Baylor Athletes Used Gang-Rapes as ‘Bonding’ Experience: Lawsuit

A former volleyball player claims as many as eight football players assaulted her and threatened to release nude photos from the alleged rape.

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

“Grab her phone! Delete my numbers and texts!” the men shouted.

Jane Doe could hear their voices while she lay on her back in a Waco, Texas, apartment staring at glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. As many as eight Baylor football players had just finished taking turns raping her, and they jumped to delete her phone evidence, according to allegations in a new lawsuit.

Doe’s complaint is the seventh federal Title IX lawsuit—which involve at least 15 women—filed against the nation’s largest Baptist university. At least 17 alleged victims of sexual or domestic violence have reported assaults by 19 Baylor football players, including at least four alleged gang-rapes. Another lawsuit claims there have been at least 52 rapes perpetrated by no fewer than 31 players on the team between 2011 and 2014.

In March, state investigators joined federal authorities to dig into how the school handled its years-long abuse scandal involving at least 125 alleged female victims.

Doe’s filing claims that the football team, under former Coach Art Briles and former Athletics Director Ian McCaw, “had run wild, in more ways than one, and Baylor was doing nothing to stop it.”

Players hazed freshmen recruits by allegedly making them lure freshman girls to house parties, where the girls would be, according to the lawsuit, drugged and gang-raped—or in the alleged words of the football players “‘trains’ would be run on the girls.”

The alleged gang-rapes, according to the suit, were a “bonding” experience for the team, during which they would take photographs and videos of “semi-conscious” girls and then “circulate” them to other players.

The lawsuit mentions a specific video—which lasts 21 seconds and features two female students apparently being gang-raped—that was shared.

Doe, a former Baylor volleyball player, filed the new lawsuit Wednesday, claiming she was gang-raped in a practice that had become common for the team. Doe is seeking attorneys’ fees, a jury trial, actual damages, and compensatory damages.

“Really, what we are seeking to enforce is just a safe education environment for the girls at the school,” which served as a “disciplinary black hole,” Houston attorney Muhammad Aziz, who represents Doe, told the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Doe’s alleged assault is referenced in several other lawsuits against Baylor, including one that claims the players admitted to “fooling around” with Doe, calling it “just a little bit of playtime.” They allegedly told their coaches the gang-rape was consensual.

According to a legal filing in February, when Briles learned the names of players allegedly involved in Doe’s rape, he responded, “Those are some bad dudes... why was she around those guys?”

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Briles denied any attempted coverup of the sexual assaults in a public statement in March.

“Let me be clear. I did not cover up sexual violence,” he wrote in a letter, which addressed Doe’s alleged assault. “Anyone well-versed in my work as a coach knows that I strove to promote excellence, but never at the sacrifice or safety for anyone.”

He added, “When I was alerted that there might have been an assault, my response was clear: The alleged victims should go to police, report it, and it should be prosecuted.”

An attorney for former Athletics Director Ian McCaw also denied wrongdoing. “Mr. McCaw was faced with a complex situation wherein he desired to honor the wishes of the alleged victim, who was unwilling to speak to the police according to her coach, and a request from her coach for guidances as to where he should go with information he had obtained in 2013 about this incident,” Tom Brandt, McCaw’s attorney, told the Dallas Morning News. “Mr. McCaw responsibly directed the head coach to the Office of Judicial Affairs, which handles student conduct matters and was the appropriate venue to take such an allegation.”

According to Doe’s lawsuit, in Baylor counseling sessions, she was never given any Title IX reporting options and was instead just provided statistics about how few women report sexual assaults, “in an apparent effort to dissuade” her from taking legal action.

Doe “and her parents were told that it was too late for criminal charges and they begged [Doe’s] head coach and the assistant volleyball coach to tell them what, if anything, Baylor could do about the assault,” the lawsuit says.

Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said in a Wednesday press release that Baylor has been in contact with Doe for 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,” said the statement.

“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 night of her alleged assault, on Feb. 11, 2012, Doe says she was drinking and then drugged at an off-campus party at a football player’s apartment. At least one of her friends saw a player trying to pull her into a bathroom, according to the lawsuit.

She repeatedly told another player “no,” despite the fact that he was grabbing at her all night. She’d turned him down the day before, according to the suit.

Then, the lawsuit claims, Doe’s friends left, and one of the players picked her up, dumped her in his car, and drove her to another apartment, where the men took turns brutally raping her.

In the aftermath of the alleged assault, Doe says she was verbally abused and publicly humiliated. She claims some of the players sent her text messages about how much she “wanted it” and taunted her with threats about releasing nude photos from the alleged rape. They created fake phone numbers to increase the volume of messages, the suit claims.

According to the lawsuit, one football player involved in the alleged assault denied he would ever come on to her in the first place. He told her she was “easy and, like coach said, we (Baylor football players) don’t want easy,” the suit claims.

Then, the men allegedly burglarized her apartment. They stole money, clothes, and jewelry, according to Doe, and she reported the burglary to Waco’s police department. No charges were ever filed because the players agreed to return her belongings, the suit says.

Afterward, Doe said she was “terrified of what the football players would do next, citing concerns that the players were carrying guns at the time of the break-in,” according to the suit.

Later, the players allegedly tried to justify the burglary by spreading a rumor that Doe stole one of their dogs. In reality, Doe says, the dog was injured in a dogfight organized by the players in their free time and she paid for its medical treatment.

The Baptist university’s rampant sexual-assault problem was first thrust into the national spotlight when football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of raping another student in 2015. During trial testimony, it became clear that Baylor independently investigated the allegations against Ukwuachu but took no punitive action toward him other than suspending him from the football team.

In March, Ukwuachu’s conviction was overturned by a Texas appeals court, and he was granted a new trial.

The aftermath of Ukwuachu’s original trial—when he was sentenced to only six months in prison—led to an explosive report by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, which found a “fundamental failure” by the school to obey Title IX laws in protecting female students and a belief that the football program was “above the rules.” The firm’s investigators wrote that few students accused of sexual violence were ever punished and, at times, administrators engaged in retaliation or victim-blaming.

The fallout sparked the ouster of university President Ken Starr, Briles, and McCaw, among others.

Another lawsuit filed in January claims that a woman who was allegedly assaulted had joined the Baylor Bruins program—an all-female organization dedicated to hosting potential athletes—because she believed it to be an informal sorority.

That suit claims the program uses attractive women students to escort the football recruits.

But unofficially, “some Baylor Bruins were at times used to engage in sexual acts with the recruits to help secure the recruits’ commitment to Baylor,” the lawsuit states. It also alleges that more than one “hostess” was impregnated by football players and claims that at least one alleged victim was told by another hostess to tell police she had “‘consensual sex with one white male’ in an apparent effort to protect the Baylor athletes.”

In addition to Ukwuachu’s case, former Baylor football player Tevin Elliot was convicted on sexual-assault charges. Another former player, Shawn Oakman, is awaiting trial on similar charges, and Tre’Von Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman—both also former players—have been indicted on charges related to a 2013 alleged gang-rape.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled in March that sexual-assault victims have through spring 2018 to sue the school under the Title IX claim that it had created a dangerously heightened risk of sexual harassment or assault.