Student Criticizes Texas A&M’s Handling of Sexual Abuse Sanction on Swimmer

A Texas A&M student went public this week with criticism of the University for letting an Aggie swimmer – who was found responsible by Texas A&M’s Title IX office for sexual abusing her in 2015 – return to school and competition.

Last week, Hannah Shaw tweeted her displeasure that “the boy who r*ped me is back on the swim team,” along with an e-mail response she got when she raised the issue with Texas A&M. Shaw’s tweet went viral, setting off a social media firestorm of conversation about the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations.

Editor’s Note: SwimSwam typically doesn’t name survivors of sexual assault. Shaw publicly tweeted documents from the investigation bearing her name, and appeared on television this week with her criticism of how A&M handled the process.

According to documents tweeted by Shaw, the school’s Title IX office found Austin van Overdam responsible for sexual assaulting Shaw in September of 2015. On June 21, 2016, the school suspended van Overdam from June 21, 2016 through December 16, 2016.

Van Overdam was a member of the Texas A&M swimming & diving team at the time. USA Swimming’s database shows that van Overdam didn’t compete in any collegiate meets during that time, but did swim a number of club meets, including U.S. Olympic Trials about a week after his suspension began. He is listed in his team bio as taking a redshirt year in 2016-2017, but returned to NCAA competition this past season, including the NCAA Championships in March.

Shaw appeared on the TODAY show this morning alongside another A&M student, criticizing how the school punished student-athletes involved in sex abuse cases. The other student says that an Aggie football player exposed himself to her during a tutoring session.

SwimSwam has been in contact with Shaw regarding a more full-length interview. We also reached out to a local attorney who posted on Facebook saying he represented van Overdam in the school hearing, but haven’t received a response or official comment from van Overdam. Texas A&M hasn’t responded to our request for comment, but did release a public statement earlier this week noting that it can’t discuss individual cases. The Texas A&M statement laid out the school’s investigative process and said that “Texas A&M investigates every claim of sexual misconduct” and that “When violations are confirmed, sanctions are imposed in all cases.”

Shaw tweeted out the full documents she received from Texas A&M, which find van Overdam responsible on one sexual abuse violation, but not responsible for one other sexual abuse violation, one sexual contact violation and one violation the school terms “dating violence.”

Warning: the documents below do reference some specific sexual acts between Shaw and van Overdam. Sensitive readers should proceed with caution.

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3344

this is disgusting

DownsideUp

Van Overdam was never found guilty in criminal court. The evidence is not terribly strong. I don’t understand why schools need to be judge, jury and executioner in these situations. Leave it to the police.

THEO

Um, no. How would you feel if you were paying 20-50k per year to share a campus with someone who was convicted of anally raping you? The letter from A&M explicitly says he was found guilty on that charge. If a school identifies something like this, they should use their power to protect victims immediately. School conduct boards may not have the investigative standard of criminal court, but nor do they have the authority to put anyone in jail. They have the power that they deserve: to make campus-specific punishment. And they should use it. A&M can’t imprison this rapist, so no, it isn’t “judge, jury, and executioner.” But A&M would be, ideally, interested in protecting human dignity and telling… Read more »

DownsideUp

The underlying problem is that A&M (or any independent institution) doesn’t have a motive for making an impartial decision. They are concerned about the money, which can lead to punishing innocent students to avoid bad publicity, or on the other hand, going easy on the star QB to keep up football revenue. I believe any investigation other than a proper legal criminal investigation should be discredited. If a school wants to deal with a rapist, they need to base it off of a criminal trial.

THEO

@DOWNSIDEUP: that is a reasonable point. I am no expert here, but I see one major flaw in that line of argument: Letting rapists roam free on college campuses is a bad thing. Legal action can take a long, long time. In the meantime, you have a rapist potentially sitting in class next to his victim, or hurting someone else. I believe that schools can and should act immediately and harshly on these cases, and that protection of victims is more important, and they’re usually in the right. In A&M’s case, it does seem like they instituted a ban pretty quickly, so the alacrity in punishment is not the issue so much as the severity. I still can’t figure out… Read more »

Swimmer A

This sounds pretty reasonable, I don’t see why it’s so down voted.

dmswim

Trying to understand the down votes on the SwimSwam comments section is a futile exercise.

Swimfan1

If you examine the document that says mitigating circumstances you will see that the complainant (Hannah Shaw) supports a lighter sanction and perceived a lack of malice on the charged student.

Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger

*supported a lighter sanction.

She can’t feel differently about it now after having time to process what happened?

Francine

She made her decision, and now she needs to live with it. He served his punishment, and now she wants him to be punished again. That’s not right.

Swimmer A

He raped her! Jesus

John Creek

Allegedly…

THEO

Francine – do you think a one year ban is a suitable punishment for rape? Should she have to share a school with her rapist? Is that right? I don’t think she wants him to “be punished again,” I think she wants the punishment to have been different in nature to begin with. Your comment implies that you are putting judgment on a rape victim for not wanting to share her campus with her rapist. That’s not right.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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