Former Life University student says she was harassed at the school
by Noreen Cochran
ncochran@mdjonline.com
February 04, 2013 12:48 AM | 7798 views | 7 7 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Former Life University student Natasha Belser will testify Tuesday against the school and her alleged sexual harasser, Dr. Michael Abbatinozzi.

“I was a student and employee at Life University, and I was being harassed by one of the professors,” she said. “I felt I lost my job after I didn’t want to have relations.”

Belser said she went to Abbatinozzi’s superiors with her complaint of sexual harassment and civil rights violations.

“They said it never happened,” she said.

Belser is black, and Abbatinozzi is white.

The fallout from the alleged incidents has been severe, both to her peace of mind and to her career, Belser said.

“I had to intern in the same department he was working in. You can imagine how uncomfortable I felt,” she said. “I was forced to exit the university. I can’t even find a job.”

The school, through its spokesman Craig Dekshenieks, declined to comment on the case.

According to the school website, Abbatinozzi is a chiropractor who has taught there for 14 years.

He earned a diploma and fellowship in neurology and is certified in motion palpation analysis, network spinal analysis and exercise science.

“He is interested in health and human potential, nutrition, neurology, music and sports,” according to the website. “The processes of learning and self-development are especially meaningful to him. He has a strong belief in the power of the chiropractic adjustment and a ‘less is more’ approach when specific care is given.”

Belser’s attorney, Robert Marx of Marx & Marx, filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the northern district of Georgia, Atlanta division, on April 16.

He said the school did not follow proper procedure for investigating accusations of sexual harassment.

“A statement was given to Provost Brian McCauley. They never contacted the witness (Marie Casimir) because she was no longer employed there. They never contrived to find out if Dr. Abbatinozzi was ‘rubbing up against’ my client,” Marx said.

Through its attorney, Jonathan R. Poole of Strickland Brockington Lewis, the school filed responses Oct. 5.

“Ms. Belser did provide a name similar to Ms. Casimir to the Title IX investigator, Karla Ruppenicker,” he wrote. “No one with that name was either enrolled at Life or working for Life at that time. Consequently, Ms. Ruppenicker did not interview Ms. Casimir.”

Poole said last week the firm could not comment further.

“Life University feels it has very strong defenses to the case, but it is not university policy to talk about student matters publicly,” he said.

Belser, a 32-year-old mother of a preschooler, said in her lawsuit she wants a jury trial.

She said she dreads one aspect of testifying.

“They are going to make me look like an academic failure,” she said.

Belser also seeks a financial award for her $200,000 legal fees, mental anguish and punitive damages.

“It’s not about money. It’s about making sure no one else goes through that, because people take their lives over this. I even thought about it,” she said. “If you don’t tell the story, he’ll do this to someone else.”
Comments
(7)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Cobb Citizen
|
February 05, 2013
If it's not about the money, why is she seeking $200,000? There's the first lie, so it's likely there are some other ones behind that for this case.

To the commentor about color...right! Please, MDJ, explain why that is important to the story. That unneccessary bit of information is absolutely useless to the case or the story unless MDJ is trying to turn this into something bigger like a race issue.
profling
|
February 04, 2013
When you're an academic failure, you find another way to milk the system, right?
theannointedone
|
February 05, 2013
Probably failed her national boards so she dropped out and is looking to pay back her loans somehow.
Betsey Ross
|
February 04, 2013
Baloney it's not about money.
This smells fishy
|
February 05, 2013
How much does she owe on her student loans? Totally not cool if this is just "a test" to see if working the system works. I pray the truth and nothing but the truth comes out ... but I'm feeling very skeptical at this point.
anonymous
|
February 04, 2013
Are the skin colors of these people important enough to put in this story, in their own paragraph no less? Do skin colors make this worthy of front page coverage? Or else, why not report EVERY allegation on Page 1?

Let's get beyond this, please. It makes no difference what color these people are, and I frankly don't want to read about such allegations on the front page of the MDJ.
X-student
|
May 04, 2013
I know the school has settled many lawsuits under the table. They hire teachers that have felonys and many of them are taking advantage of the students. The universit should be responsible for the people they employed. I would not recommend this school to anyone. For the love of god stay away from his school
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides