“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth”
~John Lennon, “Gimme Some Truth.”
Thursday, May 26, 2016’s breaking news mid afternoon is going over the firing of the University of Baylor’s head coach Art Briles. It’s all over sports media, 24 hour news cycles, and the number one trending topic on Twitter. I’m dismayed, disgusted, horrified, appalled, and feel angry. Point blank; I’m mad! I’m mad to read about another tarnished athletic program. I’m mad about elitism being shown. I’m mad about the sexism that can be found in this story. I’m mad about the personal, professional, and political integrity shown forth regarding this story. I’m mad as a woman. I’m mad as a former higher education professional. I’m mad as a recent survivor of sexual assault.
Mostly I’m mad that this all could be prevented.
In November of 2011, the world of college sports was rocked to its core when shocking allegations came forth regarding legendary head football coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions. The allegations led to a grand jury investigation, indictment, firings, a long trail of horrific sexual abuse, incarceration, a penalized University program, and reform across the board when it came to reporting of sexual violence. At this point in my professional career I was affiliated with an office at a fellow Big Ten University. Our acting leader mandated we read the Grand Jury report regarding what happened at Penn State University. I had to walk away from it several times and put it down. We were expected to comb through this gruesome document as a point of learning, prevention, and further reform that was to come down the pipeline; and it did come down the pipeline.
Years later my role in Higher Education at this University was helping to run Summer conferences held in the residence Halls. A very well crafted piece of literature was handed down to full time employees and signed over viewing expectations of reporting any sexual violence, abuse, child abuse etc. It may have been a piece of paper; but I saw it as progress. My signing this meant my position at the University was to uphold the law and integrity of which this University wished to stand for. I was grateful to see information dispersed at all levels of administration of what was expected, and what professional consequences would happen if reporting lines didn’t not happen in the event of an instance.
The thing that puzzled me was my personal integrity would have always superseded any title, position, or power when it came to do the right thing in reporting wrong doing. Especially wrong doing that included violence, sexual violence, child abuse, or anything pertaining to these categories. I can recall a specific conversation with my ex regarding the Penn State story. There was an assistant coach who witnessed an event of sexual abuse against a minor and neglected to report. My ex stood firm that as a person, you always do the right thing, regardless of your position. I was really proud of him in that moment and of how he processed this event with me.
Sexual violence survivors that find the courage to report their assailants often times find themselves revictimized. You involve media and a national story and this further complicates the stigma and embarrassment of the survivor. A survivor who deserves complete and total anonymity during their healing. One of the hardest parts of my journey through surviving sexual assault last Fall was the public message indicating “a 31 year old female was attacked and sexually assaulted near campus.” There were further details on this story and the alert was meant for public safety. The trigger and damage this did to me was insurmountable. I choose to be open about what had happened to get ahead of the speculation. It still hurt and is forever in print.
What the administrators and coaches in the athletic department at Baylor did was similar. According to the reports out there, victims who came forward were not properly reported to the Title IX or campus police. Alleged perpetrators of rape were dismissed. The survivors ( a term I prefer to use over victims) were not heard. This now being a national public story means they will be further re-victimized every time this story is told over and over again. Even if they try to keep their anonymity, others will know who it was. A Big Ten town newspaper told my story and made me feel re-victimized. These women will have CNN, Twitter, ESPN, magazines, online publications and more putting daggers into their already exposed selves. I really feel for them here. They don’t deserve this.
A decision to pursue athletic glory over integrity has once again marred a University, an athletic program, a coach’s career, and more administrators. Penn State happened nearly 5 years ago. What have we leaned since then? How are reporting lines helping victims at University’s? How are those brave enough to come forward being re-victimized by reporting structures, media, social media and more?
I am mad, are you? Use your anger over another headline tarnishing those with integrity in Higher Education to demand reform. Look at your own policies while you have summer down time (or are supporting conferences /campus on campus.) Be angry another “stereotype” in college sports was just affirmed. Male dominance and elitism were supported. Get mad about it. I am!
I am currently in a corporate role between Higher Education opportunities. I am consulting on speaking on sexual assault and violence on campuses. I am mad enough about this to collaborate with my Survivor Speaking coach and see what education from this we can bring forward. I witnessed the hurt of those on campus who were victims/survivors of sexual violence. Its a vulnerability that can be transformational and detrimental at the same time.
Lastly, have compassion for the true victims here. The administrators at Baylor University that esteem themselves with integrity and would have properly reported this situation. The alum of this University dismayed to hear about this. The current students and incoming freshmen who will be abuzz with this. The players on the athletic team that do not condone sexual violence. The women who will be going through a national media nightmare while trying to heal from a sexual assault.
I’m mad, and you should be too.