Thursday, January 19, 2012

University of Montana Football Players Linked to Wave of Sexual Assaults

An article in Huffington Post describes an alarming series of sexual assaults involving football players at the University of Montana. Most recently, an incident in which multiple football players are accused of drugging and raping two female students has produced felony charges and one admission of guilt. This incident has also apparently brought to light two prior allegations of rape committed by football players, that were reported to the University but which the University did not investigate or pursue disciplinary action.

The University defended its failure to respond on the erroneous belief that it is not obligated to address incidents between students that occur off campus, as well as some inexplicable belief that it is somehow prevented by law from reporting incidents of assault to local police. The university is also being criticized for following up with the football coach, but not the victims, and of helping accused football players find legal representation with a local "powerful" law firm.

An independent investigation is ongoing, which has produced preliminary findings suggesting that the University has a "gap" in its reporting of sexual assault. This week, the University hosts a public meeting on date rape. We'll have to wait and see whether this investigation and increased focus on sexual violence brings more incidents to light, and whether any of the victims pursue litigation under Title IX challenging the University's deliberate indifference to sexual assault.