COURTESY OF WOLD FAMILY
A former WSU volleyball player has come forward with new allegations of sexual misconduct against Jason Gesser, assistant director of athletics for the Cougar Athletic Fund.
Alyssa Bodeau, who went by Alyssa Wold during her time at WSU but has since married, told The Daily Evergreen she suffered unwanted and nonconsensual groping and forceful attempts at kissing from Gesser after the two of them attended a Cougar Athletic Fund event in Tumwater, Washington, in 2015.
“I was so confused and terrified in that moment,” Wold said during an in-person interview at Neill Public Library on Monday.
Wold said the recent revelations about allegations against Gesser made her come forward. She said she felt the need to speak out now to prevent what happened to her from happening to others.
“I purely want to help prevent this from happening to more girls,” Wold said. “He has to be stopped.”
The Evergreen talked to two people close to Wold who said they received a phone call from her the morning after the incident occurred.
Wold played volleyball for the Cougars from 2012-2013 before foregoing her senior season due to injuries. She walked-on as a transfer after being recruited by Head Coach Jen Greeny, she said. In the summer of 2013, Wold said she began nannying for the Gessers and did so for about a year and a half.
Gesser would not respond to the Evergreen’s request for comment. Gesser answered the Evergreen’s call, but hung up before we could identify ourselves or ask any questions.
The university placed Gesser on home assignment following an Office for Equal Opportunity complaint filed Monday morning by Wold, according to a joint statement from WSU President Kirk Schulz and Director of Athletics Pat Chun.
Various officials, including spokespeople for WSU Athletics, the OEO and Schulz could not be reached for comment by the time of publication despite numerous attempts.
The Evergreen published a story last Thursday outlining a number of allegations of sexual misconduct by Gesser as far back as 2014 that were discovered through hundreds of pages of public records.
The university released a statement following that article stating that OEO completed an investigation into the allegations of Gesser and found no violation of WSU policy.
In the records obtained by the Evergreen, multiple people interviewed by OEO said Schulz was either aware of or had been personally told of the allegations against Gesser.
Schulz, who did not comment directly on the story, spoke with the Evergreen staff during a meeting on Sept. 7 and said he can step in during personnel matters.
“Generally speaking, yeah, the president of a university has the authority to do a lot of stuff,” he said.
Nonconsensual groping, unwanted attempts to kiss
Wold said she moved to the Olympia area following her time at WSU after receiving an offer for a volleyball coaching position at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. The Evergreen has confirmed Wold coached for SMU in 2014 through the university’s website.
About six months after she moved to the west side of the state, she said she received a message from Gesser asking if she would like to attend the South Sound Social in Tumwater on June 17, 2015, a CAF event.
When Wold started nannying for the Gessers in 2013, she was still a student but no longer an athlete. She had been asked by Kali Gesser, Jason’s wife and part of the Cougar volleyball coaching staff at the time, and ended up taking care of their three kids three times a week, through which she met Jason.
Jason was flirty at times, Wold said, but she chalked this up as part of his personality and he never appeared threatening while she was in Pullman.
“Never once did I feel unsafe or have anything at all that would have given me a flag of caution from the way that he acted,” Wold said. “He seemed very nice.”
When Gesser invited her to the CAF event, Wold said she was excited to attend and catch up with athletics staff, as she was very supportive of athletics as an alumna.
After the event ended, she said she and Gesser went with a group of people, including then-Director of Athletics Bill Moos, to a local bar for drinks and to catch up. As people began to leave the group for their hotel rooms, she said Gesser suggested they stay longer to catch up. She also said they had both been drinking.
“I was excited because I wanted to hear about the family,” she said. “I hadn’t seen the kids in a very long time. I was very close with their oldest daughter, she still has my signs on her door.”
Jason had asked if they could leave for her place in order to catch up further, she said. She then picked him up to give him a ride which she said is when the advances began.
Wold said he first put a hand on her leg during the drive, but removed it once she looked at him. They were only a couple blocks away from her house at the time and she said the move confused her.
Once in the driveway, he made an attempt to kiss her which she said she refused.
They then walked inside the house, where she said Gesser immediately restarted his attempts to kiss her.
“As soon as the door closed behind me, he came closer to me and attempted to kiss me again,” she said. “I pushed him away and I said ‘no’ and he said ‘why not,’ and I told him ‘because I said no.’ ”
She went on to describe how he kept attempting to kiss her after she repeatedly said no.
“I even told him ‘because you’re married and you have kids, kids that I love,’ ” she said. “It was like he just disregarded it all.”
After this, Wold said Gesser moved to the couch, where he then tried to get Wold to sit with him. When he finally pulled her onto the couch, she said the unwanted groping began.
“He slid his hand up my dress and placed it on my butt,” she said. “I pushed his hand away again and I said no and continued saying no, and I felt so overpowered and I felt so helpless. And then he tried again with both hands and slid both hands up my dress and put them on my butt, and I kept pushing him away and telling him no and he kept saying ‘it’s OK.’ ”
After this, she said Gesser made aggressive attempts to pull her in for a kiss, which she was only able to block by putting her hand over her mouth.
“He put his hand around my head and pulled my head in to kiss him and I could hardly say no by the time my face was so close to him,” she said. “I had to cover my mouth with my hand and he kept pulling me in so close and was kissing my hand that was over my mouth, and he kept pulling me closer.”
Gesser’s aggressive, nonconsensual advances continued until Wold was able to free herself, she said, after which she ran toward the front door and told Gesser he had to leave.
After the incident, she then drove him back to his hotel room, she said. During their ride, they both were silent, other than Gesser telling her it was OK because nothing happened between them, Wold said.
“He just kept saying that over and over and I was so confused and terrified about the situation,” Wold said. “When we got back to the hotel he put his hand on my leg again, and said ‘this is OK, we’re OK, nothing happened.’ It made me feel so awful and so disgusting and like I had done something wrong.”
Before exiting her car, Wold said Gesser kissed her on the cheek, which she didn’t see coming. She said that final act “made me want to vomit and I felt so disgusting.”
By the time she made it back home, she said everyone was asleep, giving her no one to speak with about what had happened.
“I had no one to talk to that night, so I just bawled myself to sleep,” Wold said. “I had no idea how to feel, I felt like it was my fault, he had made me feel like it was my fault. He made me feel like there was nothing wrong that happened.”
The next morning, Wold said she called her sister to talk about what had happened with Gesser the night before.
“I called my sister and explained everything that had happened, I told her what went down and everything and I told her I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Her younger sister, Bailey Roberts, said she could tell Wold was torn up about what had happened.
“She called me and was pretty distraught, I could definitely tell she was emotional,” Roberts said. “She definitely didn’t want me to tell anyone else because she wasn’t sure how she was going to deal with it.”
Roberts also said Wold told her she didn’t want to be involved with the Gesser family going forward.
Brenna Peterson, one of Wold’s former roommates, said Wold called her the next day and told her what happened with her and Gesser the night before.
“I remember her being extremely upset about it,” Peterson said. “She trusted him and then that happened and she was in a weird spot.”
She also said hearing Wold tell her the story made her angry, as she felt she hadn’t been able to protect Wold since she was out of town that night.
Wold and Peterson lived together for the rest of the year and Peterson said they haven’t spoken about it since the day it happened.
However, Peterson said that night still affects Wold.
“I still think it’s affecting her now,” Peterson said. “When something like that happens to you … with someone that you trust, you’re always going to feel uncomfortable.”
Wold said she then received a text message from Gesser about the night before.
“I received a text from Jason Gesser that next day, saying that we probably shouldn’t tell [his] wife that we saw each other,” Wold said. “And that text made me feel like I couldn’t say anything, so I decided to remove myself completely from the family. I decided to not contact them at all for fear of running into him or for fear that I did something wrong.”
She also said the text and the events of the night before made her avoid Pullman as a whole to avoid seeing Gesser.
“It made me avoid Pullman. It made me avoid coming back here to games, one of my favorite things to do, because I didn’t want to run into him,” she said.
Wold said she had buried that night in her mind until a year later in 2016 when she said Gesser sent her a text message that made the emotions of that night flood back. Wold had gotten a new number and forgot to block his number on her new device, she said.
When she was received the text, she was at her now-husband’s house in Spokane and said the two had only been dating for a couple of weeks at the time. She said she ran out on the porch to talk to him.
“It shook me up pretty bad when I saw it, to the point where I ran to [Bodeau], who was my boyfriend at the time,” Wold said. “I explained everything to him and it just brought everything rolling back because for a year I had suppressed it so hard to try to forget it.”
The message said something to the effect of “don’t be a stranger,” Wold said.
She said she decided not to tell people about what happened because she didn’t want to harm the Gesser family.
“I continued to suppress it for three years total for fear of hurting their family,” she said. “I didn’t want to hurt the kids, I didn’t want to hurt the wife because I was carrying around the belief that this was my fault, and I thought I was the only one this was happening to, and I thought if I remove myself from the situation it will all go away.”
Bodeau, her boyfriend at the time, said he was on the porch while Wold did homework in his room when she came out to talk and looked “distraught.”
Wold was a student at the Spokane Community College, taking prerequisite classes as she had been accepted to the WSU-Spokane nutrition program, she said.
Her husband said she originally didn’t want to tell him the details, telling him she had received an unwanted text message.
However, Bodeau said she went on to tell him the whole story.
“She told me everything that happened,” he said. “[She said] the man she used to nanny for had tried to force himself on her.”
He also said she told him how excited she was to attend the event, but how the night quickly turned sour.
“The thing that I remember the most was her telling me about the hand over the mouth and him having her head,” Bodeau said. “I just tried to comfort her then and there.”
The couple knew each other for three years prior to dating and Bodeau said he had never seen her in such a state.
“She just looked destroyed,” he said.
The story caught him off-guard, Bodeau said, and he didn’t know how she was able to keep the shocking events of that night a secret.
Since then, Wold said the entire situation has ruined her relationship with WSU and the Pullman area.
“[Gesser] ruined the school that I love and that I want to be an alumna in,” she said. “I want to be involved with the CAF, I want to go to the Gray W because I earned that, and I don’t because I don’t want to see him, and I just want him stopped.”
Wold said she has wondered why Gesser is still employed at WSU, and said she was disappointed he was still working for the university.
“If it’s a money thing why WSU is keeping him around then shame on them,” she said.
In the following years since that night, Wold said she struggles when she sees images or articles about Gesser. The couple said the incident has been something they’ve had to work through during their marriage.
These feelings kept her from inviting the Gessers to their wedding and when his name would pop up, it would bring back the emotions of that night.
“I couldn’t see an article with his face in it without wanting to puke,” she said. “I wanted their kids to be in our wedding, I couldn’t even invite them to our wedding.”