Sexual assault survivors, university administrators, legislators, advocates and others spent a grueling 10 hours Wednesday at Louisiana's Capitol in an emotional hearing examining how LSU and other universities in the state have handled allegations of sexual misconduct on campus.
The Senate Select Committee on Women and Children — a bipartisan coalition of female lawmakers — convened for the hearing. The hearing came after LSU released a report last week from the law firm Husch Blackwell, which found repeated failures in how LSU had handled sexual misconduct cases and a lack of leadership.
Here were some of the long day's highlights:
1) Interim LSU President Tom Galligan grilled over his handling of the sexual assault scandal
Legislators demanded Galligan explain his decision to issue two suspensions for athletic department employees, and no terminations, over the findings in the Husch Blackwell report. State Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, drew a comparison between LSU's approach and the University of Kansas "parting ways" with head football coach Les Miles. The Kansas athletic director, Jeff Long, has also resigned over the fallout from the LSU report.
In one exchange, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, pressed Galligan on how it was possible that employees could hold onto their jobs after failing to take serious action on abuse allegations. She asked him to explain the difference between employees failing to report allegations of abuse and actively lying.
In the days following the release of Husch Blackwell's damning report on LSU's mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints, key players in Lou…
"Did they tell the truth?” she asked over and over again.
“They did not tell the truth," Galligan answered.
“And the consequence for not telling the truth is a suspension," she responded.
“If they don’t tell the truth again, they’ll be terminated," Galligan said, noting that the employees were in an environment where their reporting obligations were incredibly murky. Athletic Department employees in the past were instructed not to report Title IX complaints through normal channels, one of the red flags noted in the Husch Blackwell report.
“Notice is the hallmark of due process," Galligan said later, trying to explain that he could not fire employees for failing to follow a policy that had not been enacted at the time.
“There are a lot of people that are counting on you, Mr. Galligan, to get this right," she said. “There were young people who were permanently harmed, because they were sexually assaulted and nobody listened.”
2) Jade Lewis' testimony leaves legislators stunned
The emotion in the committee hearing was especially evident after former LSU tennis player Jade Lewis testified by phone about all that she endured while facing increasingly violent outbursts from former LSU football player Drake Davis.
"I was beaten around 15 times, multiple times after he was arrested," Lewis said. "I sustained broken ribs, bruises and bruising on my neck from strangulation."
Lewis also spoke of the vast emotional toll that her abuse — and the missteps by people who were meant to protect her from it at LSU — has had on her family. Davis pleaded guilty to battery in her case, but has largely avoided jail time despite also pleading guilty in another domestic violence case involving another victim.
"We are heartbroken, we are angry, we are furious, we are sorry for what you’ve gone through," said state Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge.
3) Abby Owens publicly reveals her identity for the first time, new allegations against Derrius Guice come up
Abby Owens identified herself publicly for the first time as a survivor of a sexual assault by former LSU football star Derrius Guice, who she said raped her when they were both LSU athletes.
Owens was an LSU tennis player between 2013 and 2016. She alleged that Guice raped her in June 2016.
“I felt so unappreciated, unvalued, I was scared to be there. I felt unsafe, unprotected," she said of coming forward with her allegations in 2017. " And so I left.”
Guice has been accused of raping two women — Owens and another — during his time at LSU, as well as sexual misconduct involving Samantha Brennan and another woman, according to Husch Blackwell. At the hearing Wednesday, former LSU student Calise Richardson said Guice also tried to rape her at LSU, while Lewis said that Guice threatened her by playing up his relationship with former LSU President F. King Alexander.
An attorney for Guice has denied the star running back did anything wrong during his time at LSU. Guice was arrested in Virginia last year on domestic violence charges, which are still pending, and the Washington Football Team has released him.
4) Men speak out about sexual assault as well
Though the committee hearing was dominated by women, attendees made clear throughout the day that men also experience sexual assault and the same obstacles to reporting their cases. State Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, and state Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans each spoke at the hearing about the need for men in the Legislature to also step up to address sexual violence.
Husch Blackwell probed cases involving 10 different LSU football players accused of sexual misconduct in recent years as part of the law firm’…
And Ricky Bryant, an LSU junior studying mass communication, told the committee that he was assaulted in 2019.
“I no longer wanted to live, I no longer felt like my life had any value," Bryant said. "I didn’t get help because I knew that LSU would protect my abuser. I knew that survivors were never believed ….I knew that the culture on LSU’s campus stacked all odds against survivors getting justice.”
5) Samantha Brennan questions Husch Blackwell's findings
Brennan, who testified at the hearing Wednesday about her allegation that Guice shared a partially nude photo of her in 2016 without her permission, warned committee members that she disagreed with some of Husch Blackwell's assessments.
Brennan said that text messages and other evidence she turned over to Husch Blackwell were not included in their final report. She sat alongside Owens as they testified.
“This is bad, but the full story is way worse,” she said in reference to the report.
Attorney Scott Schneider, who led the Husch Blackwell investigation, told committee members that his firm did the best it could to probe every side of the story and to investigate every claim that was made.
“What we conclude, and I don’t know how anybody could conclude otherwise, that there was a systematic leadership failure," said Schneider, who phoned into the hearing.
6) Legislators draw comparisons between LSU and other crime coverups
Peterson spoke of the similarities between how LSU has handled the complaints against them with the many failures of the Catholic Church on sexual abuse claims. Others drew similar comparisons.
A Baton Rouge law firm investigated former LSU head football coach Les Miles in 2013 over allegations that he sexually harassed students, and …
“It’s like an organized crime ring that was being run," said state Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, D- New Orleans. "And we now know what was happening and we’re stuff covering it up.”
"I'm wondering if this was like the mafia or something," Barrow said.
7) Survivors' access to records becomes an issue
State Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, pressed higher education leaders on how much access both victims and alleged perpetrators have to their Title IX investigations, police reports and more. She said she worried it was not enough.
Brennan, for example, had to join a lawsuit with USA Today to get a copy of her own police report against Guice from her time at LSU.
Several high-profile LSU board members and officials agreed in 2013 that LSU football coach Les Miles had a problem with sexually harassing yo…
“I’m concerned about the lack of access for a victim to the information that they need to empower them to fight for justice for themselves," Cloud said. “These university systems, of course, many of them are taxpayer-funded, at least in a large part. That information, to me, belongs to the people. And I think that we, in some way shape or form as a legislature, need to hold universities accountable for giving that information to the victims.”
8) Legislators call out former LSU leadership
Several legislators said they were particularly sad to see the state's flagship university fail so many women. They did not mince words about how painful those failures have been.
Former LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander wrote in a letter Monday that he regrets not taking stronger action when faced with alle…
"I’m sad, I’m disgusted, I’m so disappointed," Davis said. "I couldn’t get through the whole report. It makes me sick that we are here today because we shouldn’t have to be here if LSU had done their job."
State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, said she couldn't come up with any kind words to say about LSU, her alma mater.
"The former leadership of that university has been terrible and should shoulder much of the blame for where we are today," Hewitt said.
And Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, asked whether it was possible for the legislature to compel testimony from former Alexander, LSU's former president and chancellor, who is now the president of Oregon State University. Alexander penned an apology letter this week.
9) STAR applauded, other universities share ideas
The state's Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center was commended over and over again as a beacon of hope and help for survivors. Morgan Lamandre, an attorney who works for STAR, testified about the hearing about the need for the state to take more action to help survivors.
Lamandre said Louisiana is one of only a few states that does not put money in its budget for sexual assault services.
Though LSU was the focus of the hearing, system presidents from all of the state's higher education institutions testified at the hearing as well. Dr. Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana system, said the UL system built Title IX compliance requirements into multiyear contracts for employees. Coaches normally work off contracts like those.
The contracts allow employees to be fired for cause if they fail to comply with Title IX reporting requirements.
State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, said it's "mind-boggling" that not all university systems have adopted the same policy.
10) Committee calls for LSU to do more
As the 10-hour hearing ended, Barrow read out a statement on behalf of the committee. In it, the committee requested that LSU reconsider the punishments the university adopted for the employees implicated in the assault scandal. The committee also requested that LSU continue to identify and discipline any other individuals who may have been involved.
Attorney General Jeff Landry was ordered last week to release public records related to a sexual harassment investigation of one of his top ai…
"Apologies, explanations, and promises to do better constitute a meager and inefficient response," the statement read.