Baylor sex assault survivor says school's announcement is first step to changing culture

At a school like Baylor, that prides itself on becoming gridiron greats in their conference, the success of the program and their players seems to be more important than their student's safety, that's according to one former student who is suing the school and it's head football coach Art Briles. "I understand football is a huge part of their culture but at the same time you are putting people's lives and well being in danger," Jasmine Hernandez said during a March news conference announcing the lawsuit had been filed.

Hernandez says Baylor ignored her cries for help after being raped in 2012 during her freshman year. "They should have investigated the issue when I went to police. They said because it didn't happen on campus, they couldn't do anything about it. They didn't address Tevin Elliot, the perpetrator and he was allowed to continue going to school and play football," she said at the news conference, adding, "it wasn't just one person, it wasn't two, it was multiple and I believe that I was the 5th or 6th. And the complete lack of response was inappropriate."

When Baylor wouldn't listen, Hernandez went to Waco police to report it. In 2014, Elliott - was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

"They pushed everything under the rug and denied her services and accommodations and ultimately helped push her out the door," her lawyer Alex Zalkin says. Fox 7 spoke to him by phone on Thursday after Baylor's announcement that a year-long external review resulted in sweeping personnel and policy changes.

"Baylor's response, and the administration's response throughout the years has been to virtually ignore these reports and to not take them seriously and not hold anyone accountable," Zalkin says adding, "When somebody is abused within an institution they go to that institution for help and that institution fails to help them, it not only exacerbates the original trauma, but it can create even a new and different types of trauma."

Zalkin says Hernandez is encouraged by Baylor's admissions, but believes they still have a long way to go. "The fact that someone is being held accountable is a first step at eliminating that culture at that institution. If college football coaches and other administrators now know that they can be held accountable for failing to respond to this issue, hopefully that will be the motivation they need to change, and actually start responding to these things seriously." He hopes it will also give more sexual assault survivors the courage to speak out without fear of retaliation from the University.

He tells Fox 7 they will proceed with the lawsuit. 

Hernandez released a statement, through Zalkin, on Thursday in response to Baylor's announcement:

“I am pleased to see that Baylor University has finally taken action to terminate head Football Coach Art Briles and University President Ken Starr for their failure to protect students like myself from sexual predators on the Baylor campus. I was raped by a Baylor football player in 2012 and that player is now in jail for his horrific sexual assault on me and other students.

These University leaders have known about sexual predators on the football team for years and never took actions to protect students. The University never offered me or other victims any support when we reported these sexual assaults and that lack of support led me to drop out of Baylor and suffer emotionally ever since.

I am glad that my Title IX civil lawsuit that was filed by my attorneys at the Zalkin Law Firm in March has helped to call attention to the failure of Baylor to support the legal rights of victims of sexual assault at the university.

The media attention of the last several days has resurfaced the emotional damage that I suffered at Baylor and I am limiting the number of media interviews that I can do. Please use this statement to convey my feelings about these recent actions by the Board of Regents and to express my hope that these changes will serve to protect Baylor students from the suffering that I have endured."

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