Friday, February 19, 2016

Kent State faces lawsuit over assault cover-up and retaliation

We have seen emerge a pattern of sexual assault cover-ups by intercollegiate football teams recently. Kent State has interrupted that pattern--not in a good way.

The university is facing  lawsuit by a former softball player who alleges that her own coach, Karen Linder, tried to cover up the assault the player reported to her. Why? Because the assailant is the coach's son, also a student-athlete. When the player did indeed report the rape, the (now former) coach retaliated in ways that forced the player to quit the team.

Though this in itself is awful, what exacerbates these feelings--along with my cynicism--is that the coach sought out her player who had not initially reported the assault but who was clearly affected by the incident. Changes in the player's behavior, socially and academically, compelled the coach to ask if she had been sexually assaulted and also ask, according to the lawsuit, if her son was the perpetrator. When she found out that he was, she was apologetic but also asked that the player not share this information with anyone else (her family already knew) and wanted her to talk to her son to try to resolve the issue.

The player tried to move on but had difficulties sharing facilities with the baseball team (of which the son was a member) and going to the coach's (and her son's) home for team events. The player also came to find out that Linder should have reported the assault to the university once she knew about it. The player initiated a complaint with the athletic director that her coach had not done this; the athletic director went directly to Linder who resigned almost immediately but did so railing against the student athlete the whole time and rallying support for herself while decrying the actions of the player and the university. This effectively created a culture on the softball team, maintained and perpetuated by the replacement coach, that was hostile to the student athlete's continued participation.

The lawsuit is against both Karen Linder and the university. The latter is not commenting at this time.