myself at that time” and partly because Sanders was a powerful figure on campus.
Like the earlier accusers, the college coach said he had looked to Sanders as a mentor. He said he grew up with an alcoholic mother and a father who was in and out of jail and he saw someone to emulate in Sanders.
”I hadn’t had any black males in my life who had achieved anything,” he said.
But he said Sanders betrayed him.
The man described one 2006 meeting in which the student was distraught because he’d failed his last class before graduation. He alleged that Sanders groped him on the inner thigh, near his genitals, and told him he could trust Sanders and that Sanders could make things happen for him.
On another occasion, the accuser said, he was sitting down when Sanders came up behind him, rubbed his back and pressed his genitals against the man’s shoulder. He said Sanders also once texted him that he was standing on a hotel balcony, wearing nothing but a towel and thinking about him.
”I was hurt because he let me down,” the accuser said.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually abused.