A female Baylor graduate recently brought a lawsuit against her alma mater. The lawsuit was filed on Friday, January 27, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas for Title IX violations and claims of negligence. In the lawsuit the alumna alleges she was the victim of a gang rape by two football players. The lawsuit also alleges that “at least 52 rapes by more than 30 football players” occurred over a four-year period at the university. The plaintiff’s attorney, John Clune, said that the number of rapes was discovered through his firm’s investigation. Clune has previously represented and reached settlements in three other cases where women came forward and stated that they too had been victims of sexual assault from members of Baylor’s football team.
Baylor is currently facing up to five lawsuits from women who allege to be victims of sexual crimes and that “the school failed to protect them or ignored their complaints.”
This is not the first time that Baylor University, the nation’s largest Baptist university, has faced these type of allegations. Recent turmoil led to the firing of former football coach Art Briles in May 2016. The number of rape incidents alleged in the suit, 52, is a lot larger than the number that was previously acknowledged by Baylor officials. The university has only recognized 17 reports of sexual assaults and physical attacks by 19 football players since 2011. The lawsuit suggests the university’s lack of response to past reported sexual incidents was primarily to protect the football players and the university’s image.
Baylor is currently facing up to five lawsuits from women who allege to be victims of sexual crimes and that “the school failed to protect them or ignored their complaints.” The current lawsuit is filed under the name Elizabeth Doe vs. Baylor University in order to protect the plaintiff/victim’s identity. While Doe attended Baylor University she was a part of the Baylor Bruins program, which is an all-female hostess program. The complaint states that students in the program would escort recruits and their families around the campus and take them to football games.
Although the school policy was for the Baylor Bruins to have “no sexual contact” with the recruits, the lawsuit alleges that the policy was not followed. Instead, the Bruins were “expected to make sure the recruits have a good time by socializing with the recruits, attending parties, and seeing to it that the recruits enjoy their visit to Baylor.” In addition to the “unofficial policy,” the Bruins were sometimes expected to engage in sexual acts with the potential recruits in order to help secure their commitment to the university.
The complaint continues to list other disturbing incidents, such as, coaches sending women from the Baylor Bruins program to have sex with a player, instances in which a member of the football team impregnated a Baylor Bruins hostess, going to bars and strip clubs, and illegal drug use—just to name a few. The lawsuit is centralized around the notion that in the football atmosphere, the motto was “Show them a good time.” It is alleged that this motto brought about unrestricted and inappropriate behavior that more often than not, went unreported and unpunished.
The incident at issue in this case happened in April 2013, but was not investigated until fall of 2015, long after Doe had graduated.
The incident at issue in this case happened in April 2013, but was not investigated until fall of 2015, long after Doe had graduated. The night of the incident Doe, who was intoxicated at the time, returned home with her two accusers. Doe has no memory of that night. In the complaint, on the night of the incident when her roommate’s boyfriend entered the home, he heard “what sounded like wrestling and a fist hitting someone,” a loud bang, and a woman saying ‘no.’” After hearing the commotion, her roommate’s boyfriend asked if everything was okay and one of Doe’s attackers stated that Doe “was fine.”
Doe states that the 2013 incident was reported to the police, but no one at the university reached out to her for the remainder of her time at Baylor. Doe did not file a police report the night of the incident. She later decided to file one because “she woke up with bruises and a feeling in her vaginal area that indicated she had sex, even though she did not remember.” Sexual assault is defined as “any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact.” A victim can be unable to give proper consent in instances where the victim is either forced, under the statutory age, intoxicated, drugged, or unconscious.
The lawsuit states that, “as Baylor continued to fail to address acts of sexual violence, the football players became increasingly emboldened, knowing that they could break the law, code of conduct, and general standards of human decency with no repercussions.” If these allegations are proven true, Baylor University could be potentially charged with Title IX violations.
Educational institutions are not to “make light” of any sexual violence situation, allow the incident to go unreported, and burden the survivor of such a horrendous crime. Elizabeth Doe is alleging that Baylor University did just that.
Title IX is a federal law, signed in 1972, that states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX also addresses sexual harassment and sexual violence in educational institutions that could interfere with a student’s rightful access to educational benefits and opportunities provided to them. Educational institutions must respond in an appropriate manner when a student has reported that he or she has been a victim of sexual violence.
According to End Rape On Campus, when notified of such reports a school “must stop the discrimination, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.” This includes the school conducting an unbiased, attentive, and immediate investigation. Subsequently, it must make formal decisions about the outcome of the reported cases. Schools who receive reports of sexual violence must also inform the victim of all the appropriate measures that need to be taken and what options the victim has. This can include filing a police report, going through a formal process rather than an informal one, and providing the victim with appropriate academic accommodations following the incident. If it is determined that an institution did not take the appropriate measures in response to a sexual violence report, a student can file a Title IX lawsuit. Educational institutions are not to “make light” of any sexual violence situation, allow the incident to go unreported, and burden the survivor of such a horrendous crime.
Elizabeth Doe is alleging that Baylor University did just that. Records from the investigation show that a complaint was made to the police, but as required under Title IX, Baylor University did not investigate, until two years later. While Doe continued to attend Baylor University, she feared running into her attackers and in fact did so on a couple occasions. The lack of appropriate and prompt actions, which the lawsuit alleges, if found true, would be a pure violation of Title IX.
In 2015, the Association of American Universities, conducted a survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct on college campuses. The survey reported that 23.1 percent of female undergraduate students were victims of sexual violence. This alarming statistic is unfortunately not at all surprising with the rise of “rape culture” and its relation to colleges campuses. Rape culture is “a culture in which dominant ideas, social practices, media images, and societal institutions implicitly or explicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing or trivializing sexual violence and by blaming survivors for their own abuse.”
“Our hearts go out to any victims of sexual assault. Any assault involving members of our campus community is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
A former assistant coach for Baylor University told, ESPN that no such culture existed within the football program. He also states that the Baylor Bruins’ only involvement with football players and recruits was during official visits and game days. Susu Taylor, a former Baylor Bruin, told ESPN that she never experienced the type of behavior that the lawsuit alleges.
David E. Garland, Baylor’s interim President, released a statement on the day the lawsuit was filed. “Our hearts go out to any victims of sexual assault. Any assault involving members of our campus community is reprehensible and inexcusable.” The statement goes on to address that the university is implementing recommendations to ensure a safer environment for their students. The statement did not address any of the specific allegations that were raised in the lawsuit.
If it is found that Baylor University violated Elizabeth Doe’s rights under Title IX, the university will have to pay monetary compensation to the former student. The court may also under its discretion, require that the university change its policies and procedures as it relates to sexual violence. The Baylor Bruins program was discontinued in the spring of 2016 and has now been replaced with coed students who give campus tours to everyone and not just exclusively to student-athletes.