When you think of the American “college experience,” chances are sports come to mind. Games provide the opportunity to party, and the rush of seeing your university’s team beat a rival school is a substantial draw to college.
Because of this, collegiate athletes have unmatched status within their campus community: they are put on a pedestal by peers, authority figures, and the media alike.
Being in a position of power can easily lead to becoming a predator, and this dangerous reality is manifested in statistics regarding who perpetrates sexual assault on campus.
Sexual assault on college campuses is an epidemic, with RAINN reporting that 13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students), and 26.4% of females will experience rape or sexual assault under these same conditions.
Outside the Lines completed an analysis of Title IX complaints, finding that college athletes are three times more likely to be accused of sexual misconduct and violence (ESPN). To make matters worse, from 2012-2017 there were over 19 controversies regarding university administrators’ mishandling sexual assault reports (Conversation). Since then, this number has only grown. Entitlement, hypermasculinity, an encouragement of physical domination and violence, and other problematic components of student-athlete culture all fuel this problem. Putting predatory athletes on a pedestal can make it challenging for survivors to tell people about what happened to them, report the crime, and seek justice.
Our Wave recognizes the importance of community education: a culture can promote sexual assault or deter it, and educating campus communities on preventative knowledge and tactics is necessary.
Universities and organizations have recognized the value of this education as well, and their initiatives are working to change the tides of sexual assault on campus. The University of Kentucky has implemented a bystander intervention training program, and the schools that have adopted it have reported a 50% decrease in the frequency of student-related sexual assaults after five years (ADU). After being sexually assaulted by college athletes and not receiving justice, Brenda Tracey established the nonprofit Set the Expectation. Dedicated to ending sexual and interpersonal violence, Set the Expectation focuses its efforts on educating athletes and coaches (Set the Expectation). These educational programs and initiatives prove that there is hope for ending the cycle of athletes as perpetrators.
If you have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or violence at the hands of a college athlete, you are not alone. Resources like End Rape on Campus and RAINN can provide information about your legal rights and more. Our Wave is dedicated to amplifying the voices and stories of survivors, creating a community, and changing the narrative around sexual assault. We hear you, we believe you, and we support you.