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Baylor Blasted for Response to Athlete Rapes

WACO, Texas (CN) - Baylor University's counseling department told a student they were "too busy" to see her after she was raped by its football player Tevin Elliott, who is serving 20 years for sexual assaults, the woman claims in court.

Jasmin Hernandez sued the Baylor Board of Regents, its head football coach Art Briles, and athletic director Ian McCaw on March 30 in Federal Court. She says Elliott grabbed her at a party near campus in 2012, took her behind a secluded shack and raped her.

At least five women have accused Elliott of raping or assaulting them between October 2009 and April 2012, according to ESPN. He was sentenced in January 2104 to 20 years in prison on each of two counts of sexually assaulting a former Baylor student in 2012.

Three women testified at his trial that he had sexually assaulted them. A state jury rejected his plea for probation and sentenced him to the prison terms, to run concurrently. He must serve at least 10 years, under Texas law.

Though Elliott apologized and told the jury he had "grown tremendously" since he was arrested, he also said that all three women who testified against him lied.

A prosecutor called Elliott an unapologetic serial rapist.

"Why is he apologizing?" prosecutor Hilary LaBorde asked the jury at sentencing. "He said he did nothing wrong. He doesn't need counseling. He needs to grow a conscience. He needs to have some empathy for others."

LaBorde's fellow prosecutor, Robert Moody, told the jury: ""The thought of putting him on probation is disgusting," according to the Waco Tribune.

In her lawsuit, Hernandez says that when her mother tried to get her help at the Baylor Counseling Center, she was told "that they were too busy" and refused to see her.

"Next, mother called the psychology department at Baylor's Student Health Center to request services for her daughter," the complaint states. "The Student Health Center informed mother that all counseling sessions were full, and they could not provide any services to Hernandez. A few days later, mother called Baylor's Academic Services Department to request academic accommodations for her daughter, who was still traumatized from being raped and would not be able to fully concentrate on her studies for some time. The Academic Services Department refused to provide any accommodations, telling Mother that even 'if a plane falls on your daughter, there's nothing we can do to help you.'"

Hernandez says her mother called Briles to tell him what Elliott had done and received a phone call from his secretary saying they would look into it.

"Hernandez's father also called Briles' office several times to follow up," the complaint states. "Hernandez's father never received a return phone call from Briles or anyone in his office."

Hernandez, a nursing student on academic scholarship, said her grades suffered after the rape, costing her the scholarship and forcing her to drop out.

Her attorney Alexander Zalkin, of San Diego, Calif., said Baylor failed his client "on so many levels" by not preventing the rape or mitigating the damage.

"Baylor had actual knowledge of Jasmine's assailant, Tevin Elliott, who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years for his assault of Jasmin," Zalkin said during a conference call on Thursday with Hernandez. "Baylor had prior knowledge that Tevin Elliott had sexually assaulted multiple women. Baylor completely betrayed her, they did nothing to help her get through the trauma, to help her academically when she reported that she was struggling academically. They ignored her."

When asked why she waited so long to sue, Hernandez said she did not know she had such Title IX rights.

"I've just recently learned about Title IX. I would have done this a lot sooner," she said. "I went to Baylor and had asked for psychological and academic counseling. ... They gave me withdrawal forms and told me I could leave the school."

The lawsuit comes three months after Baylor settled similar claims by a student who said she was sexually assaulted by former football player Sam Ukwuachu . No lawsuit was filed in that case.

Ukwuachu was sentenced last year to 180 days in county jail, 10 years of probation and 400 hours of community service.

Baylor has cited a pending external review of its response to sexual assaults by the Pepper Hamilton law firm. Baylor President Ken Starr said in February that attorneys were given "unfettered access" to information, that he expects a "frank and candid" assessment of past practices and recommendations .

Baylor declined to comment on Hernandez's case Thursday, saying "individual incidents are deeply personal matters that do not benefit from our public statements."

"Even if a survivor chooses to speak or take other actions to support their healing, we must not publicly comment in a way that could compromise student confidentiality or inadvertently discourage future students from coming forward," the school said in a statement.

Hernandez seeks punitive damages for negligence and gender discrimination.

Her lead counsel is Susan Hutchison with Hutchison & Stoy in Fort Worth.

Follow @davejourno
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