Every year it seems like several new sports-related sexual assault reports come to light. The sport doesn’t matter – both professional and college level athletes have been accused of using their power and position to assault both men and women. What’s even more disturbing is that frequently others, such as coaches and program coordinators, frequently were aware of the assault and either ignore it or attempt to cover it up.
Recently, the country became aware of the fact that in several states, high schools have been simply brushing off sexual assault on athletes as “hazing”.
Violence Has Been Normalized
In Georgia, no one expected that making the high school baseball team meant that new team members would be brutalized. But as disciplinary proceedings would reveal, that’s exactly what happened.
In 2015, between five and eight of the upperclassmen players on the team broke into the room of several freshmen teammates. Once inside, they attacked several of the younger teammates, including one who was ultimately restrained and had fingers shoved through his shorts and into his rectum. When the team returned home he informed his parents of what had happened and the family reported that he had been sexually assaulted. The school, however, only put into their report that “inappropriate physical contact” had occurred.
What was even more disturbing is that when confronted with the evidence, the upperclassmen involved didn’t disagree with how the evening had transpired, but instead simply said it was all “horseplay”, showing that to them, this was a normal part of being a member of the team. But why would anyone think this is normal?
In another case in Tennessee, a freshman basketball player was held down by his fellow teammates and sexually assaulted using a pool stick. This brave young man came forward and reported the incident to his coach – an adult who should have taken action in the matter. Yet, the coach did nothing and shortly after this horrible event, another boy had a pool stick shoved into his rectum by two teammates. In this case, the violence of the attack resulted in serious damage to his rectum and coaches took him to the emergency room where doctors had to perform surgery to repair the damage.
Still, even after bringing the student to the hospital, the coaches never reported the incident to the police. Instead, a nurse who was aware of the situation called and made the report. Disturbingly, while the boy was in surgery, one of the coaches wives cleaned up and disposed of the boy’s clothing which could have been used as evidence and the head coach informed the team that no one was supposed to talk about what had happened.
The Expectation Of Silence
Despite the physical and psychological damages, high school athletes are often pressured into staying quiet so that they can “stay” one of the team and it’s not unusual for those who were once victims to turn into the aggressors.
Not to mention the fact, that like the case in Tennessee, a victim may feel like no one will help them when they go to someone who should do everything in their power to protect them but instead become more concerned with covering up evidence and pretending it never happened. It’s not just coaches covering these things up – school administrations are failing to follow the law and report these attacks, often failing to even acknowledge that took place until a victim and their family takes the matter to the press.
Written Protocols Do Nothing If Not Followed
Nearly every athletic department has a list of protocols that should be followed if a sexual assault is reported and yet time and time again, these protocols are ignored, making it clear that the department is more interested in the overall success of their program than the victims.
Unfortunately, the only way to make schools comply with their own rules is to go outside of their influence and hire an attorney.
An attorney can not only work to ensure that justice is pursued but that the victim is able to obtain compensation for the trauma they sustained. The victim doesn’t need to worry about their attack being broadcast for the world to see – if they chose, they can remain anonymous, the matter settled in court.