Former LSU tennis player Jade Lewis is accusing LSU women's tennis coach Julia Sell of looking the other way while multiple people reported in 2017 and 2018 that a football player was abusing her.
Lewis has gone public with her name and account for the first time after multiple investigations were conducted by both police and LSU over the past few years into her abuse at the hands of former LSU wide receiver Drake Davis. Lewis is originally from New Zealand, and was recruited to LSU in 2016.
Lewis released a statement Wednesday night on social media that said Sell had betrayed her, and that she could no longer stand by while Sell denied allegations that she knew of the abuse without reporting it.
Her statement came amid the fallout of a USA Today investigation that published on Monday. The newspaper said LSU officials have repeatedly failed to seriously investigate allegations of sexual abuse on campus, including those involving student athletes. Lewis' account was included in the USA Today story, but she was unnamed.
"I was betrayed by Coach Sell, and I will not stand by and allow her to deny knowledge of what I went through, when in reality she knew the full truth and simply chose to stand by," she said.
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LSU Police documents reviewed by The Advocate and referenced in the USA Today story allege that Lewis' father started to raise red flags as early as 2017 about his daughter's potential abuse, and reached out to Mike Sell — Julia Sell's husband, who also coaches the LSU tennis team — about his concerns. Another tennis player also told USA Today that she had reported the abuse to Julia Sell, but that she failed to act on it.
The Sells denied those allegations in a statement that said they complied with reporting protocols.
"Such allegations were never disclosed to us," they said.
And they added that they "pledge to stand with them to help end all forms of sexual and domestic abuse."
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But a few hours later, Lewis responded with a statement of her own that challenged the statement from the Sells, calling it a "blatant lie." She wrote that four members of the LSU tennis team reported her abuse to Julia Sell between May 2017 and August 2018. And she said her parents followed up with the coaches as well.
"During the criminal case regarding the allegations I made, Coach Sell instructed the tennis team to stay away from me," Lewis wrote. "These were my teammates and closest friends at the time, and I needed their support."
LSU Police records say officers met with Lewis's parents in August 2018, when her father told them he had contacted Mike Sell on two separate occasions the previous summer.
According to Lewis' father, when he told Mike Sell that his daughter was being abused, Sell responded, “I don’t believe that," and, “couldn’t be possible, wouldn’t be possible," the records say.
LSU mishandled sexual misconduct complaints against students, including top athletes, according to an investigation by USA Today.
Mike Sell also later acknowledged to police that the victim’s father called him. Sell said he explained to her father that Davis could “detour” her tennis career and that “he is a distraction to her.” But Sell insisted that the father never told him abuse was happening, according to the police reports.
Lewis, however, says that her tennis coaches should have done more to protect her.
"As details of the sexual misconduct within LSU continue to come to light, my hope is that LSU Athletics changes course and decides to be transparent and remorseful rather than continuing to create cover-ups and false narratives," Lewis wrote.
LSU interim President Tom Galligan released a statement Thursday reiterating that the university had commissioned the Husch Blackwell law firm to review LSU's past handling of Title IX complaints.
"Their investigation should wrap up in early spring, and, once rendered, will be delivered in a report available to the public," Galligan said. "We will deal swiftly and appropriately if the findings show indifference or mishandling of cases on the part of anyone at LSU."
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And Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed the controversy during a Thursday news conference, though he declined to call for the ouster of any school officials yet.
“I’m not prepared to say any individual needs to be fired," Edwards said. “We have to take this very seriously. We cannot tolerate any instances where someone might willfully turn a blind eye to credible allegations of this type of violence and abuse. If that happened we need to know about it.”
Edwards has control of the LSU Board of Supervisors, which makes hiring and firing decisions of the school administration, including athletics. He has appointed each member of the board, after several tapped by former Gov. Bobby Jindal termed out.
He is also close with head football coach Ed Orgeron, who threw his support behind the governor during Edwards’ hotly-contested reelection bid last year.
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Though LSU Police records show that multiple people in the athletic department knew that Davis had been violent toward his girlfriend as early as April 2018, Davis was not arrested until August of that year.
Last year, he pleaded guilty in that case to two counts of battery on a dating partner and one count of violation of a protective order.