ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A retired University of Alaska Anchorage anthropology professor accused of decades of sexual misconduct is contesting the use of pseudonyms by multiple women who are suing him — a move the plaintiffs say amounts to intimidation.
In recent motions, defendant David Yesner has said restricting the use of full names would "make it difficult for the defense to speak with anyone about the plaintiffs."
He added that some of the women already identified themselves in reports and comments.
"Anonymity is not necessary to preserve privacy and the allegations do not involve matters of a sensitive or highly personal nature," his lawyers contended in a June 26 motion.
The women disagreed, urging the court to allow them to protect their true identities. Neither the university nor its regents have contested the use of pseudonyms.
"This motion by Yesner is nothing more than an intimidation and delay tactic to further humiliate, embarrass and traumatize," the women said in court documents.
Yesner is named in the federal lawsuit along with the University of Alaska System and the University of Alaska Board of Regents.
Victims' rights advocates say the use of pseudonyms to protect the identity of accusers in sexual misconduct cases has been done for at least two decades.
"These women are coming forward with issues and experiences that are deeply personal. They're intimate," said Camille Cooper, vice president of public policy at the nonprofit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. "They're not something you want to see your name associated with in a newspaper. And the defendant would know that."
Seeking the names is often a form of harassment by defendants, she said.
Alaska state law prohibits the use of sexual assault victims' names in court documents, Cooper said.
In a similar case, Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, had contested the use of pseudonyms by some plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct by former psychology department professors. Before the pseudonym issue was resolved, an out-of-court settlement was reached last week.
More than 600 people, including Democratic presidential candidates Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, had called on Dartmouth to end its opposition to the use of pseudonyms.
Attorneys for the Alaska plaintiffs say the resolution of the Dartmouth case gives credence to their clients and any others who have been wronged.
"These students expect to go to class and expect to get an education without being sexually harassed by a professor," plaintiffs' attorney Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey said Friday.
The lawsuit against Yesner was filed in May, following a Title IX report that found accusations by nine women were credible.
The women say they were subjected to sexual harassment, discrimination, exploitation, abuse and retaliation that hurt their academic careers and emotional well-being, while Yesner was promoted despite known instances of misconduct. They say the university failed to follow Title IX requirements following numerous complaints by the women.
The plaintiffs include a woman who says she was using a public shower when the professor entered naked and accosted her.
The woman identified as Jane Doe 6 in the lawsuit said Yesner retaliated after she rejected his advances.
Attempts to reach Yesner for comment were not immediately successful. His attorneys declined to comment, a man answering the phone at the law firm said.
An attorney representing the university and regents did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, a university spokeswoman on Monday said they would not be joining the effort to force the woman to reveal their identities.
"We believe the allegations made by the plaintiffs trigger privacy concerns and involve facts of a private nature," University of Alaska spokeswoman Robbie Graham said in an email to The Associated Press.
Earlier this year, the University of Alaska Anchorage alerted students that Yesner was banned from all properties and events and they should call university police if they see him.
The women were or currently are in counseling over their experiences, according to Brandfield-Harvey. Protecting their identities is crucial to protect them from the fallout of exposure, she said.
"There could be often some social stigmatization that's very prevalent with these types of cases, she said.
The women are seeking a jury trial and reimbursement for tuition and other expenses. The lawsuit also seeks the removal of Yesner's name from diplomas and other university documents.
Associated Press reporter Michael Casey in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.
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