A former Baylor University volleyball player, who said she was the victim of a brutal gang rape that the school failed to address, filed a federal Title IX lawsuit Tuesday against the private university.
The woman at the center of the suit identified only as “jane doe” said she was gang raped by as many as eight Baylor football players in 2012 and repeatedly harassed until she left the school the following year.
“She made a decision that it was time to confront this because this was a sad and ugly chapter of her life that she could just not seem to get away from,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, Mo Aziz. “She’s trying to cope with this as best as she can. Although she left Baylor, Baylor did not leave her.”
At the time of her assault, the Baylor football team was one of the top programs in the Big 12 Conference. The suit describes a pervasive rape culture on the campus that led to school's failure to appropriately investigate and respond to the assaults.
“There was a sense Baylor knew a lot more than anybody realized,” Aziz said. “We want to know is how deep did this issue go in the Baylor administration.”
The suit alleges gang rapes were considered a "bonding" experience for the football players and were often videotaped, including a “21-second videotape of two female Baylor students being gang raped."
On the night of February 11, 2012, Jane Doe and several friends went to a party at an off-campus apartment where football players lived. She recalled drinking, and becoming “very intoxicated,” according to the lawsuit. The plaintiff also believes she also “had been drugged.”
During the party, Jane Doe’s friend saw one football player trying to pull her into the bathroom several times. Jane Doe recalled another football player who kept grabbing her and that she repeatedly told him “no.”
Later that night, after Jane Doe’s friends had left the party, she remembered “one football player picking her up, putting her in his vehicle, and taking her somewhere.”
It is at this second location the lawsuit alleges the gang rape took place. According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe recalled being “unable to move and staring at glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling as the football players took turns raping her.”
“It's still a pretty traumatic event for her. And it's not only the event, it's also the follow-up.” Aziz said. “It's having to sit in class with some of the assailants, its having to see them on campus, its having them break into her apartment, send her really ugly text messages and emails and that sort of thing. And so, it's been hard."
In a statement, university officials said: "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.
“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.
“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. Baylor remains committed to eliminating all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination within our campus community.”
Following an investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, Baylor fired football coach Art Briles in May 2016. Former athletics director Ian McCaw resigned that same month. The lawsuit alleged the gang rape was reported to Briles and McCaw.
According to the lawsuit, Pepper Hamilton a total of 17 victims reported allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence by 19 Baylor football players. At least four of these incidents of sexual assault involved gang rapes that were reported to have occurred in 2012. One of these gang rapes involved Jane Doe. Pepper Hamilton only publicly released a summary of their findings.
“Ultimately for us, it’s about finding out what they (Baylor) knew before and how they’ve handled these situations,” Aziz said.
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