A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Baylor University cites three women as victims of sexual assault, including one who said she was assaulted by a Bears football player on campus in April 2014.
The lawsuit does not name any victims or alleged assailants, and it refers to Baylor employees only by position. It is the second Title IX lawsuit to be filed against Baylor regarding the school's handling of reports of sexual assault.
The other two alleged assailants are not identified as athletes, although one was described as "an assistant to the highest officials in the University."
The women say they were deterred from reporting their attacks, not provided support to continue their classes and subjected to a hostile environment.
"Due to the deeply personal and sensitive nature of individual cases and federal law, we do not publicly address specific cases, even when a student publicly shares details or reports of his or her own experience," Baylor said in a statement released later Wednesday. "This safeguard also helps assure other students that their right to confidentiality will be protected. The decision to report to the university or other authorities is a brave and personal choice and occurs on the student's timetable. We're committed to and have already begun to implement changes in order to provide a safe and supportive environment for students and faculty."
Baylor has been at the center of nationwide attention over its handling of sexual assault allegations and investigations, including several that have involved athletes. In recent weeks, Baylor has dealt with the fallout from that negative attention: the demotion and then resignation of former university president and chancellor Kenneth Starr; the pending firing of football coach Art Briles; the suspension and then resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw; and the firings of multiple athletic department employees. At least one lawsuit has been filed, and a complaint about school officials' handling of sexual assault cases has been made to the U.S. Department of Education.
Despite being a private school, Baylor is required by the federal Title IX statute to investigate allegations of sexual assault and violence thoroughly and to provide security, counseling services and academic help to those who report assaults. Part of the law's goal is to help keep victims in school.
The woman in Wednesday's lawsuit who reported the assault involving the football player said she went to a university physician two days after the incident, and the physician "misinformed Jane Doe 1 and concealed from Jane Doe 1 as to her options to further report the incident," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit stated that she also reported the alleged assault to the Baylor campus advocacy center during final exams, but the university did not provide her any assistance, and she was "left to cope with the situation alone and in fear."
It states that she would see her alleged assailant at football games, would become upset and would be forced to leave. Stress caused her to perform poorly in her classes, the suit says, and she lost her academic scholarship and dropped out after fall 2015.
Houston attorney Chad Dunn said the lawsuit did not name anyone individually in order to protect privacy and out of concern for retaliation and harassment against the parties involved.
"This lawsuit isn't about punishing anyone," he said. "This lawsuit is about improving the lives for these specific plaintiffs. To the extent that we can persuade the university to take important steps to protect sexual assault victims that benefit not just these plaintiffs but other student at the university today and down the road."
The second incident detailed in the lawsuit alleges an assault from 2004 that had bearing on the plaintiff's attempt to re-enroll at Baylor in 2015. Jane Doe 2, as she's named, says she was assaulted at a house a few blocks from campus in September 2004, while she was under the age of 18, according to the lawsuit. She reported it to her chaplain at the Baylor dorm and the dorm hall director was informed. She also made a report to Baylor police, whom she states misinformed and concealed from her the consequences for filing a report, which discouraged her from naming the person whom she said assaulted her. When she went to the Baylor Health Center, she said they did a physical exam but not a rape kit.
After her alleged assailant sneaked up behind her on campus and she ran into the office of a nearby professor, she ended up reporting the incident to an assistant dean -- who later encouraged her to withdraw from school after her grades began to suffer, the lawsuit states. She left in May 2008 but decided to return in fall 2015.
The lawsuit states that she was permitted to resume her studies but that Baylor "would not allow her grade forgiveness for the failed courses during her earlier attendance following the assault, even when provided with the horrific reasons for her personal academic struggles, and even though [Baylor] was fully aware of the circumstances." The lawsuit states she's now suspended but it did not explain why.
The third woman said that she and her alleged assailant were both staff members at the university dorms and that he sexually harassed and assaulted her from fall 2013 through December 2015. Although the lawsuit did not name him, it stated he was "an assistant to the highest officials in the University."
According to the lawsuit, she sought counseling in fall 2014, but after she exhausted her free sessions, the Baylor counseling center told her she'd have to look elsewhere for treatment. The lawsuit states that she also reported the alleged assault to the health center, and eventually to Baylor police, but it did not state when.
Baylor has already reached a financial settlement with a former women's soccer player who was sexually assaulted by former Bears football player Sam Ukwuachu. The woman reached an undisclosed settlement with the school in late December without filing a lawsuit. In August, Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting the woman and was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years' probation, the maximum sentence allowed under Texas law when a jury recommends probation.
Court records also indicate Baylor officials are trying to negotiate a settlement with former student Jasmin Hernandez, who was raped by former Bears football player Tevin Elliott. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $10,000 for sexually assaulting Hernandez, and his criminal trial revealed allegations of rape by three other women and a misdemeanor for trying to assault another. Her attorneys and Baylor's attorneys requested an extension to try to reach an out-of-court settlement, according to court records.
Attorney John Clune of Boulder, Colorado, who represented the former Baylor women's soccer player in her case against the school, told Outside the Lines last month that he could have as many as three additional victims who might file lawsuits against Baylor.