By CASSY SWIHART TOWER Staff Writer
Across the country, millions of student-athletes juggle the responsibilities of both their academic and athletic commitments. Here at Bethany, our teams participate in Division 3 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, in the President’s Athletic Conference (or Ohio River Athletic Conference for Men’s Lacrosse). On a campus that is home to many student-athletes, it seems as though there is always a game to attend or a practice going on. Recently, the media has brought light to an issue that plagues many student-athletes at all levels – sexual assault. This last Tuesday, April 17, Student Athlete Advisory Committees of Division 3 colleges across the country, including here at Bethany, participated in a “Day of Action.” This day, designed to bring awareness to sexual assault amongst college campuses, is just one way that attention is being drawn to it.
On Bethany’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee and Athletics twitter accounts, facts were tweeted all day Tuesday sharing information about the truth behind sexual assaults when pertaining to not only athletes but all students. One fact that was shared is that 23.1% of women and 5.4% of men that are undergraduate students are victims of some sort of sexual assault. A different tweet stated that over 50% of the assaults occur during the months of August through November. Though Bethany’s SAAC is just one voice, when combined with other college’s SAACs across the country they are bringing awareness to an issue that affects athletes on a daily basis.
One case that really opened up the conversation about sexual assault amongst athletes is that of Larry Nassar. Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, was convicted of molesting athletes during his career. In a CNN article on the case, it is noted that his guilty plea resulted in him being sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of over 150
girls and women within his profession. Nassar worked for Michigan State University as well and lawsuits have since come against both organizations in the aftermath of his trial.
Attention to this case likely was so immense due to its affiliation with USA Gymnastics. Gymnastics is one of the most popular events watched during the Summer Olympics, and therefore a case that is connected to them receives a great amount of publicity. Among those who have accused Nassar of the abuse are McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas, three young women of the ‘fierce five’ who competed in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Later, a fourth woman from the group, Jordyn Wieber, stated that she too had been a victim of Nassar. Coming back with only the second gold medal for the United States in the sport, these women have become well-known among not only those in the sport but spectators as well. Thus, when they went public with statements about what Larry Nassar did, people were paying attention to them.
In her first public statement since Larry Nassar’s conviction, as noted by the Washington Post, victim McKayla Maroney has gone as far as to say that she sometimes wonders if her successful gymnastics career was worth having to live with what he did to her all of those years. She notes that her success did not come from the organizations that she was part of, but rather in spite of them and these incidents that occurred. Since the case, much of the leadership within gymnastics has changed, which many believe is a step in the right direction to ensure that something such as this never happens again.
Closer to home, our Student Athletic Activities Council (SAAC) is trying to aide in bringing awareness to how big of an issue sexual assault can be on campuses, especially among athletes. As most of us first started our time here at Bethany, we went through seminars and training courses that taught us skills to be able to be prepared should we find ourselves in situations where there is potential for any form of assault or abuse. Bathroom stalls throughout campus have posted signs emphasizing consent and giving contact information for services should students ever end up in a situation where they would need help. It is the hope of our SAAC that we can protect our students, including our student-athletes, as much as possible in the hopes of creating safer campuses for all who call them home during the school year.