Baylor football players committed 52 rapes in four years, the majority at off-campus parties hosted by football players, including five gang rapes; the university paid off one woman who said she was raped by giving her free tuition; and football staff arranged for women to have sex with recruits on their campus visits, according to a Title IX lawsuit filed today in federal court in Texas.
The 26-page lawsuit—filed against Baylor on behalf of Elizabeth Doe—goes into immense detail about both a specific report of gang rape at the center of the complaint as well as how, it says, “football and rape became synonymous” under former football coach Art Briles, aided by a policy for football players described as “show ’em a good time.”
The specific case at the heart of the lawsuit has been reported on before, when ESPN’s Outside the Lines documented a police investigation of possible sexual assault involving then-Baylor football players Tre’Von Armstead and Shamycheal “Myke” Chatman. But the lawsuit provides new details about that case: It says, for example, that a fellow student arrived to the apartment before police arrived and told Doe that she needed to tell the police a different version of what happened to keep the football players out of trouble. The lawsuit also contrasts its description of events with those described in the summary done by Pepper Hamilton, showing how language used in that report played down potentially horrifying details.
The lawsuit begins by saying, “This complaint arises from a brutal gang rape at the hands of two Baylor football players, Tre’Von Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman, that occurred during a time in Baylor football that has become known as the most violent and atrocious in school history.” It then goes into the details about Doe’s time at Baylor, the general culture of sexual violence there, and how it was allowed to flourish.
The lawsuit also goes into detail about other cases. In one a victim reported sexual and dating violence to Baylor hoping for help with her academics. When the Title IX office told her that there might be an investigation, she refused. She said “that she would get killed and so would the title IX coordinator,” the lawsuit says. At least five times between 2011 and 2014, rape or physical abuse by football players was reported by female students, according to the lawsuit, but football coaches and athletic personnel “took no action.”
The lawsuit acknowledges that an investigation by outside law firm Pepper Hamilton did not find 52 cases, but notes that Pepper Hamilton’s review reported “similar numbers over a shorter timeframe than plaintiff’s investigation.” Pepper Hamilton found 17 women who reported rape or domestic violence involving 19 players, including four alleged gang rapes, university regents would eventually tell the Wall Street Journal.
It is within that culture that Doe was raped in 2013, according to the lawsuit.
Doe went to the historically Baptist school, she wrote in her application, “because of its strong emphasis on developing Christian faith and learning as well as its dedication to serving those in need,” according to the lawsuit. She started at the university in the fall of 2010, with football very popular as the team became a consistent winner. Doe joined the Baylor Bruins, a hostess program that she hoped “would become a type of informal sorority where she would develop many close friendships as she could not afford a traditional sorority,” according to the complaint.
On April 18, 2013, it was Diadeloso party weekend, a time when students get drunk, party, and police activity goes up, the lawsuit says. The year before, according to the lawsuit, “three different women were gang raped by members of the Baylor football team at a football party.” This weekend, Doe went to a party hosted at Shawn Oakman’s apartment. (Oakman has since been indicted on a charge of second-degree sexual assault from a separate case.) Also at the party were Tre’Von Armstead and Shamycheal “Myke” Chatman.
At the party, Doe got drunk. The lawsuit says that Doe “later learned” Chatman and Armstead went home with her from the party. The lawsuit then describes what happened. Doe’s roommate and the roommate’s boyfriend came home and, though the bedroom door was locked, “could hear what sounded like wrestling and a fist hitting someone.”
The next thing that he heard was a loud bang and a slapping noise accompanied by hearing a woman’s voice loudly saying “no.” The roommate’s boyfriend then shouted from the other side of the door to determine if everything was okay. One of the men inside of the bedroom yelled out that she “was fine” but the roommate’s boyfriend insisted further on seeing her come out of the room. Armstead and Chatman would soon emerge from the room with 6’7”, 311 pound Armstead attempting to stare down the roommate’s boyfriend. The young man looked into the dark room and saw Ms. Doe partially unclothed on the floor of the bedroom and said “she is not fine.”
The boyfriend called 911. Before the police arrived, another Bruin showed up, somehow already knowing that a rape had been reported, and “was trying to get Ms. Doe to cover for the assailants.” She told Doe that she had to tell the police it was “consensual sex with one white male in an apparent effort to protect the Baylor athletes,” according to the lawsuit.
Police never talked to either football player, the lawsuit says, and overall “did little” with the case. Waco police told Baylor police, but the university did nothing. This was discussed in the Pepper Hamilton report, per the lawsuit as, as: “In some instances, the football program dismissed players for unspecified team violations and assisted them in transferring to other schools.”
Chatman later transferred to Sam Houston State University; Armstead stayed and he kept playing football.
The lawsuit also says this was not the first time a woman told Baylor that Chatman had raped her.
According to the lawsuit, the prior report of rape involving Chatman is described in the Pepper Hamilton report the following way:
In addition, in one instance, in response to concerns about misconduct by football players that could contribute to a hostile environment, an academic program that required interaction with the football program improperly restricted educational opportunities for students, rather than take steps to eliminate a potential hostile environment.
Doe finished her time at Baylor in early 2015. That summer, she heard that Baylor had hired a Title IX coordinator and decided to lodge a report. The lawsuit does not go into many details about how the student judicial process worked in this case; it just says that an outside adjudicator ruled that Armstead was responsible for raping Doe. That was when Armstead was dismissed from the team for a “violation of team rules.”
The lawsuit also talks about Bruins hostess program and how it played a part in what happened. The official policy was to be a pretty face showing around recruits. Unofficial policy, per the complaint, was different: “Baylor Bruins were at times used to engage in sexual acts with the recruits to help secure the recruits’ commitment to Baylor.” There was a no-sex policy, the complaint says, but the university “had an unofficial policy of looking the other way.” And “on more than one occasion” a Bruin got pregnant by a football player.
Sex was used to recruit football players, the lawsuit says, and the policy was “show em a good time.” That phrase came from how one football player described “what his coaches had told them to do with the recruits,” according to the lawsuit.
(Back in November, ESPN reported that Kendall Briles talked to NCAA investigators regarding possible “improper contact with a recruit.”)
The lawsuit says that, apart from the Bruins, several policies were in place at Baylor that were a part of why so many rapes happened. Many were already discussed, although with few details given, in the Pepper Hamilton report. The lawsuit summarizes them this way (it includes details about each policy, which I’ve excluded, because they mostly repeat what was in the Pepper Hamilton summary):
- Policy of no or little discipline for football players
- Policy of interference with female students ’ access to help
- Policy of enacting a separate system of discipline for the football team.
- Policy of not reporting allegations of sexual violence and dating violence.
- Policy of diverting cases away from atudent conduct or criminal processes
- Policy of not educating staff/students
- Policy of accepting football players with histories of violence toward women
- Policy of “Show ‘em a good time” in recruiting
Football players knew this, the lawsuit says, and took advantage of it.
As Baylor continued to fail to address acts of sexual violence, the football players became increasingly emboldened, knowing that they could break the law, code of conduct, and general standards of human decency with no repercussions. This attitude, in turn, fueled the widespread violence within the program and spurred on the football players to gang rape Ms. Doe and others.
The lawsuit claims discrimination under Title IX due to a sexually hostile culture, gender discrimination under Title IX due to Baylor’s indifference to Doe’s rape, three claims of negligence, and gross negligence.
This is one of several Title IX lawsuits filed against Baylor by former students who said they were raped and that the university took little or no action when they report it. One former scholarships administrator also has sued. Briles is also suing the university, claiming he has been a victim of libel and slander.
The full lawsuit filed today is below.