Miller: Sexual assault persists in sports

Photo of McLane Stadium at Baylor University from Wikipedia. 

MARISA MILLER | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | mnmille1@butler.edu

As a female college student in today’s society, I fear for my safety all of the time.

I fear for my safety walking back from the library alone after a late night study session. I fear for my safety going out on the weekends.

That’s just the way the world works nowadays. I have to worry if the guy that sits next to me in class is a rapist because 9 out of 10 victims of rape knew their offender. I have to worry about my female friends and make sure they are always safe because 91 percent of rapes happen to women. I have to worry about the 1 in 5 chance that I will get raped during my four years at college, according to the National Sexual Violence Research Center.

I already am worried everywhere else on campus, but should I have to fear for my safety at sporting events too?

Women at Baylor University do.

In August 2015, both Texas Monthly and Deadspin reported a defensive linemen from Baylor had been indicted in June 2014 on two counts of sexual assault.

That football player still participated in certain team activities after the indictment.

I’m sure students at Baylor never thought a sexual assault scandal would happen to their university. They chose this school based on a particular major or team or club. Or maybe even because they felt at home as soon as they set foot on campus.

Women at this school never thought they wouldn’t get proper help if they were the victim of a sexual assault, right?

Wrong.

Because their perpetrators are still on the field. Because their schools decided sexual assault is an unimportant issue on their campuses.

Maybe unimportant is the wrong word. But at least less important than the millions they pour into the athletic programs.

Those “more important” resources have to be available to the athletic department to sell football season ticket packages.

Baylor decided later in the year to hire a Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton to “conduct a thorough and independent external investigation into the university’s handling of cases of alleged sexual violence,” according to a statement from the university’s Board of Regents.

Pepper Hamilton investigated, and the findings released in May by the university were saddening to say the least.

The report found failings by Baylor within the athletic department, football program and overall Title IX implementation.

“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus,” Richard Willis, Baylor Board of Regents chair, said. “This investigation revealed the university’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students.”

I really hope Richard Willis also personally apologized to the survivors and their families for continuing to let things like this happen on Baylor’s campus.

The investigation also prompted the swift firing of both the head football coach Art Briles and the university president Ken Starr.

While I am very pleased to see that this action was taken, it was all done after the fact. Three years after the fact.

After the Baylor athletic department allowed this to go on for so long. After the football team’s trips to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in 2013, Cotton Bowl in 2014 and the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2015 thanks to successful winning seasons each of those years. After survivors lived with the horror that happened to them for multiple years.

So, kudos for doing the jobs you should have been doing everyday three years after they actually needed to happen.

Thanks Baylor, and I hope your football team is doing well this season.

As a student at Butler University, I never want to feel like my school wouldn’t help me if I was the victim of a sexual assault or wouldn’t properly investigate my claims and take the necessary action needed.

I want to feel like the Title IX department will take every measure necessary in order for me to continue to feel safe going to classes and basketball games. I want to have all of the support I could ever want from the Counseling and Consultation Services Department.

Sarah Diaz is the associate director of health education and outreach programs. But what’s not listed in her job title is arguably her most important job on campus. She is also the victim advocate for survivors of rape and sexual assault.

“Every incident is different,” Diaz said. “Every sexual assault, rape, case of dating abuse or domestic violence, they are all so different. They are so complex, and every individual that presents to come and talk to me is managing those situations in a really different way.”

If these women at Baylor or any other campus in the news for mishandling sexual assault cases was just treated as an individual and not as a liability to the university, things would different than they are right now.

Coaches in Butler’s athletic department also personally approached Diaz’s department in order to help educate the male student-athletes on campus.

“So [members of the counseling department] have gone and done some outreach conversations with the men,” she said. “These conversations have proven to be pretty helpful just in them understanding the process and them understanding the role that they can play in preventing sexual violence on campus.”

Butler is looking pretty good right about now in comparison to other universities in the United States in regards to sexual assault prevention. These programs should be available on every college campus across the country and to every athletic department it possibly can be.

I want to believe that Butler will do me right if I am ever the victim of a sexual assault or rape. I want to believe that Butler would take every matter seriously, even when dealing with a high-profile athlete as a perpetrator.

I don’t want Butler to ever become the new Baylor.

Please don’t give me a reason to think we ever could be.

 

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