Woman Says School Gave Rapist-Athlete a Pass
TULSA (CN) - The University of Tulsa failed to protect a student from a star basketball player who raped her, despite his history of sexual assaults, the sophomore claims in court.
Abigail Ross sued the University of Tulsa in Federal Court on Monday, claiming she was raped by senior Patrick Swilling Jr. in January as she pleaded with him repeatedly to stop.
Swilling, who is identified in the lawsuit, is not a party to the complaint. The only parties to the complaint are Ross and the university.
Ross claims that Swilling raped her in his apartment on Jan. 27, after inviting her there to watch a basketball game on TV.
She claims that used his physical strength to rape her, though she "repeatedly pleaded with him to stop."
"After finishing his assault, Swilling instructed her that 'no one is going to know about this, right?'" the 15-page complaint states. "After plaintiff agreed to not tell anyone, Swilling allowed her to leave, which she did immediately."
Ross claims that Swilling had been accused of similar sexual misconduct three times before he raped her.
She claims that a student at the College of Southern Idaho reported that Swilling raped her in December 2011. The student's mother notified the Idaho basketball coach and athletic director, who notified the Twins Falls police, according to the complaint.
That alleged incident was remarkably similar to Ross's alleged rape.
The complaint states: "The investigation of the woman's report revealed the following: the College of Southern Idaho female student reported that she and Swilling were watching TV when Swilling pulled her onto the bed and began grabbing her buttocks and breasts. Swilling then forced himself on top of her while removing her pants. Swilling then vaginally raped her on the bed with his penis despite her numerous pleas for him to stop. After being raped, Swilling told the woman that 'no one will find out about this if you don't tell anyone.'"
Nonetheless, Ross claims: "In 2012, Danny Manning ('Manning'), the TU men's basketball coach, and his staff, actively recruited Swilling to play basketball at TU. In the course of recruiting of Swilling, Coach Manning had easy access to the information regarding Swilling's rape investigation in Idaho, which was readily available from the College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls Police Department, and presumably [University of Southern Idaho coach Steve] Gosar."
Tulsa University accepted Swilling as a transfer, and while investigating Ross's complaint found two other victims, according to the lawsuit.
"During the Tulsa PD investigation, the police located a second prior victim. This victim was a former TU student who previously reported being raped by Swilling while at TU," the complaint states. "This woman had reported her assault to the TU Department of Security, which conducted no investigation into the report. No action was taken by TU, no disciplinary charges were ever brought, and the matter was kept quiet by TU.
"As the Tulsa PD investigation continued, the detective uncovered a third prior victim who indicated that she too had been attacked by Swilling. The third victim described the following: that Swilling followed her into a room during a party without her knowledge and pushed her on the bed. She described that Swilling then attempted to sexually assault her. As she began to scream, other students at the party heard the screams and entered the room and pulled Swilling off of the woman. That woman is identified in the Tulsa PD file. It is unknown who at TU was aware of this woman's report. Similar to the prior incidents, TU never brought charges against Swilling for this attempted sexual assault, and no disciplinary action followed.
"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.
"Plaintiff knew nothing about the host of prior reports of sexual violence against Swilling before January 27, 2014."
To top it off, according to the complaint, when school security contacted Ross's friends, they "were asked questions about Plaintiff's prior sexual history instead of questions about Swilling, the incident, or the relevant facts."
Ross claims that in a meeting with Dean Yolanda Taylor in March , she was promised that Swilling's prior sexual misconduct would be part of his disciplinary hearing.
However, "None of the prior allegations of sexual misconduct against Swilling were considered, and no other witnesses testified besides Swilling and plaintiff," the complaint states.
"Dean Taylor presided over the matter and found in favor of Swilling. Taylor also determined that Swilling would not suffer any consequences whatsoever."
Ross claims she is "terrified" to attend school given Swilling's presence on the small campus, and has withdrawn from classes.
"Plaintiff was forced to re-experience the rape and trauma on numerous occasions throughout the disciplinary process and her campus experience, and because the disciplinary process is not adequately designed to credibly respond to allegations of sexual assault, its findings rest upon material obtained through suspect means that support an inference of witness and evidence tampering, which, in turn, caused plaintiff to suffer the additional insults and injuries associated with victim-blaming, for which TU is liable under state law," the complaint states.
Tulsa University President Stedman Upham said Monday that "it appears misinformation already is developing" regarding the school's handling of the accusations.
"This process was carried out fully and completely in the case in question, including communicating the official policy to all parties involved," Upham told ABC-affiliate KTUL.
"As soon as the incident was reported, university administrators immediately began the investigation process. We conducted our investigation in a fair and timely manner, cooperating fully with local law enforcement."
Ross seeks an injunction and damages for violations of Title IX, negligence, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Steven Terrill with Bryan Terrill in Tulsa.