Woman who alleged gang rape by Baylor football players files lawsuit
A former Baylor volleyball player who says she was gang-raped by several football players in 2012 filed a federal Title IX lawsuit against the university on Tuesday, in which she and her attorneys contradict several statements Baylor's administration had previously issued about her alleged assault.
The woman's alleged assault was a focal point during an investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton into how Baylor handled allegations of sexual assault and other physical violence committed by students. The investigation also examined what former Baylor football coach Art Briles and athletics director Ian McCaw knew about her alleged gang rape.
The woman's lawsuit asserts that the members of the Baylor football team had "already developed a system of hazing their freshman recruits by having them bring or invite freshman females to house parties hosted by members of the football team. At these parties, the girls would be drugged and gang raped, or in the words of the football players, 'trains' would be run on the girls."
The lawsuit alleges that the gang rapes were a "bonding" experience for the players and that photographs and videotapes of the "semi-conscious" girls were taken during the assaults and "circulated amongst the football players."
The lawsuit says a 21-second videotape of two female Baylor students being gang-raped by several football players circulated among the team.
"Simply put, Baylor football under Briles had run wild, in more ways than one, and Baylor was doing nothing to stop it," the lawsuit says.
"The alleged incident outlined in the court filing occurred more than five years ago, and Baylor University has been in conversations with the victim's legal counsel for many months in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution," a Baylor spokesman said in a statement Wednesday. "Baylor has since initiated and structurally completed 105 wide-ranging recommendations in response to issues of sexual violence within our campus community, in addition to making changes within the university and athletics leadership and investing significantly in student support services."
The woman's complaint is the seventh federal Title IX lawsuit, involving 15 women, filed against Baylor.
"As this case proceeds, Baylor maintains its ability to present facts -- as available to the University -- in response to the allegations contained in the legal filing. The University's response in no way changes Baylor's position that any assault involving members of our campus community is reprehensible and inexcusable," the Baylor spokesman said. "Baylor remains committed to eliminating all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination within our campus community."
The woman, identified only as Jane Doe and a former Baylor volleyball player in the lawsuit, said that neither she nor her parents "ever indicated that they did not want to report the assault to judicial affairs or to police," which contradicts statements from Baylor and other sources who indicated that the woman refused to pursue her case and simply wanted to leave Baylor.
"Instead, plaintiff and her parents were told that it was too late for criminal charges and they begged plaintiff's head coach and the assistant volleyball coach to tell them what, if anything, Baylor could do about the assault," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit details her alleged assault on Feb. 11, 2012, when she went to an off-campus party at a football player's apartment. The woman said she was drinking and believes she was drugged. At the party, the woman's friend reported seeing one football player trying to pull her into a bathroom several times. Another player, whose sexual advances the woman had turned down the day before, kept grabbing at her all night despite her repeatedly telling him "no," the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, once the woman's friends left, a football player picked her up, put her in his vehicle and drove her to another location, where at least four football players "brutally gang raped" her.
"Plaintiff remembers lying on her back, unable to move and staring at glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling as the football players took turns raping her," the lawsuit says. "Following the gang rape, plaintiff remembers hearing the players yell, 'Grab her phone! Delete my numbers and texts!'"
"During our investigation, we found one eyewitness who saw her being carried up into an apartment," the woman's attorney, Muhammad Aziz of Houston, told ESPN on Wednesday. "After the incident, people told her what happened. At that point, she didn't know exactly how many people were involved."
In the aftermath of the alleged assault, the lawsuit states, several Baylor football players subjected her to "verbal abuse and public humiliation" and sent several text messages to her saying that the night's events had been consensual and that she "wanted it," followed by taunts that the players had nude photographs of her. According to the lawsuit, she became a further subject of rumors and disparaging comments involving football players "riding train" -- a term used when multiple men take turns having sex with the same woman, which was a common allegation involving Baylor football players.
The lawsuit also states that the woman's mother contacted an assistant football coach in July 2012, but the lawsuit did not name the coach; Baylor officials have repeatedly indicated that April 2013 was the first known report of her alleged gang rape, when the woman told then-head volleyball coach Jim Barnes. The lawsuit states, however, that when the woman's mother met with the assistant football coach in 2012, she did not reveal her daughter's name but gave the coach the names of the football players.
"Plaintiff's mother asked the assistant football coach what, if anything, Baylor could do about the assault," the lawsuit says. "Not surprisingly, plaintiff's mother never heard from the assistant football coach again."
According to a legal filing by members of the Baylor board of regents in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this year, when the woman told Barnes what happened in April 2013, he reported it to Briles and McCaw. It states that when Barnes showed Briles the paper with the players' names on it, he studied the names and said, "Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?"
Neither one of them reported it to judicial affairs either, the regents said. According to their report, McCaw told Barnes that it was up to the woman to take action and if she didn't press charges, there was nothing else they could do. The woman's lawsuit states that information was "not provided to plaintiff or her parents." According to the regents' filing, McCaw also suggested Barnes ask the woman to call Baylor's general counsel's office. "When the coach relayed the number to the student-athlete and her mother, they declined to make the call," it states. Although not addressed in the lawsuit, the woman's attorney told ESPN that he did not believe that number was ever provided.
A statement was issued on McCaw's behalf on Wednesday, reiterating that the woman did not want to report her assault to police.
"It is important to note that at the time Baylor did not have a Title IX office, did not provide Title IX education or have policies or procedures in place for handling and reporting allegations of sexual assault," the statement reads. "Mr. McCaw was faced with a situation in which he desired to honor the wishes of the alleged victim, who, according to her head coach, was unwilling to speak to the police.
"The head coach of the alleged victim asked Mr. McCaw for guidance as to where he should go with the information he had obtained in 2013 about the incident. Mr. McCaw directed the victim's coach to Baylor's Office of Judicial Affairs, which handles student conduct matters. Mr. McCaw believed that the Office of Judicial Affairs was the appropriate place to take such an allegation."
The regents' filing also references the meeting between the assistant football coach and the woman's mom, and although it doesn't state when that meeting happened, it's included within the narrative of the April 2013 conversation among McCaw, Barnes and Briles. It says the assistant football coach spoke to the two players and they admitted to "fooling around" with the woman and equated it to "a little bit of playtime." And the assistant coach spoke to other coaches who engaged in "victim blaming" and concluded that the accusations were in a "gray area," with no one reporting it to judicial affairs.
The woman's lawsuit states that after the assistant coach met with the two players, they and their teammates retaliated against her, creating fake telephone numbers to harass her and her family via text message. She saw the football players during volleyball practice at the training facility they shared with the football team, and in spring 2013, she ended up in a class with two of her alleged assailants. She had to "put her earphones in and listen to music just to make it through class each week," the lawsuit states.
The woman attended some counseling sessions at Baylor, and her counselor did not tell her about her options under Title IX, according to her lawsuit, which is in line with the reports of several other women who sought Baylor counseling for sexual assaults.
It also referenced a football player harassing her via text message, at one point writing, "he never came on to her because she was 'easy' and 'like coach said we [Baylor football players] don't want easy.'" The lawsuit states that the same football player and his teammates broke into her apartment, threw her clothes and belongings all over the room and stole money and a necklace in April 2013. She reported the burglary to Waco, Texas, police, but none of the athletes faced charges "on the pretext that the Waco Police Department made the players return plaintiff's belongings," the lawsuit states.
The football players said the burglary was in retaliation for the woman stealing one of their dogs, which the lawsuit states the woman took to the vet after the animal was injured in a dogfight orchestrated by Baylor football players, another common allegation. The woman met directly with Briles to report the burglary, and the lawsuit states the coach was "short with [her]" and hurried the meeting along. She said she doesn't think any of the players were disciplined. The woman's attorney said she did not tell Briles about the alleged gang rape during that meeting.
In May 2013, the woman went on a mission trip to Africa led by Baylor football chaplain Wes Yeary, whom the woman also told about the alleged gang rape. Two football players, including one who allegedly sexually assaulted the woman, were on the trip as well, the woman's lawsuit states. During that trip, she was told that up to eight football players had been involved in her alleged gang rape, and "after the revelation, plaintiff, who was already emotionally shattered, finally reached her breaking point," and she decided to withdraw from Baylor.
The lawsuit also contends that last year, after details of her alleged assault were included in Pepper Hamilton's findings of fact, "Baylor officials enlisted current and former members of the Baylor athletic department to contact Plaintiff in an attempt to prevent her from speaking to reporters about her case and clear Baylor officials of any wrongdoing in connection with Plaintiff's sexual assault."