Violated reveals little

By Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

ESPN investigative reporters Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach piece together the narrative of sexual assault and violence on Baylor campus in their August 2017 book “Violated: Exposing Rape at Baylor University Amid College Football’s Sexual Assault Crisis.”

The book opens with a haunting story from the life of King David as told in the book of 2 Samuel. The Bible tells us of Amnon, the son of King David, who was in love with his half-sister Tamar. Amnon loved Tamar and wanted her so badly that he deceived a plan to get Tamar alone so he could have his way with her. Tamar’s rape devastated her, she ripped her garments in anguish and lived the rest of her days in her brother Absalom’s house. Amnon was later murdered and the future of the Davidic kingdom was left uncertain.

Stories of rape in Scripture aren’t the ones that make great Sunday School lessons, and they certainly don’t make good headlines when associated with the world’s largest Baptist university. In this book, Lavigne and Schlabach detail Baylor’s response, or alleged lack thereof, to multiple reports of rape and sexual assault.

One of the most important questions the book raises has little to do with the details of sexual assault or the university’s alleged failure to adequately respond. You can read about this in the news media, in the press releases, in the court documents. What “Violated” does is paint a larger picture of a shocking scandal that continues to shake Baylor.

Lavigne and Schlabach acknowledge Baylor was not alone in failing to provide Title IX provisions. They report that in spring 2017, the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights had 236 schools under investigation.

“But Baylor’s case was unique in scope and effect and illustrative of the widespread impact of failing to address sexual violence. The question is: How did it get so bad at a place that prided itself on being a caring Christian community that was different from everywhere else?” the authors wrote.

If you have been keeping up with the sexual assault scandals at the university, “Violated” offers nothing new. Readers looking to learn more about what has been taking place in the past few years at Baylor will find the book’s timeline approach intuitive and helpful.

“Violated” primarily follows the stories of sexual assault victims Jasmin Hernandez, Elizabeth Doe and other anonymous former Baylor students, and their assailants Tre’Von Armstead, Shamycheal “Myke” Chatman and Sam Ukwuachu.

In March, a grand jury indicted Armstead and Chatman on three second-degree felony sexual assault charges for their alleged involvement in an off-campus sexual assault. The same month Armstead and Chatman were indicted, Sam Ukwuachu appealed his August 2015 conviction for sexually assaulting a Baylor student.

“Violated” was released on Aug. 22, but numerous developments have occurred since the book went to the press. Jasmin Hernandez settled her Title IX lawsuit against the university on Aug. 15 and Elizabeth Doe settled her lawsuit on Sept. 5.

The authors wrote that the conviction of Tevin Elliott in 2014 did not necessarily point to larger problems within the football program. Elliott was known as a “predator” and “one really bad guy.” However, the authors believe “the conviction of Sam Ukwuachu was the beginning of the end” at Baylor.

When Ukwuachu’s case came up more than a year later, people really began to question just how deep the sexual violence problem was at Baylor.

“Violated” lays out in narrative form the experiences of multiple sexual assault victims. While some chose to go public, like Jasmin Hernandez and Dolores Lozano, others chose to remain anonymous. “Violated” gives readers a look into a few of these women’s lives. They had hopes and dreams coming into Baylor their freshman year, all of which were shattered when the unthinkable happened.

Readers should be warned the book goes into graphic detail concerning the instances of sexual assault. While uncomfortable to read, there really is no other way to adequately write about rape. It is one of the worst things that could happen to another human being and if it doesn’t make us uncomfortable, that’s a problem.

“Violated” offers readers a chance to empathize with sexual assault victims. Instead of just seeing “Jane Doe,” we get a glimpse into the horror she experienced and the struggle for justice at a prominent Christian university.

“We share the authors’ view that student sexual violence is a complex and important problem that defies simple solutions,” Baylor said in a statement before the book’s release. “We are deeply sorry for anyone connected with the Baylor community who has been harmed by sexual violence.”

Baylor regent Ronald D. Murff said in the book that the topic of sexual assault is being dealt with openly at every level at Baylor.

The university went on to say: “This book focuses on tragic events that took place several years ago. Since then, Baylor has hired a new President, a new Director of Athletics and a new head football coach. We have also revised our policies and procedures for addressing and preventing sexual violence. It has been more than a year since the University adopted 105 sweeping improvements in policies and procedures that have now been structurally completed and make Baylor a model institution for Title IX responses to sexual assault.”

I recommend “Violated” to anyone who wants to be informed about issues of sexual assault on Baylor campus but doesn’t know where to begin. It’s a good start, but is not the end. Whether you read the book or not, choose to stay informed. Read the news, ask questions, listen to people’s stories.

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