A new Title IX lawsuit was filed late last week against Baylor University – the latest of six federal lawsuits against the school, and the second in a week. It alleges staff encouraged football players to commit sexual assault and that staff used female students to have sex with football recruits to make sure they had a “good time.”
The attorney who filed the case claims their investigation found at least 52 acts of rape committed by no fewer than 31 football players between 2011 and 2014 – including five gang rapes.
Paula Lavigne, reporter for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, has been investigating how Baylor responds to allegations of sexual assault since last year.
Lavigne says this is the biggest number of sexual assault cases that she’s seen so far.
“It really takes into account a lot of the allegations of the gang rapes,” she says. “Assuming that there were multiple players involved in each of those, I think that’s where that number’s coming from.”
The coaches and football players say the allegations are untrue. Baylor University is not disputing the allegations, but they have put out a statement saying they haven’t been able to verify the numbers; there isn’t documentation to back up additional accounts of sexual assault other than the 17 cases the school has already acknowledged.
“You’ll never really know the real number because there are a lot of women out there who still won’t report,” Lavigne says. “There are a number of [cases of sexual assault] that can’t be proven or disproven. But the other aspect of this that really brings it to another level is the allegation of the coaches being involved or being complicit in allowing … or promoting the women to have sex with recruits.”
The allegations are mounting up, Lavigne says, and at this point it’s hard to know when they will end.
“I think it intensifies the dynamic,” Lavigne says about the new allegations. “I think it further draws the divide between what was happening in the football program and what was happening in the university in general. And I also think that it’s not a surprise that more lawsuits are coming forward – but I think it’s obvious to say that it really prevents the university and it prevents the football program from moving forward.”
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.