Former Student Files Lawsuit Against Professor And University, Shares Story

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Former Student Files Lawsuit Against Professor And University, Shares Story

Sarah Willson, Staff Writer

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A former Central Connecticut student who alleged sexual misconduct against theater professor Thomas Delventhal has filed a lawsuit against him and the university, according to the student and a federal court petition.

According to the lawsuit from Dec. 9, Brooke Emigh — who withdrew from CCSU in January of 2019 — was “the subject of severe and pervasive sexual harassment and emotional abuse by Theatre Department Professor Thomas Delventhal,” who is in the process of appealing his termination from May.

Emigh said she is pursuing the lawsuit against CCSU for the institutions “failure to protect her” and against Delventhal for negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery. She said is filing the lawsuit in hopes to be an inspiration to all other survivors.

“This is a case about an entire institution’s deliberate indifference and abject failure to protect students like [Emigh] from calculated sexual harassment and emotional abuse by a former Faculty Member Thomas Delventhal, in violation of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972,” attorney Maria Garcia-Quintner wrote in the lawsuit.

The incidents began when Emigh, then a theater student, was cast in her first production. The suit said that Delventhal “used rehearsing of the play to become close to and lure [Emigh]” and that he scheduled one-on-one rehearsals and meetings during which he nonconsensually touched, hugged, kissed her and asked personal questions.

The suit alleges that Delventhal would try to have Emigh discuss “traumatic” events from her past in an attempt to get close and try to “comfort” her, which included touching her on her thigh. Delventhal would also touch Emigh on the buttocks using various objects such as rolled up pieces of paper or theatre props, the lawsuit continues.

In a January 2019 interview with The Recorder, Emigh recalled a time during her “Stage Combat” class when Delventhal “came up next to [her] and hit [her] butt with a sword and laughed about it.”

In the same interview, she had at least 10 interactions with Delventhal where he had been “very physically touchy” and gave her “many hugs, back massages and forehead kisses” without consent.

The suit also alleged that Delventhal invited Emigh over to his house if she got “lonely,” called her “beautiful” and “irresistible” and told her that any guy would be lucky to date her.

Emigh said Delventhal would try to manipulate her and often tell her things like “I’m the only one who can help you” and that “other people are abusing you.”

Others, the lawsuit says, were harassed by Delventhal when he asked students to “perform warmups and stretches with other students in sexual positions.”

In an interview on Sunday, Emigh said she left CCSU last winter because of “everything that happened” and that she changed her major and is currently taking online classes because it is “too triggering” to be in a classroom.

“The trauma associated with [everything] sent me into a depressed state,” Emigh said. “I had to go inpatient in the hospital to protect myself and then I have been in an intensive outpatient program since June to help me as well.”

Emigh said she moved back home to Idaho after withdrawing from the university and developed an eating disorder, severe depression and began self-harming as a result of the trauma she faced.

“I was planning how I would end my life,” Emigh said. “I have not been diagnosed with suicide ideation, an eating disorder, severe depression or severe anxiety before in my life until after what happened at CCSU.”

Emigh’s lawsuit comes almost one year after the university released Shipman & Goodwin’s investigative report into sexual misconduct allegations in the Theater Department that found Delventhal and former professor Joshua Perlstein had “more than likely engaged in sexual misconduct.”

After allegations were published, Emigh said Delventhal “became erratic, at times angry and retaliatory” against her.

“This harassment is not okay and I don’t want anyone else to go through it. It’s my fight to keep Delventhal out of the school so he doesn’t do this again,” Emigh said. “Now that my mind is better, I don’t want to see others get harassed again.”

CCSU’s Media and Communications Officer Janice Palmer said the university is aware of the lawsuit.

Ana Kelly, who is one of many former students that came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against former theater professor Joshua Perlstein, said she understands how filing the suit is important for closure and that she stands with Emigh “100 percent.”

Delventhal could not be reached for comment.