Athletes, assaults and inaction
Editor's note: The following story contains descriptions and links to documents with language that might be offensive to some readers.
A women's soccer player at the University of Missouri told police that her coach said she might lose her scholarship unless she dropped assault allegations she had made against a star football player. The running back would later be accused in two other assaults.
At the College of Southern Idaho, the mother of a student emailed the head basketball coach that one of his players had raped her daughter. The coach responded that "campus policies don't allow us to handle 'internally' matters of this nature." About two years later, that same basketball player -- having transferred to the University of Tulsa -- was cleared of rape allegations in a campus disciplinary hearing after the dean of students determined that the alleged victim wasn't clear enough that she didn't want to have sex.
"Outside the Lines" uncovered these allegations and incidents through multiple interviews and by obtaining hundreds of documents from the colleges, alleged victims and police. The details are striking: two student-athletes with at least seven women in all having reported being allegedly hurt or sexually assaulted by them, the reports occurring at a small junior college, a private mid-major and a major Division I public university. The reporting by "Outside the Lines" shows that two of the colleges likely violated federal law for not investigating assault allegations. The third is being sued in federal court for ignoring past allegations of abuse from two women.
The U.S. Department of Education is investigating 76 colleges and universities for their handling of what are commonly known as Title IX complaints. Title IX is a federal gender equity law that, among other requirements, sets the rules for how schools must investigate incidents of sexual assault or violence. The law provides protection for women and men and covers how schools must provide support for the students involved.
Last year, the National College Health Assessment found that more than 10 percent of women said they had been the victim of some form of sexual assault on campus in the previous 12 months. Although it's unknown how many instances of campus sexual assault involve athletes, "Outside the Lines" research of media coverage found at least 30 Division I schools had such reports in the past five years. These cases, because of their publicity, are often the ones by which the system -- the university and law enforcement -- is judged for how such reports are handled. There are plenty to judge, too, with recent reports of athletes allegedly raping or assaulting women at Oregon, UCLA, Texas, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, Mississippi, and Florida State, which is being investigated for its handling of sexual assault allegations against Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
Catherine Lhamon, the U.S. Department of Education's assistant secretary of the Office for Civil Rights, said the Missouri, Southern Idaho and Tulsa cases are representative of many the department has seen in recent years.
Without commenting specifically about the schools, she said: "That fact pattern is enormously distressing to me, that people are coming forward saying that there's something wrong, that shouldn't have happened, and that the school says that, 'We can't handle that."
Multiple allegations before player dismissed
At Missouri, the final count was four -- one alleged rape, one alleged physical assault, one sexual assault and one domestic assault -- before one of its star athletes left campus in 2010.
The first incident came in October 2008, when a sophomore at Missouri reported that running back Derrick Washington raped her in her dorm room.
The second came in May 2010, when a women's soccer player said Washington punched her at a bar.
The third came in June 2010, when a 2009 Missouri graduate and former athletic department tutor reported that Washington -- who was at her apartment to have sex with her roommate -- crept into her bedroom in the middle of the night and sexually assaulted her.
And the last came three months later, when Washington was arrested for beating up his ex-girlfriend.
Washington's involvement with police began in 2008, when a student accused him of rape.
"He grabbed both my wrists with one hand and kept doing [sic] and just proceeded to put his penis inside of me," the woman told "Outside the Lines" about the 2008 incident. "When I was finally able to push him off me, he just kept saying that if I said anything they would kick him off the football team. And football was his life, so if I said anything, he would kill me and kill himself."
After their investigation, campus police sent a warrant request to Boone County assistant prosecuting attorney Andrew Scholz, but he ultimately declined to press charges against Washington. Instead, Scholz entered into an agreement with Washington that he wouldn't be charged as long as he never contacted the woman and took rape awareness classes. Scholz, who left Boone County in 2010 and is in private practice, said there were a number of issues that came up in interviewing witnesses that would weaken the woman's case, including a comment made to her by her ex-boyfriend that she could use the incident as leverage to get a full-ride scholarship.
University officials knew of her rape allegation, though, and under federal law should have begun an investigation, no matter what authorities did. The woman said she told her academic adviser, who acknowledged in a phone conversation with "Outside the Lines" that she had a conversation with her about the rape. But the adviser said the woman didn't tell her it had been Washington.
Washington's parents told "Outside the Lines" that assistant football coaches met with them to talk about the incident and indicated to them that criminal charges likely wouldn't be filed.
The coaches and adviser fit the definition of "mandatory reporters" under Title IX, meaning someone obligated to report the incident to initiate a Title IX investigation. At that point, the university would have been required to open a Title IX investigation -- the purpose and conduct of which are different from a criminal investigation. The standard of proof needed for action also differs from criminal investigations; although a criminal case requires "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" for a finding of guilt, a Title IX case, much like a civil court case, needs only a "preponderance of evidence."
But the woman said no one from the university reached out to her to offer assistance or interview her as part of a Title IX or student disciplinary investigation, part of which the law says should include an assessment of the alleged victim's needs in order to feel safe on campus and able to continue her education.
"I stayed in my dorm room with the doors locked. ... I don't think I went to class for weeks or maybe even a month," she said.
Recently, the woman asked the university what had been done about her allegations and a university official told her the school had no disciplinary records responsive to her request. This week, the school confirmed to "Outside the Lines" that a Title IX investigation never occurred.
Washington played every game that season and scored 19 touchdowns, leading his team in rushing. The woman said she had to seek therapy, and medical records confirm she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I've lost the majority of my faith in humanity," she said. "I lost my self-worth. I was put on antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicine. I have nightmares."
Washington, through his parents, declined to speak to "Outside the Lines" for this story. In 2009, he led the team in rushing again and, in spring 2010, was projected to be one of the best running backs in the Big 12.
After the spring practice season concluded, a Missouri women's soccer player got into a fight with Washington's girlfriend at a bar in Columbia on May 6, 2010. Police arrested and cited both women for fighting. The soccer player told police that, during the fight, Washington walked up and "struck her with a closed fist on the left side of her face."
While at the hospital being treated for the injury to her face, she told police she wanted to press charges against Washington, and a warrant was issued for third-degree assault. But later that day, she came to the police department and said she had changed her mind.
According to the police report, the woman spoke to her soccer coach, who said her scholarship might be in danger because of her arrest. The report stated, "Her coach made her feel as though she would not have any problems with her scholarship if she declined to prosecute Derrick Washington for assaulting her," and that, "If Mr. Washington was arrested, the incident would make the news and the situation with her scholarship might change."
Police closed the case and didn't arrest Washington, whose status with the university and team remained the same. The soccer player, who did not want her name published, said she was never contacted by university officials about the incident. She wrote in an email to "Outside the Lines" that she did lose her scholarship but, with the help of an attorney, was able to have it reinstated.
Just six weeks later, another woman would accuse Washington of sexually assaulting her. She said she was asleep in her bed when Washington came in and put his finger in her vagina. Teresa Braeckel reported the incident to police nearly immediately, and police opened an investigation.
While police were investigating, Washington was named one of four captains of the football team and sent to Dallas to represent the school at Big 12 media days.
In this case, Missouri's Office of Student Conduct did reach out to Braeckel, but she told officials she was concerned that discussing the case could interfere with her criminal case proceedings.
When felony charges were imminent, football coach Gary Pinkel suspended Washington from the team, but he remained on scholarship and on campus. Washington was charged with felony deviate sexual assault on Aug. 30, 2010.
Thirteen days later, while Washington was out on bail, police arrested him again. This time it was for beating up his former girlfriend, who told police that Washington struck her in the face multiple times after they got into an argument at her apartment.
An officer wrote in a report that the woman had some hemorrhaging around her left eye, consistent with her report that Washington had tried to "push her eyeballs into her skull."
Washington withdrew from the university and moved home to live with his parents near Kansas City, Missouri.
In September 2011, a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting Braeckel, and a judge sentenced him to five years in prison. He served four months as part of a first-time offenders program and had to register as a sex offender. In February 2012, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor third-degree domestic assault for the attack on his former girlfriend and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which he served concurrently with the deviate sexual assault sentence.
Washington used his final year of playing eligibility at Tuskegee University and worked out with the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots last year but was never signed. On his Twitter account, he recently indicated he was still enrolled at Tuskegee and working to finish his degree.
Braeckel said she left the school over the incident and moved home, giving up job opportunities in the District of Columbia.
"It was time for me to just kind of close the shutters and be by myself and to try to feel safe and to cope with what had happened," she said.
She also sought counseling.
Braeckel and the woman from the 2008 incident signed forms to waive their privacy rights so as to allow Missouri officials to discuss their cases with "Outside the Lines." But Missouri president Tim Wolfe, athletic director Mike Alden and Pinkel declined to answer questions, and a university spokeswoman said the school would not make anyone else available for an interview.
Braeckel said she places some of the blame directly on Missouri for not acting sooner on other women's complaints about Washington.
"Maybe his whereabouts would have been monitored. Maybe Coach would have told him, 'You need to watch yourself,'" she said.
"No one should have been the first. And none of us should have been the last."
Lawsuit: Tulsa failed to protect woman
A lawsuit filed in federal court Monday alleges that the University of Tulsa failed to protect a student from one of its prominent basketball players who has a history of facing sexual assault allegations.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Abigail Ross, a sophomore at Tulsa, states that basketball player Patrick Swilling Jr. raped her in January. It outlines three prior alleged incidents involving Swilling: from a woman who reported in 2012 that he raped her while the two were students at the College of Southern Idaho; a woman at Tulsa who reported a sexual assault to campus security; and a woman who said Swilling tried to sexually assault her before friends intervened.
"Despite its knowledge of at least one, and as many as three prior allegations of sexual assault and misconduct perpetrated by Swilling, TU undertook zero investigation of his conduct and permitted Swilling to continue to attend TU," the lawsuit states. "... TU was deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk that Swilling would sexually harass other female students at TU. As a result of TU's deliberate indifference, Plaintiff was subjected to extreme sexual harassment in the form of rape by Swilling."
"Outside the Lines" found that the first allegation against Swilling came at the College of Southern Idaho, when the mother of sophomore Lexi Mallory reported to the men's basketball coach that Swilling had raped her daughter.
The coach, who told her mother that campus policies didn't allow for such an incident to be investigated, forwarded her email to his athletic director, who called college president Jerry Beck. Beck told "Outside the Lines" that he agreed with the decision to let city police handle the allegation.
"We don't have people who are trained in dealing with that type of thing," said Beck, who retired last summer.
But the College of Southern Idaho had what's known as a Title IX coordinator, someone whose job is to investigate gender equity complaints, including cases of sexual assault.
That coordinator is Monty Arrossa, and he said the first time he heard about Mallory's alleged assault was when "Outside the Lines" made a public records request this year for documents related to Swilling. Arrossa said the former president never informed him nor the former dean of students.
"We should have contacted the student. We should have investigated this," he said. "Because that's our policy."
Mallory dropped out, which is something Arrossa said was "devastating" to hear.
She has yet to finish her degree. She moved to Boise, Idaho, where she works in retail and cares for her infant son.
Ross, the student at Tulsa, withdrew from classes in the spring because, according to the lawsuit, she felt the university disregarded her safety.
Swilling was suspended from the team by then-coach Danny Manning on Feb. 12 because of the Ross investigation. Six weeks later, Tulsa dean of students Yolanda Taylor cleared Swilling. In late April, the Tulsa district attorney's office declined to press charges against Swilling.
On Wednesday afternoon, Swilling's attorney, Corbin Brewster, confirmed that a letter sent via social media defending his client was written by Swilling.
In the document, which includes pictures of Ross and some of her social media posts, Swilling vigorously defends himself against all of the women's claims and criticizes ESPN's reporting. He noted that he was not charged with any crimes and that there is a double standard that exists when it comes to people who accuse others of crimes.
"I have proven my innocence and continue to persevere through these tough times," he wrote. "I have been verbally abused, harassed, constantly sent harsh things on social media and even received death threats on multiple occasions.
"... My life has changed drastically since these allegations have been brought against me. I've lost friends, I've lost loved ones, my goals have changed, my image has change [sic] and I've lost Patrick Swilling Jr. in it all. I'm not the same person I was before the allegations, I can't be."
Also on Wednesday afternoon, Mallory's former roommate and Swilling friend Alysha Zephyr forwarded a statement to "Outside the Lines" that called Mallory's claims against Swilling a "lie." She said Mallory acknowledged having sex with Swilling to her and another roommate. Zephyr, whom "Outside the Lines" contacted several months ago but who would not talk on the record, said in the statement she believed Mallory's claims were a "desperate effort to get her fiancee to take her back and mend her reputation."
Swilling's attorney said "the allegations in the recent lawsuit that Patrick sexually assaulted other women are unsubstantiated and false. The lawsuit appears to be an attempt to further damage Patrick's reputation. ... "
Swilling had been waiting to be cleared academically by the NCAA so he can play football for Tulsa this fall, but he announced on Twitter this week that the NCAA denied his waiver.
Tulsa officials declined an interview request from "Outside the Lines" to discuss Swilling's case.
'It can take too long'
Without naming the specific schools in this story, "Outside the Lines" told Lhamon how the college officials responded, and she said the responses are indicative of the types of cases the U.S. Department of Education sees.
"We have colleges and institutions that are not responding quickly," she said. "So they get a complaint, but they sit on it. And they don't investigate. And they let the facts grow stale. That can take too long to get relief for the student community. It can take too long to make sure that kids are safe."
In 2011, the department sent a 19-page letter to colleges and universities re-emphasizing their obligations under Title IX and stressing the importance of investigating reports of violence. After that letter received national media attention, Lhamon said, her office saw an 88 percent increase in the complaints about how institutions were addressing such reports. She also said she believes the increase could also be the result of an increase in campus sexual assaults overall.
Making clear to schools that they "shouldn't take a backseat to the criminal justice process" is important, Lhamon said, because Title IX -- a law with roots in civil rights and gender equity -- addresses questions that go beyond law enforcement.
"Should a student stay in the same course schedule? Should a student stay in the same dormitory? Can a student feel safe going to the library or not?" she said.
This year, President Barack Obama established a White House task force to address sexual assaults among college students, and several weeks ago members of the U.S. House and Senate introduced bipartisan bills designed to crack down on colleges that fail to act.
The bills would improve support services for survivors, instill mandatory training for campus personnel and improve coordination with law enforcement. They also would prevent athletic departments from being the sole arbiter of cases involving student-athletes. If schools don't follow Title IX provisions, they face a penalty of up to 1 percent of their operating budget.
The issue came to head July 9 in Washington, D.C., when Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, -- a co-sponsor of the Senate bill -- released a study that examined how colleges and universities respond to allegations of sexual violence. One statistic from the study stated that 22 percent of the schools said oversight of reports of sexual violence involving athletes is given to their athletic departments. At a Senate hearing that day, she grilled NCAA President Mark Emmert, asking him how the NCAA could allow such a practice.
A month later, the NCAA Executive Committee unanimously approved a resolution instructing athletic departments to "Cooperate with but not manage, direct, control or interfere with college or university investigations into allegations of sexual violence."
In January, McCaskill called for Missouri, her alma mater, to conduct a probe into the alleged sexual assault of Sasha Menu Courey, a swimmer who committed suicide months after reporting the assault to several campus medical professionals and writing in her diary that she also had told her athletic academic adviser.
When McCaskill learned in an interview last week of Washington's string of alleged incidents, she said, "There's just no excuse. It makes me sick to my stomach." However, she said she feels confident that the university "wants to do better" and is working toward that end.
At the College of Southern Idaho, Title IX coordinator Arrossa told "Outside the Lines" several months ago that the way the Swilling allegations were handled has prompted the school to review its policy and start mandatory Title IX training for key faculty and staff members, including athletic department staff and coaches.
"This has been a good exercise for us because it made us look at our policy," he said. "This won't happen again."
Nicole Noren is a producer in ESPN's enterprise and investigative unit and can be reached at Nicole.K.Noren@espn.com. Production assistant Jennifer Somach contributed to this report.