Sex as­sault vic­tims ‘de­mand change’

Houston Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Jenny Dial Creech

Texas A&M’s han­dling of sex­ual as­sault cases is com­ing un­der scru­tiny after a vic­tim said the school’s Ti­tle IX rul­ing was too le­nient.

The school sus­pended her al­leged at­tacker for one se­mes­ter and he was al­lowed back on the Texas A&M swim team.

No crim­i­nal charges were filed in the case, but a Ti­tle IX hear­ing in 2016 found the swim­mer re­spon­si­ble for sex­ual abuse and sus­pended him from the univer­sity, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments pro­vided to the Chron­i­cle.

“I just feel like it isn’t enough,” the vic­tim, Hanna Shaw told the Chron­i­cle. (The Chron­i­cle does not typ­i­cally name vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault, but Shaw has gone public with her story.)

Since Shaw went public, sev­eral other cur­rent and for­mer fe­male stu­dents from the univer­sity have come for­ward with sim­i­lar con­cerns about the school’s Ti­tle IX process and penal­ties ad­min­is­tered.

Ab­bie Hil­lis, who was raped when she was a ju­nior in 2010, started a closed Face­book group for A&M sur­vivors and in a 24-

hour span, the group had more than 200 mem­bers. Ap­prox­i­mately 30 of those have shared their sto­ries in the group, and as of Wed­nes­day after­noon, 11 were plan­ning to go public with their ex­pe­ri­ences.

“I have never shared my story un­til now,” Hil­lis said. “And I quickly re­al­ized that there were so many others. We all de­mand change. The univer­sity needs to do bet­ter.”

Texas A&M said that it could not com­ment on spe­cific cases, but stu­dents are sanc­tioned if they are found re­spon­si­ble for sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Shaw’s as­sault oc­curred in Septem­ber of 2015. She said she didn’t re­port the abuse im­me­di­ately be­cause she was scared and stressed about com­ing for­ward.

She filed a com­plaint seven months later un­der Ti­tle IX, which ad­dresses sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual vi­o­lence on cam­puses. Agreed on pun­ish­ment

Both par­ties agreed to the pun­ish­ment of a onesemester sus­pen­sion. How­ever, when Shaw re­cently saw her al­leged at­tacker’s name on the swim team ros­ter, she sent a let­ter to the ath­letic de­part­ment.

“It just seems like the school did very lit­tle,” she said. “He ba­si­cally took a se­mes­ter off and there was no real pun­ish­ment.”

In a post on Twit­ter last Fri­day, Shaw copied a part of A&M’s re­sponse to her let­ter. “I re­gret your dis­plea­sure with the per­ceived im­pact, and I wish you all the best as you con­tinue to seek heal­ing.”

The is­sue of sex­ual as­sault on cam­pus has grown in re­cent years, in­clud­ing the scan­dal at Bay­lor in­volv­ing sev­eral football play­ers and at Stan­ford where a swim­mer was con­victed of rape after an in­ci­dent at a frat party.

“It’s un­ac­cept­able to me that the Ti­tle IX office would find a stu­dent ath­lete re­spon­si­ble for rape and then de­cide that an ad­e­quate pun­ish­ment was a one se­mes­ter sus­pen­sion and one se­mes­ter pro­ba­tion,” said rape sur­vivor and vic­tim ad­vo­cate Brenda Tracy. “Ath­let­ics added in­sult to in­jury by giv­ing the ath­lete a red shirt year and then re­in­stat­ing him to the swim team. Rape is a life al­ter­ing life threat­en­ing event and this is what we’ve de­cided is ac­cept­able? If TAMU and ath­let­ics wanted to send the mes­sage that ath­letes are more im­por­tant than rape sur­vivors — mis­sion ac­com­plished.”

Texas A&M said that stu­dent ath­letes are treated the same as other stu­dents in Ti­tle IX cases and pun­ish­ment.

“We have a deep com­mit­ment to a safe, se­cure en­vi­ron­ment for all stu­dents; to a fair in­ves­tiga­tive process; to rights of ap­peals by par­ties; and to ren­der­ing sanc­tions to those found re­spon­si­ble for sex­ual mis­con­duct,” the school’s state­ment said.

The swim­mer who was found re­spon­si­ble has not com­mented since Shaw’s tweet went vi­ral, but his at­tor­ney has been out­spo­ken on so­cial me­dia. At­tor­ney re­sponds

The Law Of­fices of Craig M. Greaves posted on its Face­book page in de­fense of his client that that the en­counter was con­sen­sual and called out the vic­tim for wait­ing sev­eral months to re­port it.

Shaw said part of the en­counter was con­sen­sual but not all of it.

Doc­u­ments from the Ti­tle IX hear­ing show that the swim­mer said they were hav­ing “rough sex” but Shaw said no and he didn’t stop.

After hear­ing Shaw’s story, Hil­lis started a change.org cam­paign sim­i­lar to the one at Stan­ford after the Turner case.

“We want her rapist re­moved from cam­pus and we want A&M to look at its poli­cies and change them,” Hil­lis said. “The min­i­mum pun­ish­ment is one se­mes­ter sus­pen­sion and that is out­ra­geous.”

Hil­lis said she and other vic­tims share in their frus­tra­tion that the univer­sity doesn’t do enough for vic­tims.

She said she was never told of her rights after her at­tack.

“At A&M, they get you to be­lieve we are all fam­ily and we live by the Ag­gies honor code,” she said. “It’s a very high stan­dard. But it’s only for the stu­dents. The peo­ple work­ing there aren’t held to that stan­dard, too, and they need to be.” jenny.creech@chron.com twit­ter.com/jen­ny­di­al­creech

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