EAST LANSING, Mich. (FOX 2) - Woman who alleged gang rape by ex-MSU players speaks publicly
A Michigan State University student is speaking publicly a year after suing the school, alleging three former men's basketball players raped her in 2015 and that counseling center staff discouraged her from reporting what happened.
Twenty-two-year-old Bailey Kowalski said Thursday she came forward because she's "no longer afraid" and hopes to encourage other "silent survivors" to tell their stories. Kowalski says she was inspired to go public after seeing victims of Larry Nassar speak out.
"Today marks the anniversary of my gang rape four years ago" she said.
Kowalski and the players aren't named in the lawsuit, which says she met the players at an East Lansing bar and was taken to an off-campus apartment where she was gang raped.
"I was only 18-years-old and a freshman when I was gang-raped and no one prepares an 18-year-old to go through something like that," she said.
Kowalski first filed a lawsuit one year ago as Jane Doe, alleging that instead of helping her report the crime, MSU counselors discouraged her once they found out the alleged rapists were basketball players. They allegedly told her if she pursued this she'd be "swimming with some really big fish."
After the lawsuit was filed, the university released a detailed timeline of the counseling center's interaction with Kowalski, calling her allegations untrue.
"I was victimized all over again, which is exactly what they told me would happen when I went to the counseling center the first time. They told me I would be swimming with some really big fish and essentially, they were the big fish I was going to be swimming with at that time," she said.
Kowalski and her attorney call it a scare tactic, accusing the university of fostering a culture of discouraging the reporting of sexual assaults against athletes. A number of athletes have been accused and even charged with sexual assault in recent years.
"There's obviously a problem here that needs to be addressed," said her attorney Karen Truszkowski.
Truszkowski is refusing to name the alleged rapists, but says she's not ruling out going to police. For now, Bailey's parents are so proud of their daughter, who abandoned her dream of being a sports reporter, dropped out of school, changed her major, but will now graduate in just a few weeks. She says she's only coming forward to encourage and empower other sexual assault survivors, having been inspired by the women who spoke out about Larry Nassar.
"I know there are women and men that exist as survivors and I look forward to being their support system if they feel they do not have one," Kowalski said.
"One in five undergraduate students are sexually assaulted. My daughter is not alone and there are people who are scared, terrified to come out," said her mother Robin.
That's why Bailey says she came out just weeks before she graduates.
"Ironically she's going to be walking across that stage at the Breslin Center," said her father. "Maybe it will be her last, you know - I did it - you didn't stop me."
The university issued the following statement:
“While MSU cannot comment on the specifics of an ongoing lawsuit, we applaud the courage of all survivors who come forward to tell their story as we continue to listen and learn from them.
“Since 2015, we have worked to improve our prevention and response efforts, especially for survivors who have to navigate complex systems and try to make informed decisions under difficult circumstances. We acknowledge it has been a challenge in the past for students, faculty, and staff to find resources, so we created the Know More campaign in Fall 2018 to help educate students about the services and programs here to support them. We have put more attention and resources into improved counseling services, created a dedicated office for Prevention, Education and Outreach within the Title IX office, and we are adding a SANE program to help those on campus who have been assaulted.
“We are committed to listening to survivors who bravely tell us about their experiences so that we can improve our response and help those who seek support in the future.”
--Emily Gerkin Guerrant, University Spokesperson
The Associated Press contributed to this report.