Baylor faces accusations of ignoring sex assault victims

ByPaula Lavigne ESPN logo
Sunday, January 31, 2016

During the first rape, Tanya was shoved into the muddy ground before her pants were pulled down. After it was over, the Baylor football player allowed her to get up and walk away, but then he pushed her, face forward, into a metal fence and raped her again.

He disappeared after handing Tanya her shirt back. Dazed, Tanya made her way back into the party, found her friends, and told one of them, "I think I was just raped."

Once at the hospital, in Waco, Texas, Tanya recounted for Waco police and a nurse what had happened: A Baylor University football player named Tevin Elliott had raped her. The defensive end would end up arrested by Waco police, charged with sexually assaulting Tanya, kicked off the football team and expelled.

Days later, Tanya said she went to Baylor's campus police department, asking officers if there was anything they could do for her, because she'd been assaulted by a fellow student. She didn't ask for anything specific, but she thought maybe a campus escort or security could be provided, because Elliott remained in Waco.

There is nothing we can do, because the assault happened off campus.

A few days later, she said she contacted Baylor's student health center, seeking counseling.

There is no one who can see you now. You could, though, put your name on a waiting list. Maybe you should see someone off campus.

With final exams coming up and Tanya's schoolwork already beginning to suffer, her mother called Baylor's academic services group for assistance.

Sorry. No resources are available. Even "if a plane falls on your daughter, there's nothing we can do to help you."

Tanya, a Baylor freshman at the time, was one of five women who reported to police that they were either raped or assaulted -- in incidents from October 2009 to April 2012 -- by Elliott, who was convicted on two counts of sexual assault in January 2014 for the incident involving Tanya.

Despite being a private school, Baylor is required by federal law -- Title IX -- to thoroughly investigate allegations of sexual violence, and provide security, counseling services and academic help to those who report assaults. Part of the law's goal is to help keep victims in school.

Yet an investigation by Outside the Lines found several examples in Tanya's case, and others at Baylor, in which school officials either failed to investigate, or adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence. In many cases, officials did not provide support to those who reported assaults. Moreover, it took Baylor more than three years to comply with a federal directive: In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to all colleges and universities outlining their responsibilities under Title IX, including the need for each school to have a Title IX coordinator. Baylor didn't hire a full-time coordinator until fall 2014.

"They didn't just not respond; they responded by turning me away and telling me that it was not possible for me to receive help from them," said Tanya, whose identity is being kept private by Outside the Lines because she was the victim of a sexual assault.

Tanya's story is similar to others at Baylor and an array of universities nationwide; the U.S. Department of Education is investigating complaints against 161 institutions for their handling of sexual violenceinvestigations. In a more recent Baylor case, university officials agreed to a monetary settlement with another victim of a football player's assault. Defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault in August after a Baylor soccer player reported to Waco police that he'd assaulted her in October 2013. During Ukwuachu's trial, it was disclosed that Baylor officials had conducted an internal investigation into the assault complaint and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

"I wouldn't call it an investigation," said McLennan County Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde, who prosecuted the Elliott and Ukwuachu cases in court. "They didn't have someone that seemed to know anything about how college rape occurs."

Baylor, which is not among the schools being federally investigated, declined to make any coaches -- including head football coach Art Briles -- or administrators available for interviews with Outside the Lines. One of those administrators was university president Ken Starr, the former judge and independent counsel who led the investigation into President Bill Clinton's intern-sex scandal.

Baylor police also refused to release any records pertaining to the incidents, even though the Texas legislature passed a law last summer making private campus police departments subject to state open records laws. A spokeswoman for the school said she could not provide information about any of the assaults due to student privacy, even though the two women featured in this story signed release forms allowing Baylor officials to discuss their cases with Outside the Lines.

Patty Crawford, the university's new Title IX coordinator, spoke to Outside the Lines but said she could not specifically address past incidents. She said the school has hired an outside consultant to review its handling of previous cases, although she said she didn't know whether the school would make that report public.

"We do want to be our best, and we're always wanting to be an improvement from yesterday," she said.

On April 1, 2012, two weeks before Tanya filed her police report against Elliott, another woman reported to Waco police that Elliott had forced her to have sex with him.

A few weeks later, the woman -- Kim -- and her mother said they also reported the assault to Baylor's ombudsman office and were sent to meet with the school's chief judicial officer, Bethany McCraw.

Both women said McCraw's response noted that Kim, also a Baylor athlete, was the sixth woman to report such an incident involving Elliott.

"I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, six?' " Kim said. "We essentially asked, 'Well, why are there six?' and, 'Well, does the football team know about this? Does Art Briles know about this?' And she said, 'Yes, they know about it, but it turns into a he said-she said, so there's got to be, actually a court decision in order to act on it in any sort of way.' "

But that contradicts the directive issued in the 2011 letter from the U.S. Department of Education -- one that McCraw would testify in court that she received -- that states a criminal investigation "does not relieve the school of its duty under Title IX to resolve complaints promptly and equitably."

Kim said she asked about a restraining order. She said McCraw told her it would essentially simply consist of a letter sent to Elliott telling him to not come near her, "and then you kind of hope for the best."

Kim said she believed McCraw was trying to talk her out of pursuing anything against Elliott.

McCraw was helpful in one area, though, Kim said: She said she told McCraw she was having trouble preparing for her final exams, and McCraw offered to contact her professors to give her dispensation. Kim said she suspected that occurred only because she was so close to getting her degree.

"And she was like, 'OK, well, we'll make that happen.' Like 'Shoo, shoo, run along. OK, got it. Let's just get her graduated,' you know?" she said.

When contacted by Outside the Lines, McCraw said Kim's account was inaccurate, but she declined to comment further.

Although Kim testified during Elliott's trial, the football player was not charged in connection with her assault, in part because prosecutors decided her case wasn't as strong asothers;Elliott would end up accused of one assault and four rapes, facing formal charges on two of them,including one against a former member of Baylor's equestrian team. Two of the students who accused him did not attend Baylor.

Michele Davis, a former member of a Baylor advisory board that reviewed sexual assault-response issues with community leaders, told Outside the Lines university officials have known for at least a few years of a much larger problem with sexual assaults and athletes.

Davis is also the sexual assault nurse examiner for McLennan County, which means she is often the first person who interviews women who come to local hospitals reporting they've been raped.

"Baylor has more sexual assault cases -- that we do exams on -- compared to the other schools with the same approximate population," she said, in reference to two other colleges in Waco. She said she sees about eight Baylor students a year, and of those, she said Baylor athletes make up between 25 percent to 50 percent of the alleged perpetrators. (Male athletes are 4 percent of the undergraduate male population at Baylor.) Most women refuse to report such incidents to authorities, she said.

She said Baylor's advisory board was aware of the problem with athletes and recommended that someone from the athletic department join the board, but she said that did not happen during her term, which ended in 2014. Crawford put the board on hiatus as she rebuilt the university's Title IX office but said she plans to restart it.

Within weeks of Tanya's and Kim's reports being filed with Waco police, Briles suspended Elliott. His arrest for assaulting Tanyamarked the first time media picked up on any of the accusations against him.

Baylor was coming off its most successful football season in decades. In 2011, it had finished in the top-25 polls for the first time since the mid-1980s. Quarterback Robert Griffin III had won the Heisman Trophy, a first for any Baylor football player.

Baylor officials declined to answer questions about when they knew of Elliott's alleged assaults, but a source told Outside the Lines that records show Baylor judicial affairs officials were aware of a misdemeanor, sexually-related assault citation against Elliott in November 2011. In that incident, a local community college student told police that Elliott trapped her in her room, held her against her will and touched her inappropriately, at one point poking a broom toward her vagina.

Elliott played nine of 13 games that season. Outside the Lines spoke to Elliott, who is serving a 20-year sentence at a prison in West Texas, and he said that none of his coaches mentioned the incident to him, and he received no punishment.

"I don't even know if they knew," he said. "I just kept playing ball, kept going to school."

Elliott denied all of the assaults, saying that any sex he had with the women was consensual.

"You know college athletes go through this all the time. ... At the end of the day, the finger is going to be pointed at us because we are the big athletes," he said. "We're sitting on a pedestal, they trying to make us look bad, but at the end of the day, we could be innocent. It's like we are guilty until proven innocent."

Elliott and his family are trying to mount an appeal, alleging that apartment security video that could clear him of Tanya's rape is mysteriously missing and that jurors ignored evidence.

In October 2013 -- while Elliott's case was progressing toward trial -- a Baylor soccer player accused football player Sam Ukwuachu of rape. Ukwuachu, also a defensive end, wasn't indicted until June 2014.

His case remained under wraps, and out of the media, for more than year until it went to trial last August. During that time, Ukwuachu did not play, but he remained on the team and enrolled in school.

Kim said she heard about the trial on the news.

"And I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' It's like they didn't take the Tevin thing seriously. What, did we not cry out enough for something to be done? I mean, was that not enough for you to listen to us?"

In the Ukwuachu case, the university had actually conducted a Title IX investigation. It cleared him. Two months before Ukwuachu's trial, the football team's defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, told a crowd at a luncheon that he expected Ukwuachu to play in the 2015 season.

Ukwuachu, through his attorney, declined a request for an interview with Outside the Lines. He issued a lengthy statement in which he said he was falsely accused and that he did not receive a fair trial. He said his accuser lied repeatedly about what had happened, and prosecutors presented false evidence during his trial.

"Do not criticize Baylor University or my former coaches," he wrote. "A Baylor University investigation cleared me and allowed me to graduate because they caught my accuser in multiple lies pertaining to the events that happened the night of the alleged incident as well as our previous encounter during their investigation."

LaBorde, the McLennan County assistant district attorney, said Baylor's investigation -- which was not provided to Outside the Lines -- faulted the soccer player for having been friends with Ukwuachu and having twice gone over to his apartment before the night on which she reported the rape.

"I have no explanation for [Baylor's lack of action] other than it's just some 1940s mentality of how women should behave," she said. "If they're sitting around and waiting for a victim who has been pulled off the jogging path and raped by a stranger wearing a trench coat, they're going to be waiting for a long time."

She said Baylor officials didn't request certain records or interview sources who might have provided better evidence.

Crawford, the school's Title IX coordinator, said she couldn't talk about the Ukwuachu investigation.

"I can't speculate from the past. I wasn't in the room. I wasn't there. I do know that, in the world of Title IX ... we don't have certain powers that criminal process and a justice process has," she said.

Ukwuachu's accuser was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the encounter. She had been struggling to recover from a knee injury suffered while playing soccer when Baylor reduced her athletic scholarship. She ultimately transferred to another university.

"She's the one that has to leave, and he remains," LaBorde said. "Somehow they have the money to keep him, even though he's under indictment. They don't have the money to keep her."

Crawford said the school has since taken steps to make sure students get the help they need -- regardless of the outcome of any judicial hearing.

"Any time a man or woman comes forward and says, 'Hey, this has happened to me,' we create a plan together. And I say, 'I'm going to navigate the resources. What do you need?' " she said. "We don't want them to have to tell 10 people that maybe they were sexually assaulted. That just can retrigger a trauma and can cause a lot of problems, especially during exams or any time during an academic career."

She said more than 6,000 faculty, staff, residence hall leaders and athletes have been trained, and Baylor has Title IX "case managers" who work comprehensively with each student.

"The real essence of Title IX is student success. And it's hard to be successful when you don't feel safe," Crawford said.

Crawford described having overhauled the Title IX system to get all departments, including athletics, involved in preventing and addressing sexual assault allegations so everyone will know what to do if they're made aware of an incident of sexual violence.

Tanya said she and her mother had never heard of Title IX until they were contacted by Outside the Lines for this story. They declined to say whether they were considering legal action against Baylor.

"Everybody knew what was going on, but nobody helped us," Tanya's mother said. "No one reached out to us, not a phone call, not a letter, nothing."

She said she has heard the university's pledge to do better, but she doesn't buy it.

"Their football team is their priority.The money that comes to them is their priority," she said. "You cannot serve two masters.Theirs is money.They don't care about their students.They don't care about the victims."

Her daughter has a similar, cynical view.

"Do I think the administration is sincere? No. Because then they would have acted differently in Sam's [Ukwuachu's] case," she said. "I don't think that they are sincere."

Tanya stayed at Baylor one year after her rape, but she said she wasn't able to focus on her work, and her grades plummeted. She lost her academic scholarship and was put on academic probation.

In spring 2013, Tanya's mother said she called academic services one last time. She told them what happened to her daughter and asked for help. She said she wasgiven exit forms for Tanya to sign.

Tanya dropped out of Baylor, moved home, gave up her dream of becoming a nurse, and enrolled in a local community college.

"Baylor has deceived people like me and like other victims of assault. Because they told us that they would represent something good and something righteous," Tanya said. "And in every way, they have failed to do so."

ProducerCaitlin Stancofrom ESPN's Enterprise and Investigative Unit contributed to this report.

Related Video