Washington State University placed Jason Gesser, a former quarterback and current athletic department employee, on administrative leave Monday after a former Cougar athlete alleged Gesser tried to force himself on her after a fundraising event in 2015.
The woman, 27-year-old Alyssa Bodeau, told The Spokesman-Review she filed the official complaint Monday with the WSU Office for Equal Opportunity after reading a story on Saturday about other allegations brought against Gesser.
“When other girls came forward, it changed the game,” said Bodeau, whose maiden name is Wold. “When I saw that it was a pattern, that’s when I decided, ‘I’m not going to stay quiet.’ If it doesn’t stop now … other girls will be in danger.”
The original allegations were reported Thursday by the WSU student newspaper The Daily Evergreen. The newspaper documented several allegations of inappropriate advances toward student interns and colleagues that prompted a 2017 investigation by the WSU Office for Equal Opportunity. Officials ultimately cleared Gesser of any wrongdoing.
On Friday, Gesser – who did not respond Monday to a new request for an interview – issued a statement denying he had ever sexually harassed anyone and called the Evergreen report a “non-story.”
“I will not allow my name to be unfairly smeared, and I will continue to passionately serve our University as a proud member of Cougar Nation,” Gesser wrote in his statement.
A friend of Bodeau sent her a copy of the Evergreen story Saturday while she was attending the Spokane County Interstate Fair.
“I was honestly at a standstill at the fair for 15 minutes staring at it,” Bodeau said. “I thought I was the only one that this happened to. Reading the article made me realize that I wasn’t the last one, but I also wasn’t the first one. That kind of wrecked me right there.
“What I had been telling myself for three years was, ‘Just be silent. Don’t wreck a family,’” she continued. “But I didn’t know he was doing that to other girls.”
WSU President Kirk Schulz and Director of Athletics Pat Chun responded to Bodeau’s complaint Monday by announcing in a joint statement that a new allegation of sexual misconduct had been reported.
In the statement, WSU leaders said the new report was the first time an alleged victim made a formal complaint against Gesser, who works an assistant athletic director for the Cougar Athletic Fund.
“This is new information and a different set of events than previously reported,” said Kimberly Anderson, executive director of the Office for Equal Opportunity. “In accordance with standard WSU practice … Mr. Gesser was placed on home assignment pending a full investigation into the allegations.”
Bodeau grew up in Spokane Valley, attended West Valley High School and played volleyball at Lewis-Clark State College before transferring to WSU in 2012.
She played her junior season in 2012, but chose to sit out her senior year because of an injury. About the same time, she started caring for the Gessers’ children, she said, to help out Gesser’s wife, a former WSU volleyball player who remained active with the team.
“I loved them like my own,” Bodeau said of the Gesser children. “They were my life when I was in Pullman,” she said.
During that year-and-a-half, Bodeau said she had frequent interactions with Jason Gesser, who had starred as WSU’s quarterback from 1998-2002.
In 2013, Gesser returned to Pullman after six years of professional football and several coaching stops, including a stint at the University of Idaho.
Jason Gesser “was really nice. Nothing in that year-and-a-half led me to believe that I could not trust him,” Bodeau said.
She graduated from WSU in 2014.
In June 2015, Bodeau said she received a text from Jason Gesser inviting her to attend a fundraiser in Tumwater.
“I knew donors and supporters would be there. Bill Moos, my athletic director, was going to be there,” she said. “The event was really great. When it was over, (Gesser) invited me to go have drinks with Bill Moos” other co-workers “and a female intern.”
She said Gesser offered to catch her up with how his family was doing and asked her to pick him up from his hotel.
Just a few blocks from her apartment, Bodeau said, Gesser placed his hand on her leg.
“He leaned in and tried to kiss me. I pulled away. I just said, ‘No,’” she said. “He asked, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because you are a married man and you have a family.’”
Bodeau said she allowed Gesser into her apartment. Once inside, he continued to attempt to kiss her and pushed his hands under her dress.
“I started to get really scared because he was not listening. I was terrified because I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “The more I kept telling him, ‘No’ and ‘Stop’ the more he kept telling me how much he liked me.”
She said she again reminded Gesser of his family.
At one point, she said, Gesser put his hand around Bodeau’s head and tried to force a kiss.
“I couldn’t pull away, so I put my hand in front of his mouth to try to stop him,” she said “It didn’t stop him. He started kissing my hand. I had no idea what was going on. I absolutely felt powerless.”
She said she then asked Gesser to leave.
“He said, ‘Everything is OK.’ That both confused and terrified me,” she said. “Nothing he was doing was OK.”
Bodeau said she drove Gesser back to his hotel and just before getting out of the car, “he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. I didn’t expect it. Feeling that kiss on my cheek mostly made me want to vomit.”
Bodeau went home after dropping Gesser off at his hotel. “I curled up in the fetal position and cried myself to sleep,” she said.
In his statement issued Friday about the earlier misconduct investigation and subsequent news coverage, Gesser wrote: “The only thing I care about more deeply than WSU is my family and integrity. I want to clearly state that the allegations are not true.
“I am categorically opposed to harassment or sexism in the workplace or society, and I am deeply committed to my wife and children.”
Bailey Roberts, 26, said she remembered getting a phone call from her older sister about the encounter with Gesser.
“I remember her being very distraught, very emotional and confused about what had just happened,” Roberts said. “She kind of didn’t want to believe what had just happened.”
That same day, Gesser texted Bodeau. “He said, ‘We probably shouldn’t tell my wife that I saw you.’ That sent me into a whirlwind because I didn’t know what to think. His wife was my favorite person in the world, and his kids are my favorite people.”
Bodeau said she then blocked Gesser from her phone. But thinking it was an isolated incident, Bodeau did not take her concerns any further.
“I repressed it so hard. I wanted to protect (Gesser’s wife),” Bodeau said. “I knew if I was honest with her that I could hurt the family.”
A year later she received a message from Gesser saying “Don’t be a stranger.”
Bodeau married Steven Bodeau, 28, in 2017. He said she relayed her encounter with Gesser.
“She told me she felt guilty,” Steven Bodeau said. “The whole victim shaming that our society does infuriates me. He’s the one who messed up and she has to suffer for it. The only thing I could do is support her and tell her, ‘You are the victim here.’”
The former volleyball player said her experiene with Gesser has affected her feelings regarding WSU.
“I chose to go there. I love wearing my alumni letter jacket that I earned,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “I bleed crimson for my love of Pullman.
“So it makes me sad that the school I love so much … is making these decisions,” Bodeau said about the conclusion of the original investigation. “If this is a money thing, that breaks my heart even more.”
As part of her love of her school, Bodeau wants to enjoy the pageantry surrounding football games at Martin Stadium.
“But I don’t, because I don’t want to run into him, I don’t want to hear his voice and I don’t want to hear his name,” she said.
Roberts, Bodeau’s younger sister, said she’s glad Bodeau is finally talking about the encounter.
“I’m happy that she’s taking the steps,” Roberts said. “But I am reserved to see how it will affect her. I’m hoping it won’t be a negative impact.”