The Michigan Daily - Friday, November 6,
1992- Page 5
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M E L I SS A
thletes tend to be put in a
position where they are
almost larger-than-life. At
parties, women come up to them.
This does not mean that they
want to have sex... that night."
- Debi Cain, SAPAC Director
College athletes do a lot for their
universities - through ticket sales and
television contracts, they generate millions
of dollars. They publicly represent their
schools every time they compete.
But universities also do a lot for their
Athletes need to eat well. So they have
training table meals.
Athletes need to pass their classes. So
they have academic support services.
Athletes need to avoid legal trouble. So
they have lectures by police officers and
Athletes need to know about sexual
assault. So ...
Few athletic departments provide any
services to educate athletes about sexual
assault. But experts say that, because of
the nature of their business, athletes need
special training in this area.
The statistics are disturbing. One in 12
men will commit rape while in college. A
Philadelphia Daily News study concluded
that college athletes are 38 percent more
,likely to commit rape than the average
college male. The same study found that a
college athlete is reported for sexual
assault once every 18 days.
Debi Cain, director of the U-M Sexual
Assault Prevention and Awareness Center
((SAPAC), said the university should help
,athletes balance two sets of expectations
-'behavior suitable for the field, and
behavior suitable for social situations.
"Essentially, college athletes are being
,given room, board and tuition for their
bodies, their physical prowess, their ability
,to be aggressive and domineering. That's
'what they get rewarded for," she said. "We
Aare asking them to be a totally different
way off of the field."
Cain said that, although athletes should
be able to make the adjustment, the
_ transition can be difficult.
"That is not too much to ask, but it is
difficult for an 18- or 19-year-old guy,"
She added that she thinks the U-M
needs to confront sexual assault head-on.
"It is so important for the athletic
department and the teams to make a
-commitment to address the issue up-front
and tell the players, 'If you commit the
;crime you will pay - you will not get
Claire Walsh, former director of the
sexual assault prevention center at the
University of Florida, agreed with Cain.
"The university should be responsible
if they are not providing athletes with the
kind of information that they need to keep
from becoming victimizers," she said.
At the U-M, men's basketball coach
Steve Fisher invites representatives from
SAPAC to speak to his team at the
beginning of every season. However, Cain
said that no other teams currently schedule
"I certainly commend Coach Fisher on
his progressive attitude. I was real
encouraged to find that the basketball team
had a program. I'll be more encouraged
when the football, wrestling, hockey,
baseball and other teams ask for the same
thing," she said.
Chris Hutchinson, one of the U-M
football team's captains, said coaches on
his team give the players more informal
advice on what precautions they should
"When we come in as freshmen, we're
told about the people we.call camp
followers," Hutchinson said. "As
freshmen, you've never had that happen
before, so you don't know how to deal
with it. The coaches warn us to keep our
that, but not very serious ones. This year,
I've had one incident I've dealt with. Last
year, I didn't have any."
These low figures may paint an
inaccurate picture. Rape survivors seldom
report the crime. When the assailant is an
athlete, even fewer attacks are reported.
Jenny Cass, student leader of the Ann
Arbor Coalition Against Rape, said many
rape survivors may feel like the odds are
stacked against them when their assailant
is an athlete.
"When a woman is raped by an athlete,
it's not just her word against his," Cass
said. "She must go up against the entire
team, who will protect him and make
Walsh said that - in addition to his
teammates - the athletic department may
also leap to an athlete's defense.
"Female students who have been raped
by athletes have a difficult time coming
forward," she said. "The experience is
painful, intimidating, and often does not
have a positive outcome.
"Star athletes are in fact a commodity
used by a school to keep alumni interested,
to provide competitive games. It's not
unusual that a university would stretch the
rules a bit to accommodate an athlete."
Walsh cited a specific example of a
case where a high-profile athlete was
accused of sexual assault,
"At the University of South Florida, the
school protected a star basketball player
even though there had been several
complaints against him," she said. "The
vice president of student affairs in effect
covered up what was happening."
Walsh added that once the story was
exposed by the media, the vice president
was forced to resign.
Weidenbach said that if a U-M athlete
was charged with sexual assault, the
situation would be dealt with differently.
"Whenever we have a student-athlete to
discipline, I work very closely with Vice
President (for Student Affairs Maureen)
Hartford," he said. "Student-athletes are
subject to the same discipline as
everybody else. We discipline kids, and
the coaches discipline kids. We watch that
very carefully to make sure there is a
discipline that takes place."
However, Kata Issari, a counselor at
SAPAC, said many times the U-M
Athletic Department does not have an
opportunity to take action against athletes
who rape women here, because the
survivors almost never report the attacks.
"Most of the women I've worked with
who were assaulted by athletes haven't
done anything about it but talk to me," she
said. "No cases of rape involving athletes
have gone to court in the five years that I
have been here."
Nonetheless, women are being raped
by athletes at the U-M. "Sara" is a U-M
student who was raped by a member of
one of the university's major sports teams.
She agreed to share her story.
"I met him at a party. My friends who I
was there with were making a big deal
about him because he's (an athlete). They
were acting immature and afraid to talk to
him. I went over to see him because I
thought they were being pathetic," she
"We ended up talking a lot that night.
He was really cool. We had interesting
conversations about everything. He
actually told me how hard it is for him
because people always make such a big
deal about him. He said he's just a normal
guy, and all the attention embarrasses him.
He said he doesn't want to be treated
differently than everyone else."
She continued, "It was getting kind of
L E SS A N D
tried to get away, but he was just so
"Afterwards I went home and tried to
sleep, but I was so upset I was awake all
night. He actually had the nerve to call me
the next day to see how I was doing."
Sara's story is typical, and - as in the
case of other rapes - her nightmare
continued beyond the night of the incident.
"When you are raped, you feel so
disgusted and violated," she said. "You
never want to see the monster who did this
to you or hear his name again. If he is just
some jerk who you met at a party, you
may run into him on campus, but the
chances are kind of slim.
"When it's an athlete it's so different.
His name is in the paper all the time. He's
on posters. People in your classes wear
copies of his uniform. He's high profile.
He's a public figure. Even if you don't go
to his games, you always encounter him."
Many sexual assaults begin as casual
encounters at parties or other social
gatherings, where alcohol is often a factor.
Because of their virtual celebrity status,
athletes are often at the center of attention.
"Athletes tend to be put in a position
where they are almost larger-than-life.
They are idolized by students on campus
and the community at large," Cain said.
"At parties, women come up to them.
They want to get to know them because
they are 'campus celebrities.' This does
not mean that they want to have sex with
them that night."
However, these messages are often
difficult to interpret. David Harlock,
captain of the Michigan hockey team, has
observed the dynamics of campus parties.
"Maybe it's someone you've seen
attend a lot of games. You can totally
misinterpret that as an interest in you, even
if she's just a fan of the game," Harlock
said. "It's really a hard judgment to make
sometimes, especially at a party, where
there's alcohol involved."
In addition to athletes, rape survivors
cite alcohol as a component in sexual
Sara said, "I was pretty drunk that
night. That's why I trusted a guy who I
didn't know enough to go home with
Though Elena DiLapi, the director of
the University of Pennsylvania Women's
Center, agreed that alcohol can contribute
to sexual assault, she said she believes that
drinking is often only one of a number of
factors contributing to rape .
"Sometimes, alcohol and
disappointment about losing a game or
excitement about winning one combine to
lead to sexual assault," DiLapi said.
She added that athletes' attitudes -
about women and about themselves -
may increase the probability that a rape
can occur. Cain said these
attitudes may be shaped
by the fact that athletes'
only experience with
women are in social
situations, where the
women may assume
"Athletes do not have
strong and consistent
exposure to women. They
don't see women as
capable equals," Cain
said. "There are some
athletes and fraternities in
that they are both male-
but there is a difference
in that fraternity members
regularly come into
contact with women."
"They live in a
environment. The locker-
room mentality, bantering
and exchanging of sexual
encounters that they had
- they think that this is
the way everyone is," she
Issari said that, like
athletes can learn
negative attitudes about
women from spending
significant amounts of
time in large groups of
"Anytime you have a
erouin of men thait snends
M A T T H E 'W
begin to believe their own publicity and
come away with inflated self-esteem.
"You can look at a guy and tell if he is
a football player or a basketball player,"
Cain said. "They walk around carrying
that all the time - they hear the whispers,
they see the points. They begin to think
they're pretty studly."
Harlock agreed that athletes are
tempted to think of themselves as different
from other students.
"I think a lot of athletes tend to look at
themselves in a different ways," Ilarlock
said. "They think they look more macho,
and that it will be easier for them to attract
Stereotypes and inflated egos
notwithstanding, athletes are different
from other students. They are usually
bigger and almost always stronger, and
their names are recognizable. For these
reasons, every move they make - right or
wrong - draws attention.
"People tend to view athletes
differently," Harlock said. "It's like we're
not even students. They just see us as
being here because of our athletic prowess.
"I think when an incident does occur,
it's reported more so than with other
students. We live under a microscope.
Everything we do gets magnified."
Weidenbach agreed that incidents
involving athletes tend to draw more
recognition from the media and the public
than do others.
"The fact is that a regular student can
go out and do something wrong, but it
isn't half as bad as when an athlete does
it," he said. "I think you'll find that all the
way through our program here is that
there's always an emphasis to the student-
athlete that they represent the university
and themselves and that they're in the
Hutchinson said he believes that
athletes - particularly football players -
draw a lot of attention on campus or at
parties simply because of their size.
"When a normal, 185-pound guy goes
to a football party, he's going to be
intimidated," Hutchinson said. "I think
people get the idea that athletes are more
aggressive away from the field because of
our size. Other people screw around and
wrestle with each other, but when it's two
offensive linemen, you've got 600 pounds
moving all over."
By no means are athletes the sole
perpetrators of sexual assault. When one in
three women will be sexually assaulted in
their lifetimes, the scars of rape permeate
all aspects of our society.
However, when enough evidence exists
to suggest that a particular group of
individuals is more prone to commit a
certain crime, then that group warrants
additional focus in terms of prevention.
IRE N N IE
Opinions on how to solve the problem
vary. Most agree that both athletes and the
women they interact with must take
responsibility for their own actions.
While Cain is anxious to work with
more members of the U-M Athletic
Department to educate athletes, she is
quick to add that women must understand
they should take an active role in how they
deal with athletes.
"A little healthy fear of dating athletes
is OK," Cain said. "It's OK for women to,,
be concerned. Every woman on campus
must be cautious - not only of athletes.
Ninety percent of women on campus are
raped by somebody they know. Women
can't trust people until they really know
Issari stressed the idea of shared
"Athletes have to be extra
conscientious about their behavior," she
said. "It's not that women need to be
afraid of athletes, but that athletes need td
be responsible for their actions."
Harlock said that workshops, such as
the one the basketball team employs, can
help reinforce in the minds of athletes just
how important the issue is.
"Coaches are wise in trying to avoid
one of these situations," Harlock said. "I
think workshops can help to reinforce the
idea that we live in an atmosphere where a.
everything is magnified. If one guy steps.
out of line, it could just kill a program. ,
Hutchinson said the message will be )
received more attentively if it comes from'
the athletes' peers.
"I think the most effective way to
lessen these kinds of incidents would be to
establish some sort of thing where the
upperclassmen would go through a
program and talk to the younger guys,"
Hutchinson said. "Guys won't take it that
seriously if it's the coaches or somebody
else preaching at them because they don't
think other people know what it's like to
be an athlete."
Solutions will only come when
everyone - from the coaches to the
players to the women involved -
acknowledges the cold reality of sexual
assault. Until they do, women will
continue to be raped by athletes, and they.
like Sara, will become another set of
"I know that my experience was not at
all unusual. People get raped by athletes;a
all the time," Sara said. "Someone has to
get it into these guys heads that just 41
because they are strong, talented and71
popular they can't do whatever they wantw
"They are not allowed to have sex with
women who don't want to have sex with
them. They need to be told that over and "
over until they understand."