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Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

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Athletic Culture and Sexual Assault on Campus

Are you a college athlete? If so, you know what it’s like to have people look up to you. You also know what it means to carry the responsibility of protecting your team’s — and your school’s — reputation.

It’s hard, then, to confront the difficult truth that more college sexual assaults are committed by athletes than by non-athletes.

Sexual Assault on Campus

Research over the last 20 years shows that a  disproportionate number of sexual assaults on campus are committed by college athletes, often in situations involving gang rape (2 or more assailants). For example:

  • The Benedict-Crosset Study Researchers reported back in 1995 that a higher percentage of campus sexual assaults to be committed by male college student athletes compared to non-athletes.  Between 1991 and 1993, 36.8% of athletes at 30 Division I schools were charged with assault, compared to only 8.5% of the general population.  Sadly, this higher percentage of violence among athletes continues to grow.   According to an April 11, 2011, article in, 700 stories on violent acts by college athletes against women existed in the Nexis database, compared to only 368 in 1995.
  • A research review published in the Journal of Science and Sport shows that higher rates of alcohol use and violence exist in athlete populations compared to that of non-athlete populations. While this has been known for years, this recent review highlights that the higher percentage of assaults committed by athletes is a worsening problem, with a solution yet to be found.

What Is It About Athletic Culture That Lends Itself To Sexual Assault?

  • Sports Culture:  Athletes are tightly woven into the fabric of college sports culture: a sense of celebrity entitlement, a tradition of impunity, group peer pressure, and the value placed on masculinity, conquest, and aggression.
  • Expectations: Sports teams, especially successful ones in high-profile schools, have long enjoyed more attention, financial support, and adulation than other school-affiliated teams. Bigger budgets, stronger recruiting efforts, and greater academic leniency are also reserved for athletes, which can lead to a sense that the expectations and limits appropriate for others do not apply to them.
  • Aggression:  Sports culture values, encourages, and rewards aggression. When athletes transfer this aggression to the social arena, it can lead to sexual conquest that exhibits the same kind of “just do it” mentality that gains them accolades on the playing field.

Become Part of the Solution

As a college athlete, you’re already a leader on campus and a role model.  You’re admired for your strength and you enjoy a certain amount of status and privilege. Now is the time to become part of the solution:

  • Take a Stand:  You can use your strength and status to make a lasting difference on campus by taking a stand against sexual assault.
  • Leadership Opportunities:  The same group mentality and leadership opportunities that sports provide can be used to teach and model respectful interactions between men and women.
  • Respectful Behavior:  As an athlete, you understand what hard work and sacrifice mean. You can apply that same discipline to your relationships by modeling respectful behavior towards others, by speaking out when your teammates are acting disrespectfully, by intervening when necessary to prevent a situation from escalating, and by getting educated on sexual assault and how it affects everyone involved—whether survivor, assailant, bystander, or the broader student body.

Contact National Title IX Attorneys

Title IX provides protection against sexual violence and harassment by requiring schools that receive federal funds to implement programs to prevent such acts on campus or at campus-sponsored events.

At the same time, Title IX also requires schools to investigate allegations of sexual assault and harassment fairly and to protect the rights of both the accuser and the accused.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault on campus or at a campus-sponsored event, or you’re an athlete that has been accused of sexual assault or misconduct, contact the experienced Title IX attorneys at Duffy Law as soon as possible to discuss your situation. You can reach them by calling 203-946-2000.




Felice Duffy

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Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.