Lawsuit: Baylor fostered ‘hunting ground’ for sexual assault

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2015, file photo, a nearly empty McLane Stadium is seen minutes before kickoff between Iowa State and Baylor in an NCAA college football game, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University will look to rebuild its reputation and perhaps its football program after an outside review found administrators mishandled allegations of sexual assault and the team operated under the perception it was above the rules. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed Monday against Baylor University accuses the nation’s largest Baptist school of creating a “hunting ground for sexual predators.”

The lawsuit, brought by a former Baylor student, is the third in recent months to claim the school was indifferent to or ignored claims of sexual assault and didn’t enforce federal general discrimination protections. Baylor demoted former president and chancellor Ken Staff after an outside law firm found the school had mishandled assault allegations for years.

The latest case, brought by a woman identified only as Jane Doe, says she was drugged and abducted from an off-campus residence known as “The Rugby House” in February 2015. The lawsuit does not name her assailant but said he is not a member of Baylor’s rugby club team.

The woman did not file a police report because she was too embarrassed, and it was her mother who called Baylor officials, according to the alleged victim’s attorney, Paula Elliott.

The lawsuit said Baylor officials indicated there were reports of as many as five previously reported assaults at the same residence. According to the lawsuit, Baylor officials initially attempted to help identify the attacker, and told her there were two more reported victims with similar experiences at the house.

But school investigators stopped all correspondence with the woman after five weeks and did not schedule an administrative hearing in her case. The woman dropped out of Baylor in summer 2015 and moved home out of state, Elliott said.

The school’s own investigation, parts of which were released last month, demonstrated that Baylor ignored rape claims at the cost of safety to its students for years, the lawsuit said, adding that, “Baylor and the Baylor regents had created a hunting ground for sexual predators to freely prey upon innocent, unsuspecting female students, with no concern of reprisal or consequences.”

Much of Baylor’s investigation focused on allegations surrounding the football team. Head coach Art Briles was fired May 26 after the investigation found football coaches and staff had improper contact with complainants, and interfered or impeded school and potentially criminal investigations.

Attorneys for the woman who filed Monday’s lawsuit say her case demonstrates the problem went far beyond athletics, and that no one had been warned about previous reports at the house where she was attacked.

“(S)exual assault issues at Baylor were not an ‘athletic department issue,’ but were an institution-wide problem that Baylor and Baylor regents failed to properly address,” the lawsuit said.

Baylor is already attempting to settle a lawsuit filed in March by former student Jasmin Hernandez, who was raped by former football player Tevin Elliott, who was later sentenced to 20 years in prison. Hernandez’ lawsuit claims Baylor knew Tevin Elliott had a history of assaults, failed to protect her and others who were attacked, and ignored her pleas when she sought help.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify sexual assault victims, but Hernandez has spoken publicly to draw attention to the case. Another lawsuit was filed last week by three women who were all identified only as Jane Doe.

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