Lyceum on sexual assault among college athletes leaves students confused

Gabby Cabrera, Staff Writer

In a lecture lyceum titled, Above the law: Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence in College Athletics, students were briefed about the prevalence of sexual assault in college athletics but many were left confused and disappointed, prompting university leaders to consider the need for more education.

“I thought it was confusing. All three seemed to have different opinions but tried to find a consensus,” said sophomore Marisa Ostoja about the Lyceum. “What I thought would be about sexual assault in sports, turned into a lesson about law.”

Students of Wingate University were left with more questions than answers as the panel, Athletics Director for Internal Operations  Dr. Renae Myles from Winthrop University, Director of Compliance Hank Harrawood from UNC-Charlotte and Coordinator of Sexual Trauma of Safe Alliance Dr. Norman Spencer, debated the issues surrounding sexual assault in college athletics. The organization Safe Alliance works with victims of domestic abuse and is based in Charlotte.

Dr. Dawn Norwood, the Director of Graudate Programs in the School of Sports Sciences at Wingate, said the panel discussion was originally established for the students of the master’s program but decided to open it up to all students by making it a Lyceum. However after the event, she said she is disappointed to know that many of the students were unaware of Title IX from the start.

“As a result of the panel discussion, I do see the need for all student body to be educated on Title IX by faculty and staff,” said Norwood.  “It’s our responsibility to make sure that students are informed and know where to go.”

During the event, Myles asked the audience if they knew where to go or what to do in case of an assault. A few students hesitantly replied, but none were sure.

Myles said it is important for students to know where and what resources are available in case an assault happens.

“You have somewhere to go,” said Myles. “Know where you should go.”

The panelists offered suggestions such as campus safety and contacting Title IX coordinator, Patrick Biggerstaff.

Norwood began the presentation with two videos. Both were network coverages of two sexual assault cases, one at Baylor University, and the other involving Brock Turner, a swimmer at Stanford University.

The Baylor case involves prosecutors claiming multiple former football players sexually assaulted women. A federal lawsuit claims university officials failed to respond sufficiently to the accusations.

The Brock Turner case convicted the former swimmer of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. The lawsuit drew national attention after the victim’s impact statement went viral and the judge sentenced Turner to only six months in jail.

Norwood used the videos as an example to highlight the important issue of sexual assault and domestic violence on college campuses. She said as many as one in five women and one in 16 men become victims of sexual assault while in college.

For many students at the Lyceum, those statistics combined with the high-profile examples were a riveting combination.

“Dr. Norwood’s opening had me hooked,” said junior Shelby Dworek. “The videos and introduction statement were perfect. That’s why I was so disappointed in the rest of the program.”

Dr. Norwood asked the panel numerous questions about defining the term “lack of consent” and acknowledging available resources for victims. The panel also discussed the removal of the 2011 Title IX “Dear Colleague” letter which added extra protection to victim complaints and stripped nearly all protection from the accused.

Dworek said that while Dr. Norwood’s questions were clear and concise, the panelists’ answers were muddled and confusing.

“They kept referring to Title XI and the “Dear Colleague” letter, but I didn’t even know what that was!” said Dworek. “I felt a huge disconnection between myself and the panel.”

That disconnection came from the debate taking a legal turn, which Norwood said is not surprising since sexual assault is a very legal matter.

Norwood referred to the panelists as “passionate about their topic” and “answering from a position of expertise” when asked about the disunion between panel and student body.

“Perhaps the panel were so enthralled with the questions and topic that they began to speak as though with associates as opposed to bringing it down to meet the students’ needs,” said Norwood.

One student said she found the discussion, though a bit confusing, very informative.

“It is important to realize that sexual assault should not be tolerated,” said junior Sydney Homan. “I think the panel had a lot of knowledge and insight on sexual assault cases so it was interesting to hear stories from their perspective.”

Homan said sexual assault is something all college students should be knowledgeable about so that they will have the courage to bring cases forward.  

The discussion panel ended by recommending Safe Alliance to those who were interested in more information about sexual assault and domestic violence.

Edited by: Brea Childs

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