Texas A&M criticized for handling of sex assault claims
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M University is facing criticism for being too lenient in its handling of sexual assault allegations.
Several current and former female students have come forward with concerns since Hannah Shaw went public last week with accusations that the school did not do enough to punish her alleged attacker. The Associated Press typically does not name victims of sexual assault, but Shaw has come forward publicly to several media outlets.
Last week, she posted on Twitter that her alleged attacker has rejoined the swim team since being found responsible for sexual abuse in a 2016 Title IX ruling. He was suspended for one semester. No criminal charges were filed against him.
“It just seems like the school did very little,” Shaw said. “He basically took a semester off and there was no real punishment.”
She sent a letter to the university’s athletic department about allowing the student back onto the team. She published the school’s response on Twitter , which said, “I regret your displeasure with the perceived impact, and I wish you all the best as you continue to seek healing.”
After seeing Shaw’s post, former student Abbie Hillis, who was raped in 2010, started a Facebook page to begin collecting similar stories.
“I have never shared my story until now,” said Hillis, who spoke publicly with several Texas media outlets. “And I quickly realized that there were so many others. We all demand change. The university needs to do better.”
An online petition started by Hillis asks the university to strengthen its policies for dealing with sexual assault allegations.
“As members of the Aggie Family, we do not want TAMU to be branded as a community that condones sexual misconduct,” the petition says, addressing university President Michael Young and other administrators.
Texas A&M has declined to comment on individual cases due to student privacy laws but said students are sanctioned if found responsible for sexual misconduct.
“We have a deep commitment to a safe, secure environment for all students; to a fair investigative process; to rights of appeals by parties; and to rendering sanctions to those found responsible for sexual misconduct,” the school’s statement said.