New Startling Facts About Student Athletes and Sexual Assault

On Tuesday of this week, two university of Miami football players, JaWand Blue and Alex Figueroa, were kicked off the team and suspended from school after they were arrested for sexually assaulting a female student on campus.

University of Miami football players Jawand Blue and Alex Figueroa

The two linebackers admitted to getting a 17-year-old classmate intoxicated to the point of incapacitation and repeatedly raping her in Figueroa’s dorm room.

Also this week, Sen. Claire McCaskill released a report with some pretty startling statistics about sexual assaults and how they’re handled on college campuses across America. Of the 300 schools that McCaskill surveyed:

  • 22 percent allowed their athletic departments to oversee cases of sexual violence involving athletes, rather than those at the school who have received specialized training
  • Over 10 percent of institutions failed to have a Title IX coordinator even though it’s required by law to ensure compliance with fair education and to oversee investigations of sexual harassment and assault. (There are currently 64 schools under Title IX investigations for mishandling of sexual assaults)
  • Only 37 percent of schools provide education to athletes when it comes to sexual assault, despite the fact that athletes, along with fraternities, statistically have more incidences of sexual assault than other student groups. Only 22 percent of fraternities received this type of targeted training.

Equally troubling statistics include:

  • Over 40 percent of schools hadn’t conducted a single investigation into an alleged assault in the last five years
  • 70 percent of the schools had no protocol for how university police can work with local law enforcement to respond to sexual violence
  • More than 30 percent of schools failed to provide specialized training on ‘rape myths’ to those responsible for adjudicating rape allegations
  • More than 40 percent of schools had students directly involved in the adjudication process

In the case at Miami, the University’s president, Donna Shalala, reached out to the victim personally, offering full support. That is not always the case, however.

Last month, three University of Oregon basketball players — Brandon Austin, Damyean Dotson, and Domonic Artis — were accused of sexually assaulting a classmate at an off-campus party. The players were not charged because prosecutors believed their was insufficient evidence, but the players were dismissed from the team and have been suspended from the school for the duration of the victim’s time there as a student.

Interestingly though, Austin had faced allegations of sexual assault and a suspension at Providence College. He was not charged and was allowed to transfer to Oregon. Could both schools have prevented this?

Next month, four former Vanderbilt football players will stand trial over the rape of a 21-year-old female student who was unconscious. Six female victims at the school came forward alleging that the school discouraged them from coming forward about their own sexual assaults, prompting a federal investigation.

If universities were better-equipped and felt morally-compelled to handle these cases properly, perhaps Lizzy Seeberg would still be alive.

In 2010, Seeberg, a 19-year-old student at St. Mary’s College alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. The school launched a massive smear campaign against her rather than interviewing the player to find out what happened. Ten days later, she committed suicide.

You can read the full report from McCaskill here.

You can also listen to a discussion from this morning on News Talk Florida’s Your Wake Up Call below. My co-host Chris Markowski and I talked to ABC News correspondent Scott Goldberg about the survey and the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses: