A Michigan State student who reported being gang-raped by three now-former basketball players publicly identified herself Wednesday in a New York Times article in which she describes how the assault she reported, and its aftermath, changed her life.
Bailey Kowalski, once an aspiring sports journalist and student sideline reporter for the Big Ten Network, has scheduled a public appearance Thursday at a library in East Lansing, Michigan, where she'll be accompanied by her parents and attorney.
Kowalski first made her allegations about a year ago in a federal Title IX lawsuit against MSU, alleging that the school did not properly respond to her story and put her at a greater risk for assault.
In April 2018, MSU officials opened a Title IX investigation into her claims against the three players. That investigation is ongoing. According to The New York Times, Kowalski decided to publicly come forward now so she could "persuade other victims, at Michigan State or elsewhere, to tell their stories."
"I don't want any other girl who has gone through this, or who God forbid may have to go through something like this, to feel for one second that they should be too afraid to come out and do something," Kowalski told the newspaper.
Kowalski was an 18-year-old freshman journalism major when, on the night of April 11, 2015, she met some MSU basketball players at a bar in East Lansing, according to her lawsuit.
In the lawsuit and in an interview last year with ESPN's Outside the Lines, she alleges she was driven to an apartment belonging to one of the players, where she said she started feeling "discombobulated" as though she had been drugged, and started losing coordination and control.
She said she brushed off one player's sexual advance after he said, "You are mine for the night," according to the lawsuit. When another player invited her into his bedroom to see his basketball memorabilia, she agreed to go with him. Once in the bedroom, according to the lawsuit, she was "forcefully thrown face down on the bed, held in place so she could not move" while the men took turns raping her.
"I was crying. I was trying to push myself up, and I couldn't move," Kowalski told Outside the Lines last year.
The Times reported that the incident "left her depressed and considering harming herself. She dropped out of college for a while and received counseling. She gave up sports journalism for good," and she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The lawsuit faults the staff of the MSU Counseling Center, where Kowalski sought help within days of the alleged assault, saying officials made statements that deterred her from reporting the incident to law enforcement, and at one point saying, "If you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish."
The lawsuit also states that the counseling staff did not inform Kowalski of her right to report the incident to MSU's Office of Institutional Equity, which handled complaints of sexual violence under the Title IX gender equity law.
In Wednesday's New York Times article, Kowalski is quoted as saying, "There's a lot that they have yet to take accountability for, as far as what's going on in the athletic department and the systematic errors that are allowing the athletic department to be put above females that have been victims of sexual assault by athletes."
Allegations of the mishandling of sexual assault cases involving student-athletes are a common refrain in Kowalski's lawsuit.
An amended complaint, filed in December 2018, included a statement from a former MSU Sexual Assault Program supervisor that she knew of a "multitude of female students that had been sexually assaulted by MSU athletes who had been discouraged from reporting their assaults to the OIE-Title IX office, and law enforcement."
In MSU's response, filed in U.S. District Court in Michigan, the school has denied being responsible for Kowalski's assault and has asked federal Judge Paul Maloney to dismiss the case. Maloney's ruling is pending.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, MSU also posted a statement online disputing Kowalski's claims, saying that she was encouraged to take further action and report her alleged assault but declined some outreach efforts. The university removed the post after receiving public criticism that it had violated Kowalski's privacy by publicizing information about her counseling sessions.
Kowalski has not filed a police report, although her attorney, Karen Truszkowski, said "that is a possibility." The names of the players, who were on the team in 2015, are not in the court documents, and neither Kowalski nor her attorney has publicly named them -- and Truszkowski said she won't name them at Thursday's news conference.
MSU's Title IX investigation into Kowalski's report against the three players was one of 35 sexual violence and related misconduct complaints filed against MSU athletes since fall 2012, according to an Outside the Lines report in February.
In five of the completed cases, athletes were found to be at fault for violating the school's policies on sexual misconduct and relationship violence. At that time, only one of those cases -- Kowalski's report against the three former players -- was still under investigation.
While this Title IX investigation has taken substantially longer than the school's average of 120 days, according to a 2017-18 report issued last fall by MSU, Truszkowski said she understood there were unusual circumstances "because of the people that are involved." But she declined to say any more about the status of the case or the investigation.
An MSU spokeswoman did not immediately respond to emailed questions from Outside the Lines about the status of the investigation, and also did not comment in The New York Times article beyond saying that MSU "is dedicated to making sure every student receives fair treatment and support when they need it."