An online survey commissioned by a nonprofit organization has found that one in four current or former college athletes have been sexually assaulted or harassed by people who hold positions of power on campus.
Lauren’s Kids, an organization that focuses on educating families about sexual violence, reported that student-athletes are twice as likely to say they have experienced abuses than the general student population. Coaches are also most commonly identified as perpetrators.
Among college athletes who admitted to experiencing sexual assault by campus administrators, nearly half said they were afraid the abuser would retaliate against them. Around 40 percent also stated that they were afraid to report such incidents because of the risk of losing their sports scholarships.
Nearly all athletes who had faced sexual harassment suffered at least one financial, academic, health, or social consequence as a result.
“This is a small study but a very powerful one in my view,” Lawyer Richard Schulte told USA Today. “It provides real data and information for parents, people and legislatures to see what’s going on. We need more studies like this.”
Victims Speak Up
A former member of the University of Michigan football team, Evan Cooper, stated he was not fully aware he was being sexually abused by the school’s late athletic doctor, Robert Anderson.
Cooper admits that the abuse has affected his marriage and caused him to avoid doctors almost entirely. “I felt trapped. I don’t like to talk about what happened at Michigan. It’s very stressful,” he told the American media outlet.
Meanwhile, former Ohio State University football player Alonzo Shavers also claims that he experienced abuse from the institution’s athletic doctor, Richard Strauss. He revealed that he was afraid of losing his athletic scholarship, so he did not immediately come forward with his allegations.
“Even if I was uncomfortable in the situation, it didn’t get identified because I would have had so much to lose,” he explained. “When it came to light, it was a relief from that standpoint. It affirmed that you’re not crazy.”
‘Colleges Need to Do More’
Schulte pointed out that aside from imposing changes in campus culture, states should pass laws that will make it easier to hold schools accountable for “protecting serial abusers.”
He also suggests that states require universities to be transparent about on-campus abuse and create a means for survivors to come forward more easily.
For Florida State Sen. Lauren Book, academic institutions in the country need to establish more effective mechanisms to keep their students safe from perpetrators and ensuring abusers are held accountable.