A federal lawsuit alleges a Prairie View A&M University coach helped a male student accused of sexual assault flee Texas to avoid arrest.
An unidentified female athlete filed the lawsuit in Houston. It accuses the university of creating a hostile educational environment and violating the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in educational institutions, the Houston Chronicle reported.
According to the lawsuit, the woman reported to university police the day after the Feb. 18, 2015, assault in her campus apartment. She alleged she confided to her coach, who isn’t named, and identified her attacker.
The coach responded by telling her not to alert her parents, and then bought the accused student a plane ticket to leave town, according to the lawsuit.
The coach left his position several months later and told the woman’s teammates she was the reason for his departure, the lawsuit stated. The suit didn’t mention which sport the woman played.
The unidentified accused student was found in Florida and charged with sexual assault in May 2015, according to the lawsuit, which didn’t provide details on the case’s outcome. The woman alleged she learned the coach paid for the student’s plane ticket while she attended a bail hearing on the case.
“If the people responding to survivors are acting more like gatekeepers keeping the case from going forward, that’s not justice — that’s abetting a rapist,” said Christopher Kaiser, director of public policy for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.
The university doesn’t comment on pending litigation but officials take allegations of sexual assault seriously, said Yolanda Bevill, spokeswoman for the university.
The accusation is the latest federal lawsuit accusing a college campus of not properly handling allegations of sexual misconduct, a problem universities nationwide have long faced. Federal officials are reconsidering guidance on how universities should respond to reports under Title IX.
“If you can’t trust your coach, if you can’t trust your school, if you can’t trust the police, who do you turn to?” said Brenda Tracy, a victim advocate who has worked with Texas college sports teams. “You have a responsibility for the well-being of this human in front of you. This is serious trauma with serious consequences.”
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