Calling all Male Athletes: We Need you to Step Up

This post was originally posted on The Good Men Project, you can check it out here!

“Why do more women not report?” people wonder, as they hear statistics about sexual assault survivors who decide not to report, as if it is as easy as asking for extra pickles on your sandwich.

According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, survivors name numerous reasons for not reporting:

  • Fear of reprisal
  • Personal matter
  • Reported to a different official
  • Not important enough to respondent
  • Belief that the police would not do anything to help
  • Belief that the police could not do anything to help
  • Did not want to get offender in trouble with law
  • Did not want family to know
  • Did not want others to know
  • Not enough proof
  • Fear of the justice system
  • Did not know how
  • Feel the crime was not “serious enough”
  • Fear of lack of evidence
  • Unsure about perpetrator’s intent


Beyond that, the relationship the survivor has to the perpetrator influences their decision to report or not:

  • When an offender is an intimate partner or former intimate partner, only 25 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police.
  • When an offender is a friend or acquaintance, only 18 to 40 percent of sexual assaults are reported.
  • When an offender is a stranger, between 46 and 66 percent of sexual assaults are reported.

The myth persists that there is an abundance of false reports, as if women report sexual assault out of boredom. But research has consistently shown that false reports of sexual assaults are similar, if not lower than false reports of every other crime.

If we know the difficulty a survivor can have reporting and that consistently false reports are low why do we, as a society, continue to question the validity of survivors?

This is a huge question that I will not pretend to fully solve here, but a piece I find pertinent is the idea of not wanting to admit that the people in our lives could assault others. It is so much easier to question a woman’s validity than to believe that our brother, our classmate, our friend, or our teammate could assault someone. For some, it would mean admitting that their past behavior was forceful and bypassed having their partner’s consent. It would mean admitting the regretful night of drunken sex with someone who had passed out was assault. Or the night they wouldn’t let someone leave their room until they had sex was consent. But self-reflection comes at a higher price than automatically blaming the woman for her clothing, her presence at a party, her flirtatious background or the general sense that she was asking for it.

The latest and most disturbing example of this rape culture came from the University of Minnesota Football Team. After ten players were suspended in response to sexual assault allegations, the entire football team boycotted. After the 80-page report regarding the assault was released the team changed its mind and ended their boycott. The report, “compiled by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) after a federally mandated investigation, contains horrifying allegations of repeated rapes perpetrated over the course of several hours by a group of the football players and a high-school recruit. The alleged victim filed a report with the police hours after the alleged assault”.

As Issac Bailey wrote for CNN, “I made my son read the 80-page report about an alleged gang rape at the University of Minnesota in September. In an age in which we are putting into the White House a man who casually bragged about sexual assault, fathers hoping to raise boys who become men who treat women as equals don’t have the luxury of looking away when the horrific happens to a female stranger instead of a well-known loved one.”

I could not agree more. We need to have critical conversations with men about these issues as without their solidarity we won’t move forward. Even more specifically we need male athletes to show that the culture is changing on college campuses, a much need message right now. We need to know that they do not support the actions taken by anybody on the University of Minnesota football team.

We need to show that we do not condone the behavior and set other examples of masculinity for men to have available for them. Ones that do not excuse this behavior, or even applaud it, like the head football coach did with his tweet, “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!” He did nothing to support the survivors that will suffer at hands of his players.

The power that male athletes hold to influence college culture is incomparable. We need to see more male athletes, coaches, and college students in general moving beyond the excuse that they themselves would never partake in that behavior is a reason to stop thinking about, and publicly support survivors, call out their teammates, and use their power to make change. And as story after story has shown, we can’t afford for them not to.


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