Child-Rape Case Against Harvard Can Proceed: Judge

Harvard University will have to defend itself against allegations of child rape at the campus now that a Massachusetts judge has reinstated a lawsuit against the Ivy League school.

The lawsuit against a now-dead swim coach dates back four decades, which normally would put any allegations past the statute of limitations. The suit, filed in June 2012 by Stephen Embry, was filed about 15 months too late, one judge previously ruled.

But Middlesex Superior Court Judge Bruce R. Henry disagreed and issued a ruling that the suit can proceed. “Harvard’s motion to dismiss was originally granted solely on the basis of a statute of limitations which no longer applies to similar causes of action,” he said in a nine-page decision.

Embry, 57, alleges in his lawsuit that he was sexually abused in 1969, when he was just 12, by swimming coach Benn Merritt. The rapes occurred more than 100 times over three years — usually at the Harvard pool, according to the suit. Also alleged is that Merritt assaulted at least two other boys and took took nude photographs of Embry. 

In the suit, Embry says Harvard misled him on the statute of limitations and did not disclose a previous claim of abuse made in 1996 against Merritt. That case against Merritt was settled, but not before Merritt killed himself just a few months after the legal action was filed.

Harvard officials agreed that the allegations “can only be described as despicable,” but added: “There is no basis to suggest that the university had any knowledge of these events when they allegedly occurred more than three decades ago,” according to the Boston Globe.

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