Baylor accused of mishandling sexual violence cases

By Jessica Hubble Lariat Staff Writer & Kalli Damschen Lariat Reporter

Baylor is facing several accusations of mishandling sexual violence cases involving a former football player now serving 20 years in prison.

In ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” which aired Sunday, three alleged victims of Tevin Elliott spoke out. The former Baylor defensive end was convicted in 2014 of two counts of sexual assault on a former Baylor student and sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The video features three women with their identity concealed from the camera. The women discuss the way they were treated by the university’s faculty and staff when coming forward with a sexual assault complaint.

The ESPN report said that when one of the women went to the Baylor police department she said that she was told that they could not do anything because the assault happened off campus. When the victim went to the Health Center, she said she was told no one could see her and she should put her name on a waiting list or go see someone off campus. The victim’s mother went to Baylor academic services group as a last resort, and she said she was told there were no resources for her daughter.

When another woman brought allegations against Elliott, she said she was sent to Baylor’s Judicial Affairs Office and met with Bethany McCraw, the university’s chief judicial officer. The woman said she was told by McCraw that she was the sixth woman to come forward with a sexual assault report against Elliott. When she asked McCraw if the football team knew, she said that McCraw said yes but they needed a court decision to act. She said McCraw said that was because it turns into a ‘he said she said.’

The woman then asked for a restraining order and she said McCraw said it would just be a letter asking him not to come near her and she would just have to “hope for the best.” The woman said McCraw offered to email the woman’s professors and help exempt her final exams because she was having trouble preparing. The woman said she felt like McCraw only did this because the woman was so close to graduating and McCraw just wanted her to graduate and be gone.

The university responded to ESPN’s report by issuing a statement Monday.

“Above all, we are most concerned about the safety of our students and our campus,” said Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president of media communications. “We are doing all that we can to ensure that we have in place quality processes reflecting best practices nationally so that we might respond effectively and with sensitivity to those impacted by the terrible tragedy of interpersonal violence.”

At the request of university President and Chancellor Ken Starr, an external investigation into the university’s handling of cases of alleged sexual violence was launched in the fall of 2015. The investigation is being conducted by the nationally recognized law firm Pepper Hamilton.

Title IX Efforts

According to the Association of American Universities, 23.1 percent of undergraduate female students experience some form of sexual assault, and Baylor University is no exception. Not only are gender discrimination, sexual assault and rape all problems faced by Baylor, but a recent article by ESPN claims that Baylor has failed some of its students who were victims of sexual assault.

While gender discrimination and sexual assault are complex issues, the Title IX Office has made a great number of changes since August 2015. Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford said she hopes it will lead to a societal shift and an overall decrease in the number of Title IX-related incidents.

Title IX is a national law written in 1972 that says any educational institution that receives federal funds cannot discriminate based on sex or gender. Originally, Title IX was primarily applied to equity and opportunity in athletics, but the federal government has given additional guidance on what Title IX is over the years.

Since the law’s inception in 1972, Baylor has always had a Title IX coordinator, but until 2014 this was not a full-time position. Before 2011, sexual assault cases were reviewed by Judicial Affairs. Now cases are reviewed by the Title IX office.

In 2014, Baylor hired Crawford as the first full-time Title IX coordinator. Since then, Crawford has built up the Title IX Office and worked to change the university’s Title IX policy.

“The university developed an entirely new Title IX policy, and that policy was approved in August,” Crawford said. “We will keep revising that policy. We’re in the revision process right now, because once you live in a policy and work in it, you want to keep changing it and making it better.”

Under the federal government’s guidance, there are many categories of Title IX, Crawford said. The law covers issues including race and gender discrimination in admissions, scholarships, and financial aid. Students are not the only ones protected under Title IX, which also covers employees, faculty and staff. Title IX still protects against gender discrimination in athletics, which includes areas such as programming, athletic scholarships, access and equipment.

Additionally, Title IX prohibits universities from retaliating against people who report Title IX violations.

Baylor’s Title IX Office consists of two different sides, which Crawford described as “proactive” and “reactive.” The proactive side is focused on spreading awareness, such as through the 2,000 Title IX posters around campus and the online course that all new freshmen and transfer students are required to complete before the semester.

“The critical thing about a social shift is building awareness around what something is,” Crawford said. “So if there is a culture of interpersonal violence in a community, we have to first define it and talk about it. It is not easy to talk about sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence.”

The reactive side of the office responds to complaints. The Title IX Office has two investigators, two adjudicators and a case manager. The investigators present the facts of each case to one of the adjudicators, who makes a decision, followed by an appeals process.

In the meantime, the case manager is responsible for creating interim remedies for both the complainant and the accused party. These remedies could include changing class schedules, providing escorts to classes, making housing changes, providing financial aid support, facilitating tutoring and other assistance necessary to create safety and success for the parties involved, Crawford said.

“That’s what we call a trauma-informed model,” Crawford said, “where you try to make it a process that we don’t add more stress or triggers to the parties that would feel like they have to confront someone again or have to tell an experience again that they’re not ready to tell. Also, the complainant does not have to participate in the hearing if they do not want to, and I can actually go forward with an investigation and a hearing without the complainant.”

“I can’t do this work without students’ voices,” Crawford said, “and I can’t do this work without knowing I’m aggressively working on prevention. Otherwise it’s just a cycle of violence coming through, and I’m trying to remedy in a reactive way.”

If a student goes to the Baylor Health Center with a sexual assault case, the center takes care of the student’s medical needs and gives them a Title IX packet. If the assault was recent and the victim is considering pressing charges, the center advises students to go to an emergency room, and have an exam by a sexual assault nurse examiner.

In case of an assault

If the assault was not recent (within 96 hours) or the victim refuses to go to the emergency room the Baylor Health Center will do the testing and treatment. The center also recommends counseling and will refer them to the Baylor University Counseling Center.

As healthcare professionals, the health center is not allowed to report any cases of sexual assault. Everything will remain confidential unless a patient makes a request in writing that their information is to be shared.

“Our function is to serve the medical needs of Baylor University students.” said Dr. Sharon Stern, medical director at Baylor Health Services.

“It is important for us to deal with students as quickly and compassionately as possible and that is what we strive to always do.”