College sports programs across the United States offer thousands of athletes an opportunity to showcase their talents with the hope of reaching the top of their respective disciplines. The dedication required to reach peak form and fitness allows extraordinary individuals the ability to advance within their field of sport. Unfortunately, every year an unknown number of college athletes find themselves trapped in a vicious abuse cycle perpetrated by a sexual predator in a position of power. Rather than achieving their dream of playing college sports with the possibility of turning professional, these athletes live a nightmare of harassment and abuse.
College Athletes Regularly Subjected to Abuse on Campus
The non-profit organization Lauren’s Kids published a study reporting the staggering number of college athletes that suffer abuse. According to their findings, athletes are two-and-a-half times more likely to be abused by an authority figure on campus than other students. That metric alone is shocking, but the research also uncovered that 28% endured inappropriate sexual contact, 26% received threats to stop them from reporting or declining sexual advances, 19% were sexually harassed, and a sobering 42% were subject to grooming. Most often, the abuse was perpetrated by a male professor or coach.
Making matters even worse, 83% of athletes said they were aware of at least one other student who was experiencing inappropriate behavior by a campus authority figure. The athletes aware of others being abused reported that 34% knew of another student who had been sexually assaulted or raped by a someone on campus in a role of authority. 34% also knew of a student who was being sexually coerced by a campus authority figure who was abusing their position of power.
Students Standing Up to Their Abusers
In recent years, a growing number of college athletes have bravely stood up for themselves and others by reporting the sexual abuse and harassment they experienced on campus. Even with the rise in reports, 53% of athletes surveyed did not know they could confidentially file a lawsuit against their abusers and the institutions responsible for employing these sexual predators. Considering the lasting impact sexual abuse can have on an individual, those who have suffered trauma can stop the cycle of abuse perpetrated by sexual predators by bringing to light their experiences. This is true even if they choose to remain anonymous. Only by holding abusers accountable for their actions can they be stopped from harming college athletes in the future.
High Profile Settlements Across the Country are on the Rise
Recently, a number of high profile college sex abuse cases have seen record setting results for survivors. More than 1,000 former students who were abused by Dr. Robert Anderson at the University of Michigan demanded justice. Their actions against the doctor who was employed by the university for decades resulted in a settlement valued at over $490 million.
Similarly, Dr. Larry Nassar, employed by both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, was finally brought to justice after abusing athletes for decades. Survivors of Nassar reached a settlement with USA Gymnastics for $380 million and Michigan State University for $500 million. Thirteen of Nassar’s victims have gone the extra step of seeking $10 million each from the FBI through the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the FBI failed to protect elite athletes during the investigation of Nassar’s abuse.
The University of Southern California has agreed to pay more that $1 billion in three separate settlements to victims of campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall. Tyndall stood accused of sexual harassment and abuse of hundred of women including allegations of groping, photographing them during medical examinations, and inappropriate comments. One of these three settlements was for more than $850 million, the largest sex abuse payout in the history of post-secondary education.
USC also made a settlement with 80 former students of former campus doctor Dennis Kelly. Former students alleged that USC failed to act on their complaints. Kelly targeted male students and engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct including rectal examinations during appointments. The school settled for an undisclosed amount.
Survivors of College Athlete Abuse Can Achieve Justice
With college athletes increasingly standing up to their abusers, many schools are adapting stronger protocols regarding protecting student athletes and performing more in depth investigations when accusations are made. While a move in the right direction, there are still institutions that do little to protect vulnerable students who may fear losing their scholarships or path to professional sports for speaking up. That is why the team at Estey & Bomberger will continue to fight for those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of any campus authority figure.
If you or a loved on has been the victim of a coach, professor, or other authority figure at your school, we can help. We understand the importance of confidentiality, and our trauma informed law firm offers more than just legal services. We can provide you with a number of resources to help you achieve justice and work through the trauma you have suffered due to your experience. Steve Estey, founding partner and athlete abuse lawyer, has a perfect record when it comes to sexual abuse cases.
So that every student athlete can receive the legal representation they deserve, our law firm never charges a fee unless we win your case with a verdict, settlement, or judgement. We also offer free, no obligation consultations where your identity will remain confidential. This allows you to speak to an attorney and have all of your questions answered so that you can make an informed decision before moving forward with your case. To learn more, or to schedule a confidential, free consultation, contact us today.