Our View: Sexual assault allegations abound nationwide

With what seems like an influx of sexual assault cases involving universities and their corresponding athletic departments, we continue to seek the answer to a nationally polarizing question: How do we prevent these from happening ever again?

The first instance that comes to mind is the recently dropped Florida State University (FSU) case against former quarterback, Jameis Winston. Winston was accused of sexually assaulting and raping a female student in December of 2012.

The case went through two federal investigations and one student conduct hearing—all of them cleared Winston of the charges against him. However, CNN reported on Jan. 26 that FSU paid the accuser $950,000 to drop court cases that “would have left FSU fighting over the past rather than looking toward its very bright future,” James Thrasher, FSU’s president, said.

The second of these cases was brought to the world’s attention on Feb. 2 by an ESPN investigation that said Baylor University has been covering up students’ sexual assault and rape allegations. The accusers, all females, said they had been the victim of said crimes and the cases ranged back as far as 2009 until 2012. Their cries for help fell on deaf ears at the university.

“They didn’t just not respond; they responded by turning me away and telling me that it was not possible for me to receive help from them,” one woman told ESPN Outside the Lines about her experience with university officials after she said she was raped by a student athlete.

One of the assailants, former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott, was convicted in 2014 on two counts of sexual assault, according to an ESPN article on Feb. 2.

The most recent sexual assault cover-up allegation came out last night when The Tennessean reported six women filed federal lawsuits against the University of Tennessee on allegations of allowing sexual assault by student athletes.

The one that hits home the most is the alleged sexual assault cover-up by Kent State’s Athletic Department that arose yesterday. For those unaware, a former softball player sued the university and its former softball coach after claiming in a lawsuit the coach’s son sexually assaulted her and the coach allegedly pressured her to not report the incident.

These four cases have all popped up in the national spotlight within the past couple years, which makes one wonder how many more of these cases exist and how close we are to solving these abhorrent allegations.

The answer might be closer than we think.

As of Sept. 23, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating more than 167 complaints against 141 institutions for their handling of sexual violence investigations. 

We don’t know if there’s a pattern behind university action or inaction through all of these incidents, particularly as details about the alleged sexual assault on our campus continue to arise. However, we know there is a common thread in that someone is being hurt, whether it be the victim or the accused’s reputation if these cases are found inaccurate. We don’t know what the next steps are to stop sexual assault, but we do know that something different has to be done. We implore the growing number of universities and even their athletic departments to continue to explore new options for preventing sexual assault.