In early February, a new lawsuit was filed against Baylor University in Texas which contains allegations that state those in charge of the football program not only covered up at least 52 cases of rape but also enabled the behavior.
The First Reports
The first time that the public became aware of a potential issue at the university was in 2015. That year, two Baylor football players, Sam Ukwuachu and Tevin Elliott, were found guilty of sexual assault.
The Elliott Case
Tevin Elliott was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault. His victim, another Baylor student, alleged that he had attacked her not once but twice in the same night at a party in April of 2012. According to her complaint, she was the fifth woman he had attacked over several years.
At his trial, it was revealed that charges were never filed by the first three victims, in part because the police department they reported that attacks to never followed up with interviews. The fourth victim did press charges along with the fifth victim.
Two of his first victims spoke out in court during the trial. One indicated that she hadn’t reported the attack out of fear and a belief that she would be his only victim but now realizes that if she had spoken out, other women may have been spared.
At the end of the trial, the jury sentenced him to 20 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
The Ukwuachu Case
Right around the same time as the Elliot case, the country learned that another Baylor football player had also been arrested and charged with sexual assault.
In this case, Sam Ukwuachu was accused of raping a victim who chose to remain anonymous and was referred to as “Jane Doe”. She reported that on the night of the attack, he had forcibly pulled up her dress and held her down while he raped her. She was a virgin at the time.
She immediately sought help and at the hospital, a medical exam made it clear that the rape had indeed taken place. Doctors found severe vaginal injuries, bleeding, swelling, and friction injuries.
The jury sentenced him to six months in jail and ten years probation.
An Outside Investigation
A few days after Ukwuachu was sentenced, the president of Baylor announced that the school had hired outside counsel to perform an investigation into sexual assault on campus.
Although this might seem like a responsible step for the school to take, the reality is that the president likely only moved forward with the investigation after the press reported how the school had reacted to Ukwuachu being arrested.
It turns out that when the school had been made aware of the rape allegations, they performed just a few interviews and then considered him “cleared”. They never requested the information provided by the rape kit or suspended him from the team. When that information was released it was made clear that there needed to be a further look into the matter.
The outside investigation, which was conducted by Pepper Hamilton, was delivered to the school’s Board of Regents in early May of 2016. They review the information and by the end of the month, the board announced that they had removed Ken Starr as president and that the football coach, Art Briles, has been suspended indefinitely and will likely be terminated. What was then made public was horrifying.
Years Of Horrific Attacks
The report, the findings of which were eventually made public, showed that according to police documents, Baylor school officials and many of the coaches knew about numerous attacks involving many of the players and rarely if ever, did anything to discipline the players or help victims.
In one case, coaches and school officials became involved in discussions with the police after three football players were arrested for an assault at an off-campus event. The school somehow talked the police department into keeping the documents out of the reach of the public due to “the potential high-profile nature of the incident.” The commander went so far as to remove the official report from the computer system and place it in a locked office.
In other instances, the school purposefully put off investigating a report of sexual assault made by two football players for more than two years – even though federal law requires it.
Sexual assault was the only allegations made against football players. Several women had been physically beaten by players, threatened with a gun, and in other cases, the players had been arrested for underage drinking or possession of drugs. Time and time again, no investigation was pursued and no punishment was doled out.
At this time, the school has admitted that they believe that at least 19 football players have had victims allege that they were involved in physical and sexual assaults since 2011. Four of the instances included allegations of gang rape.
Text Messages Released Show Pattern Of Victim Blaming
Despite his claims that he had done nothing wrong, former Head Coach Art Briles recently came under fire after text messages that he had sent over years were made public. Just one example of his callousness occurred in 2013 when a masseuse contacted the coaches and let them know she had hired a lawyer after one of football players exposed himself to her during a massage and requested sexual favors. When informed of the matter via text message, Briles responded, “She a stripper?”
Victim blaming is sadly something that takes place in many sexual assault cases and is often part of a defense team’s tactics. Typically victim blaming comes in the form of questions which try to make it seem like the victim may have had some sort of responsibility for what happened to them. Common examples include:
- Asking a victim what they were wearing, as if that may have “provoked” an attack.
- Saying things like “Didn’t you know they had a bad reputation?”
- Asking how much the victim had to eat or drink.
- Asking if the victim was in a relationship and has a history of cheating on their partner.
The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the victim was nude, drunk, or if they cheated in a previous relationship. If the victim said no or wasn’t in a physical condition to say no, it’s sexual assault.
Texas Rangers Now Involved
After the latest lawsuit, which was filed by a victim who alleges she was gang-raped by several football players and that the school has been covering up instances of sexual assault for years, the Texas Rangers announced that their agency will be taking a look at Baylor’s past actions. What they will be determining is if “further action is warranted” against the school.
The school has responded by saying that they will fully cooperate with the investigation.