A Look at College Athletics and Sexual Assaults

Aug 21st, 1970

A Look at College Athletics and Sexual Assaults By Lara Kochnowicz, Intern College is one of the most important times in anyone’s life; it is a time of exploration, finding out who we are going to be when we get out, what we are going to do, and sometimes, who we are going to be with for the rest of our lives. What people do not account for are the scarier aspects of college, and no, I am not referring to the massive amount of debt we accumulate. I am talking about sexual assaults and rape on college campuses. In a survey conducted by One In Four, a group devoted to ending sexual violence on college campuses, 3% of women who attended college have reported sexual assault or rape during the academic year, September through May.[1] While these statistics seem relatively small, the impact is bigger than you think. These are only the numbers of reported rapes, not the numbers of how often it actually happens. Schools often alter these numbers in order to increase the number of incoming freshman, and to make their campus appear to be safe. Fraternities are often accused of having high numbers of sexual assault, amongst the traditional accusations of hazing and heavy drinking. While accusations against fraternities are not unfounded, the numbers appear to be decreasing as organizations increase awareness and prevention. However, statistics about assaults by student-athletes are often reported lower than their actual numbers because it is more unlikely for a student-athlete to face penalties for sexual assault.[2] Fraternities receive a lot of heat from colleges, and are often more heavily punished than college student-athletes. It is not surprising that fraternities are often the scapegoats for sexual assaults, because most colleges do not take as much pride in their Greek community as they do their athletics. The media is also quick to pick up negative stories about Greeks. According to an article written in 2013, “The association between sports participation, alcohol use and aggression and violence: A systemic review,” data reveals that student-athletes have committed 19% of rapes on a college campus.[3] The study analyzed data collected involving consumption of alcohol and anti-social behaviors amongst student athletes. In this and other studies, peers have attributed these high numbers to encouraged aggression and excessive alcohol use from student-athletes, and their coaches. Sadly, many statistics are outdated, and perhaps even biased, because colleges and universities tend to cover up most of the transgressions of their sports teams, as we’ve seen in numerous cases in the news. For college campuses, athletics are a stronghold of profits and influx of new students, especially when the sports teams are successful. However, what most colleges overlook are the high levels of aggression encouraged amongst sports teams, and that aggression does not come with an off switch.[4] More often than not, teams are encouraged to live, eat, and go to classes together. That constant level of encouraged aggression and male dominance dangerously combined with excessive drinking is a recipe for disaster. Special treatment of athletes does not help this in any way. What makes it worse is that colleges are unlikely to pursue sexual assault or really any case involving student athletes, especially during the sport season. According to Pact 5, a group committed to educating about sexual assault prevention, athletic teams also bond together, and deny that these events even happened in the first place, making pursuing accusations even more difficult.[5] What happens to the victims? If the university does not overlook their cases, it is held off until the athlete’s season is over, and even then, the athlete is not punished heavily. According to an article by Brian Smith on how colleges fall in line with federal policies, such as Title IX, regarding sexual assault cases, 15-20% of private and public institutions allow their athletic departments to oversee cases involving their student-athletes.[6] There are attempts being made to end rapes and sexual assaults on college campuses. Programs such as Green Dot and Students Active for Ending Rape are working tirelessly to provide support for victims, educate students campus-wide to provide them with ways to minimize the risk of getting assaulted, and/or help potential victims in need. For example, Green Dot provides information for students to help prevent what is known as the “bystander effect”, meaning if they see a situation becoming dangerous, they are given the tools to mitigate and prevent a worse scenario, which we also discussed in “Sexual Assault and College Men.” These efforts will hopefully minimize the incidents, and the universities will start to realize that athletes need to be held just as accountable for their actions as the rest of their peers. The special treatment is dangerous, and can negatively impact many peoples’ lives. Rape on college campuses is a serious issue that can greatly impact a school’s image, and is an issue that needs to be dealt with, no matter who the student is.   [1] One In Four, Sexual Assault Statistics, www.oneinfour.org/statistics.php (accessed Aug. 9, 2014) [2] Pact 5, Athletes and Sexual Assault, pact5.org/prevention-and-readiness/athletes-and-sexual-assault/ (accessed Aug. 9, 2014) [3] Sønderlund, A. L., O’Brien, K., Kremer, P., Rowland, B., De Groot, F., Staiger, P., Zinkewicz, L., and Miller, P.G., “The association between sports participation, alcohol use and aggression and violence: A systemic review”, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Vol. 17, Iss. 1, (2014): 2-7 [4] Sønderlund, A. L., et al, “The association between sports participation, alcohol use and aggression and violence: A systemic review” (accessed Aug. 9, 2014) [5] Pact 5, Athletes and Sexual Assault, pact5.org/prevention-and-readiness/athletes-and-sexual-assault/ (accessed Aug. 9, 2014) [6] Smith, Ben “Colleges not addressing sexual assaults in line with federal law, senator says” Michigan Live. MLive Media Group, July 10, 2014. http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2014/07/sexual_assault_mccaskill.html (accessed Aug. 10, 2014)

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