School of Law Alumna Accuses Seattle U of Failure to Support Victims of Abuse  


Faye White

The student center on a cloudy morning.

Priscilla Moreno, Seattle University School of Law alumna, has come forward to accuse Seattle U of not taking the proper precautions to protect her from her abuser. She recounted her experience with university administration, stating that they did not do enough to keep her safe, jeopardizing her physical and mental well-being.

After experiencing domestic abuse for months, Moreno reached out to Seattle U. She was unsure of what steps she should take in an effort to seek protection from her abuser Redwolf Pope. She states that she felt dismissed, ridiculed and undervalued in the coming months as the situation unfolded between Pope, the School of Law and university administration, a reoccurring failure of the university to effectively fight sexual abuse.

After fleeing Seattle in 2014 after graduating, Moreno says she spent many years dealing with the ridicule that followed her, and asserts that Pope had slandered her name to the Seattle U community and her connections in the law field. 

When Pope was convicted of rape and voyeurism in New Mexico December 2020, Moreno finally felt she had gained the credibility she sought in order to come forward with her story.

“I am not trying to make this only about myself, or about what my experience with a few people in administration was like,” Moreno said. “This is not the only bad system that shelters abusers from consequences. This needs to be about all victims of domestic abuse getting the safety that they need from the institution, and getting restitution for those like me that Seattle U failed.” 

Moreno met Pope in 2011 at Seattle U’s School of Law, where they soon began dating. Pope was a well-known student and activist in Seattle; a result of his work on behalf of the Native American community. Moreno alleges that what began as a flattering relationship soon evolved into a toxic cycle of abuse from Pope.

In February 2013, Moreno left Pope, packing up her things and escaping his apartment. She immediately went to the Seattle U Department of Public Safety for protection from continued violence. 

After going to both the Department of Public Safety and the School of Law Associate Dean, Donna Deming, she was given a no-contact order in February 2013. She was not referred to the Dean of Students office or the Title IX coordinator, but was told to contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for additional support.  

According to current Dean of Students James Willette, when a student reports an alleged domestic violence situation to his office, he then notifies the Office of Institutional Equity and the student is provided with information about resources and reporting options, including the Title IX office. In some situations, the university may administer an interim suspension to separate the accused student from the university while the investigation is completed. 

Moreno explained that this was not the case for her, and no one told her that she could have claimed a Title IX violation at the time, something she thinks would have made the university take her case more seriously.

Mitchel Wilson, another 2014 Seattle U School of Law alumni and peer of Moreno, corroborated that Moreno told him about the events of Pope’s abuse at the time, and the lack of institutional support Moreno experienced. 

“I knew something was wrong and as we started talking, she told me about how Pope had thrown her into a wall, how he had choked her and how he had clawed his own face and told people she had attacked him,” Wilson said. “She said that no one would listen to her and believe her story.”

Moreno recounted that she went to the hospital after escaping Pope’s apartment. The visit ended in an arrest from the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Before the SPD could identify the abuser in the domestic violence dispute, Moreno was arrested but all charges were dropped. 

While no-contact orders were put in place between Moreno and Pope, Moreno explained how Pope continued abusing her through third party contact. Moreno alleged that he sent emails of her mugshot to other students in an effort to damage her on-campus reputation. 

Moreno first sensed that she was being treated unfairly by university administration when she went to Deming and the School of Law separated itself from the situation, stating that this was a “university level problem.”

In March 2013, Moreno filed a domestic violence protection order in King County. There were a total of 21 court hearings while classes were ongoing in fall 2013 as Pope fought her in court. Moreno continued to feel unsafe, as her and Pope were still attending the same classes together, allowing Pope to continue to harass Moreno while at Seattle U. 

Following continued harassment from Pope, Moreno’s friends scheduled meetings with the then Dean of Students at Seattle U, Derrell Goodwin. 

Moreno stated that she often heard that her experience at the School of Law was an “unprecedented situation” as both parties were law students. While she was told that she was not being investigated after asking for the status of her case, she was constantly kept on her toes about potential allegations towards her because of her arrest earlier in the year. 

“I never saw any attempt by the school administration to put an end to the continued harassment that I faced,” Moreno said. “When I brought this information to Dean Goodwin he was very sympathetic to my abusers actions, excusing the violations of our no-contact order as something that my abuser didn’t know about, but when I brought up the harassment that my friends and family were facing, he threatened me with disciplinary actions for using them as third party contacts.”

As Moreno was passed up to faculty in Student Development, she was discouraged and felt she would never receive support or safety measures. She stated that each person from Goodwin to Michelle Murray, then Vice President of Student Development, to Jacob Diaz, then President of Student Development, had heard the version of the story that favored Pope. 

Moreno alleges that Goodwin told her that the domestic violence dispute sounded like a “he said, she said” situation to which Moreno replied “no, I was beaten, choked and dragged.” Murray then passed Moreno up to her boss Jacob Diaz. Moreno states that he was also not informed of the extent of the situation, something that she alleges was an institutional failure to take her abuse seriously.

The Spectator was unable to contact Murray and Diaz for comment. When called, Goodwin  declined to speak on the matter. 

During a court hearing for a domestic violence protection order April 18, 2013, Moreno was shocked to hear and receive a letter of good character from President Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J. issued on behalf of Pope. 

This is the letter used by Pope in his domestic violence protection order against Moreno written by President Sundborg. (Image via Priscilla Moreno)

Following the hearing, Moreno and her father emailed Sundborg expressing their discontent and requesting to meet with him. Moreno alleged that Sundborg claimed he could not meet with her or Pope after learning of the complexities of the situation and referred her to Deming. 

Frustrated with the responses she received from Goodwin, Deming and Sundborg, Moreno continued reaching out to administration. Soon after emailing Murray and stating that she wanted to file an ethics complaint against Seattle U administration, a meeting was scheduled between Moreno, Sundborg and Murray.

In this meeting, Moreno alleges that Sundborg asked if he could provide her with a letter in an attempt to make amends. Moreno felt that the document would not cause further harm, and accepted the offer. Sundborg later wrote a letter May 16, 2014, clarifying the intent of his letter and his lack of understanding of the context at the time. 

This is the letter President Sundborg wrote for Priscilla Moreno to clarify his intent. (Image via Dean Forbes)

“[Sundborg] was not apologetic whatsoever,” Moreno alleged. “In our meeting he stated he was approached for the letter twice, once for the BAR character reference and later for a personal legal matter. Then he told me that because he had written the letter already he needed to stand by it. I found it to be very disturbing that he thought that he had to stand by what he said no matter what new information about the abuse I faced came out.”

The Spectator reached out to Sundborg for comment. Seattle U Media Relations Specialist Dean Forbes provided the following statement on Sundborg’s behalf:

“Federal privacy laws prevent the university from discussing cases involving students from their time enrolled at Seattle U, including details involving specific allegations. That should not be construed as either affirming or questioning the accuracy of any details, nor should it take away from the dedicated work of a very capable team at Seattle U that is strongly committed to following best practices and providing compassionate care and support for all survivors.”

Moreno initially spoke to a reporter at Capitol Hill Seattle, hoping Seattle U would acknowledge the part she alleges they played in sheltering Pope from consequences involving her case and allowing him to continue to harass her while studying at the university. 

In an emailed statement to The Spectator, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Equity and Title IX Coordinator Andrea Katahira stated that the current Sexual Offenses, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking Policy was implemented in 2015 and the Policy for Complying with the Title IX Regulations/Title IX Final Rule Regarding Formal Complaints of Sexual Harassment was implemented in August 2020.

“There are no current plans to make changes to our existing processes; however, we anticipate the U.S. Department of Education, now under the Biden administration, will modify the current Final Rule under Title IX, which will in turn very likely lead to changes in our processes,”  Katahira wrote.

These changes were not in place during Moreno’s time at Seattle U. Despite filing an official Title IX complaint after graduating, an investigation was started but she did not receive a follow up.

Moreno now plans on advocating for policy change at Seattle U, and proposes the creation of an impartial, independent agency to investigate claims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. 

“The heart of the issue lies with the fact that I believe that what happened to me has happened since, and will happen again based on the fact that the attitude of administration hasn’t changed… and more importantly the agenda of the school is the same, to protect their own reputation over the safety of students,” Moreno said.