The latest lawsuit against Baylor University alleges that its football players took part in gang rapes as a team-bonding experience for new recruits.
The suit was filed in federal court in Waco by a plaintiff identified as Jane Doe, who was part of a campus sports team.
It is the seventh to argue that Baylor violated Title IX, the federal civil rights law against sex-based discrimination, by fostering a culture of sexual hostility and violence.
It states that in 2012, the woman went to a party hosted by unidentified Baylor football players at an off-campus apartment complex, and believes she was drugged. She was allegedly taken somewhere in a vehicle and raped by between four and eight players. She said she remembers hearing a cry: “Grab her phone! Delete my numbers and texts!”
The lawsuit claims such parties sometimes featured dog fights and sexual assaults that were recorded. “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 gang rapes were considered a ‘bonding’ experience,” it states.
“Photographs and videotapes of the semi-conscious girls would be taken during the gang rapes and circulated amongst the football players. Based upon investigation, plaintiff has confirmed that at least one, 21-second videotape of two female Baylor students being gang-raped by several Baylor football players was circulated amongst football players.”
Jane Doe’s alleged ordeal continued: the court document states that she was harassed and taunted verbally and by text message and later had to attend classes with two of the players. Those involved were hostile towards her after her mother asked an assistant coach to take action, it says.
Baylor, a private institution based in Waco, is the world’s largest Baptist university. The previously struggling football team enjoyed great on-field success under the former coach Art Briles starting in 2010 that brought significant financial gain to the university and saw players become stars on campus.
The lawsuit claims this led to a culture of impunity and that the team’s practices helped create a culture of sexual violence, citing a “hostess” programme in which women showed potential football recruits around campus with an “implied promise of sex” that “often became the reality”.
It alleges that the football department “routinely and deliberately failed to discipline players implicated in reports of sexual assaults”, improperly discredited complaints, had its own internal disciplinary system that treated players differently from other students and kept allegations in-house.
After the scandal broke, the university hired a law firm from Philadelphia, Pepper Hamilton, to investigate. It found that 17 women reported sexual assault or domestic violence carried out by 19 players, including at least four gang rapes. Another, contested, lawsuit filed this year alleged 52 “acts of rape” by 31 players between 2011 and 2014.
The scandal led to the departures of senior figures including Briles, who has denied wrongdoing, and the president and chancellor, Ken Starr. Several former players have been convicted, indicted or are awaiting trial. The university is under investigation by state and federal authorities.
Baylor said in a statement that it has “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. Baylor remains committed to eliminating all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination within our campus community.”
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