Athletes, assaults and inaction


Editor's note: The following story contains descriptions and links to documents with language that might be offensive to some readers.

A women's soccer player at the University of Missouri told police that her coach said she might lose her scholarship unless she dropped assault allegations she had made against a star football player. The running back would later be accused in two other assaults.

At the College of Southern Idaho, the mother of a student emailed the head basketball coach that one of his players had raped her daughter. The coach responded that "campus policies don't allow us to handle 'internally' matters of this nature." About two years later, that same basketball player -- having transferred to the University of Tulsa -- was cleared of rape allegations in a campus disciplinary hearing after the dean of students determined that the alleged victim wasn't clear enough that she didn't want to have sex.

"Outside the Lines" uncovered these allegations and incidents through multiple interviews and by obtaining hundreds of documents from the colleges, alleged victims and police. The details are striking: two student-athletes with at least seven women in all having reported being allegedly hurt or sexually assaulted by them, the reports occurring at a small junior college, a private mid-major and a major Division I public university. The reporting by "Outside the Lines" shows that two of the colleges likely violated federal law for not investigating assault allegations. The third is being sued in federal court for ignoring past allegations of abuse from two women.

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating 76 colleges and universities for their handling of what are commonly known as Title IX complaints. Title IX is a federal gender equity law that, among other requirements, sets the rules for how schools must investigate incidents of sexual assault or violence. The law provides protection for women and men and covers how schools must provide support for the students involved.

Last year, the National College Health Assessment found that more than 10 percent of women said they had been the victim of some form of sexual assault on campus in the previous 12 months. Although it's unknown how many instances of campus sexual assault involve athletes, "Outside the Lines" research of media coverage found at least 30 Division I schools had such reports in the past five years. These cases, because of their publicity,  are often the ones by which the system -- the university and law enforcement -- is judged for how such reports are handled. There are plenty to judge, too, with recent reports of athletes allegedly raping or assaulting women at Oregon, UCLA, Texas, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, Mississippi,  and Florida State, which is being investigated for its handling of sexual assault allegations against Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

Catherine Lhamon, the U.S. Department of Education's assistant secretary of the Office for Civil Rights, said the Missouri, Southern Idaho and Tulsa cases are representative of many the department has seen in recent years.

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