“You didn’t think they had a responsibility to tell the truth?:” LSU Interim President grilled by state lawmakers, survivors of sexual violence on LSU’s campus
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - For the first time alleged victims of former LSU Football players Derrius Guice and Drake Davis told their stories in public view.
Abby Owens, Samantha Brennan, and Jade Lewis, who all originally came forward anonymously to oust Guice in a USA Today investigation, dropped their cloak of protection to testify in front of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. The hearing was called after the Husch-Blackwell report detailed systemic failures on behalf of LSU Leadership and faculty relating to its handling of sexual violence reports.
From the beginning, Interim President Tom Galligan was in the crosshairs of the all woman committee for what they perceived a lack of action by the university leader. Despite the damning report, only two high ranking officials within the athletic department were suspended. Members of the committee echoed calls from students for Verge Ausberry and Merriam Seger to be fired for their part in mishandling reports of sexual assault against students by student-athletes.
“You didn’t think they had a responsibility to tell the truth? Because, this is, the essence of it,” said Sen. Karen Paterson. “We keep talking about fidelity, they didn’t tell the truth in the role they had and there were young people who were harmed, permanently harmed because they were sexually assaulted and no one listened.”
Anger turned to remorse and a more somber mood as survivors came forward to tell their stories.
“I was raped by Derrius Guice at LSU in 2016,” Abby Owens said. “This is, today is the first day I’m publicly disclosing my identity because it’s super important to me what y’all are doing here.”
Owens was a member of the LSU Tennis Team when she said she was raped by Derrius Guice. After her rape, she said her life spiraled out of control and eventually ended up in rehab for substance abuse. Owens testified that after the alleged assault, athletic staff dismissed her claims, even telling her father she was lying.
“It makes me mad to think about all the other victims that came after me and Sam because this was in 2016, and he clearly just escalated after that,” Owens said. “It could’ve been prevented if they would’ve properly investigated and done what they were supposed to do.”
Another former student and survivor, Brennan told the committee how Guice sent out a nude picture of her. When she reported the incident, she said she was met with resistance and was questioned whether she actually wanted to have it on the record because it could ruin Guice’s career.
Guice has denied all claims against him.
Perhaps the largest development was when the Husch-Blackwell report was called into question by victims. Brennan testified certain information was left out of the report and that it did not include the full scope of the failure of campus leadership, nor did it include everyone who was responsible for not reporting acts of sexual violence to the Title IX office.
“This is 268 pages of crap to me,” Brennan said. “I read my part in it the day it came out and I felt more victimized by this report than anything else so far. Again, they kept out the fact the picture was distributed and I gave Scott Schneider all my text messages and the only one he chose to use was the one that I thought Sharron Lewis did what she could to support and encourage me.”
When pressed about why Galligan, despite the report, did not fire the involved faculty members, he told the committee he was conflicted with retroactively disciplining faculty members when the policy for reporting Title IX violations was unclear and often confusing.
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Galligan was asked by the committee to reconsider his decision not to terminate Ausberry and Seger but he remained noncommittal. After the 10-hour marathon hearing concluded, Galligan told WAFB he needed time to process what he heard during the meeting before making a decision.
Even after the 10-hour hearing had concluded, there was a lingering question for the committee and Gallligan by Lewis.
“Am I undeserving of justice because of LSU’s failure,” Lewis said to the committee. Since you won’t work retroactively, do I have to be abused or assaulted by another LSU student or employee just to receive justice?”
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