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Sports and Sexual Assault

- April 28, 2017
Can colleges and pro leagues curb abuse by athletes?
Featured Report

Hundreds of college and professional athletes, along with some college and Olympic coaches, have been accused of sexual assault in recent years, including gang rape. While athletes have gone to prison for their sex crimes, studies show that relatively few accusations lead to arrest or conviction. Researchers say schools, leagues and Olympic organizations frequently have failed to investigate credible allegations and that sports programs have ignored or covered up sex crimes by star athletes, who often receive preferential treatment from schools, teams and police. While no sport is immune from allegations of sexual abuse, researchers say extremely aggressive sports, such as football, can fuel what they call a culture of rape. Still, some athletes have been falsely accused, and universities are under pressure to improve their methods of distinguishing guilt from innocence. Meanwhile, professional leagues are implementing new policies for dealing with sexual and domestic abuse and are requiring assault-prevention training.

Recruiting Coaches

“We have to change the culture of sports in youth sports.”

Campus Efforts

Allegations of widespread sexual assault touched off a major investigation at Baylor.

Pro Sports Actions

Leagues are trying to prevent sexual assault.

1850s–1940sCollege sports programs begin, and professional sports leagues are created.
1970s–2000sNew laws address campus sexual assault.
2010s–PresentAs high-profile sexual-assault allegations emerge, federal officials advise schools on how to handle such cases.

Can bystander-intervention training prevent sexual assault by college athletes?


Michelle Bangen
Associate Director for Prevention and Wellness, Student Health Services, Oregon State University.


Lisa Wade
Associate Professor of Sociology, Occidental College; Author, American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus.
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