As many of you may have heard by now, the athletic department at Baylor University has recently come under scrutiny for its poor handlings of sexual assault claims against its student-athletes, specifically football players. In a 2015 external investigation conducted by law firm Pepper Hamilton, it was discovered that Baylor’s athletic department “failed to hold the football team accountable, discouraged victims from filing complaints, and, on numerous occasions, neglected to remove victims from potentially dangerous situations with assailants”. When I heard of this, I was immediately struck with a rush of emotions. I was angry, frustrated, confused, and disappointed, but worst of all, I was totally NOT surprised. Sadly, this is not the first time sexual assault claims against student athletes, or even professional athletes for that matter, have been swept under the rug to protect the team and the alleged offender. Apparently these athletic departments value the success and performance of their teams more than the safety and well-being of the university’s students.
The Baylor case has brought to the forefront the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and helps explain why so many incidents of sexual assault go unreported. When the institution that is meant to protect you and value your rights undermines your experience and essentially leaves you in harm’s way, it’s no wonder why many sexual assault victims refuse to report these incidents.
As a result of the findings, Baylor’s head football coach and athletic director have departed from the program; however, this is not enough to produce the necessary radical change in the culture towards sexual assault in this program and others across the country. Only when we as a society finally acknowledge that there is a problem and decide to do something about it and hold each other accountable will this change finally occur.
To see the full Pepper Hamilton investigation findings click here.
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