Sexual Harassment And Violence In Athletic Programs

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Statistics & Examples of Sexual Violence
  3. Risk Factors of Sexual Violence
  4. Title IX
  5. Pros and Cons of Title IX
  6. NCAA Sexual Violence Policy
  7. Sexual Harassment in Sports
  8. Conclusion


With the increase amount of student athletes, sexual harassment and violence has increase in athletic programs across the country. Sexual harassment and violence in athletics increase the risk of student athletes, athletic directors, and institutions to be held liable in a civil suit. There should be a more active role for athletic directors in preventing sexual harassment and assault in athletic programs. The purpose of this research paper is to emphasize the seriousness of sexual harassment and violence in athletic programs, discuss the history of sexual harassment and violence in athletic programs, statistics and examples of sexual violence in college athletes, risk factors of sexual violence, Title IX, pros and cons, NCAA sexual violence policy, workshops for student athletes.

Statistics & Examples of Sexual Violence

In athletics, sexual harassment and violence have become a serious issue for many years affecting the athletic programs. Student athletes should be provided with the safest environment, while they are pursuing their education. Parents are putting total trust in the administration that their child will remain safe while in the case of the institution. According the ESPN Outside the Lines, student athletes have a more than 50% chance to experience sexual misconduct during their college athletic career (Lavinge, 2018). The statistic was initially based on a study that was performed from 65 power 5 schools in athletics in a six-year span. Only 32 of the 65 power 5 schools provided the necessary information.

There is a fine line in athletics between being successful and winning or the well-being of the student athlete. Setting goals and having major accomplishment is important, however success can be costly when it’s done out of character by sacrificing the student athlete well-being, health, and safely (Kirby & Demers, 2013). Coaches have been guilty of taking advantage of student athletes by using the power they possess to make sexual advances. Some examples of sexual violence in college athletic programs are Baylor University being accused of being indifferent to reports of student-athletes being victims of sexual assault by university personnel, a student at the Florida State University won a settlement for $950,000 with a former student who accused administrators of obstructing and concealing the sexual assault investigation so that stat quarterback Jameis Winston would be able to continue to play football (Wade, 2017).

There have been several institutions who have proposed a law regarding sexual assault with student athletes. Some of those institutions are Notre Dame, University of North Carolina, Tennessee, New Mexico, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Richmond, and Tulsa (Wade, 2017). Many institutions found themselves in major trouble by not reporting sexual assaults due to trying to protect certain student athletes. Research suggest that male student athletes have gained the repetition on being more dangerous than male no athletes. A study was performed amongst college campuses across the country.

The results to the study was determined that male student athlete was given an extreme amount of representation by a component of ten between the males who were guilty of sexual assault (Frintner & Rubinson, 1993). It was also noted that athletes make up for 2 percent of the enrollment at colleges and universities, which consists of 20.2 per cent of the males involved in sexual related crimes. According to the United States National Institution of Mental health, student athletes played a role in about 33% of 862 sexual violence on college campuses (Melnick, 1992). Student athletes are 5.5 times more likely to admit to sexual related acts that would be portrayed as sexual assault.

Risk Factors of Sexual Violence

There are many risk factors of sexual harassment, assaults, and violence that come with the sport. Some risk factors are male bonding, aggressive sport, sexualization and subordination of women, celebrity status and entitlement, drug abuse, and groupie culture (). Male bonding can sometimes increase the level of sexism and encourage other athletes to side with a specific group based on the loyalty, which can outweigh integrity. Contact sports presents aggression in men’s violence towards women. Aspects that allow men to be more aggressive are dominance, competitiveness, toughness, and being insensitive to others.

The misconception is when the media points to women in sports roles are being sexual props for men’s performance. Women are more than cheerleaders and supporters. Some athletes have superstar status in their specific sport. The treatment that comes with this displays a sense on entitlement for the athlete. The negative aspect is there is a lack of accountability as it relates to the actions of the athlete on and off the court or field.

Student athletes have been under the radar for the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport. In addition to drugs, alcohol had played a major part in drug abuse for student athletes. Both have been identified as a potential risk for sexual assault. Athletes can be identified by a specific group of people who enjoy the company of athletes. The sexual behavior with women has been use to explore the sexual company of elite athletes. Many have used their status may impact negatively on how their treat women (Benedict, 1998).

In 1972, Title IX was passed, which bans discrimination against women and girls in federally funded education and athletic programs (Bell, 2007). Prior to Title IX being created, females had very few opportunities in sports. In 1906, the NCAA was established to enforce specific rules and regulations in men’s football, instead took over every aspect of college athletics. During this time women was offered no athletic scholarships or qualified for no championship games or meets for women sports (Bell, 2007). There was limited access to facilities, equipment, and revenue.

In the early 1970s, there was 30,000 women playing college sports, compared to 170,000 men. The main purpose of Title IX was to change this trend so that women could have the sane equal and fair opportunities as the men in college athletics. Women wanted the same equal access and quality as the men. Although, both men and women had the same facility resources, scholarship funds are where they differed. Women felt they should get the same amount of scholarship fund as men. Since the changed have been made, female sports have increase drastically in high school and college.

In 1972, there were only 295,000 women playing sports nationwide. Currently, there is 2.6 million female athletes in the United States. In college alone, the number has increased from 30,000 to over 150,000 and is currently still growing. In addition, the female dropout numbers have decrease drastically as more females are becoming involved in athletics. There have been some positive changes by the United States Department that has strengthen its intension of sexual violence.

Title IX

Title IX confronted the speech and listed 55 institutions with accessible sexual assault investigations in 2011. There were 111 colleges who were being investigated for possible violations of Title IX against 3 community colleges in 2015 (Jones, 2017). In addition, there were also 315 college under a separate investigation. Unfortunately, athletic programs have been on the wrong side of history, as it relates to sports and sexual assault. Many cases are still under investigation for a violation of Title IX. The biggest one that comes with mind was back in 2006.

Duke lacrosse team was forced to end their season due sexual behavior at an off-campus team party (Cohan, 2016). Coaches of the team were no longer able to coach. The University was clearly under fire and repetitions were affected negatively. During the investigation the school and investigators found out that there were exotic dancers who were hired for the party. The players paid the dancer $800 to perform at the party. The African American dancer accused several of the lacrosse players of raping and sexually assaulting her in the bathroom. The players that were accused were Caucasians.

The different testimonies made the case complex. The case took a turn when the accuser could not remember the details of what transpired the night of the party. The DNA sample showed that there was no match. However, there was evidence that the woman had been with other men prior to the weekend of the party. Players were able to avoid the trial and received a settlement amount of $20 million with the University. Duke University invested over $100 million in legal fees, settlement costs, and other related expenses to preserve the integrity of the school (Cohan, 2016).

The Steubenville High School sex scandal in 2013 was also a high-profile case (Jones, 2017). The teenage students were found guilty of raping another classmate. The use of alcohol affected the student memory and caused her to vomit several times. She also had trouble speaking clearly and walking. Evidence was found through text messages and photos. Both students were found guilty and had to serve 1-2 years in a juvenile correction facility since they were both under the age of 18 (Almasy, 2013).

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Pros and Cons of Title IX

There are several pros and cons as it relates to Title IX. There have been many changes to better serve women and allowing them to gain equal and fair rights in athletics. Some of the pros of Title IX are more educational opportunities for women, for athletic opportunities for women to be able to compete nationally and internationally, equal and fair across for men and women, increase in career opportunities, decrease in expulsions in high schools and colleges, it ended educational stereotypes, and great success in high school athletics.

The cons of Title IX are it eliminated the wrong program that were helpful to student athletes, money not divided properly between the schools and programs, encouraging acts of sexual violence, negative impact on coaching, opportunities became more limited in athletics, sexual discrimination has increased over the years putting a lot of pressure on some student athletes, taxpayers come out their pockets more due to inaccuracy in public institutions, and athletes have started to developed eating disorders (Stanberry, 2013).

NCAA Sexual Violence Policy

It has become mandatory for the colleges to provide sexual violence education for all coaches, athletes, and athletic administrators under the new sexual violence policy. There are three campus officials that must acknowledge that each institution athletic program is informed and unified about all educational policies and procedure pertaining to sexual violence prevention and resolution of actions of sexual violence. They also must acknowledge the institution policy on sexual violence prevention, which includes the name and number for that specific campus Title IX coordinator. (NCAA, 2019). The important must be available just in case of an emergency and accessible to student athletes. The report should consist of the name of the institution that indicates they have complied with the Board of Governors.

The board of sexual violence has taken several steps to address the issue in college athletics. For the past 9 years, institutions have worked on defining how college athletics should respond to student athletics who have been victims of sexual violence on and off college campuses (NCAA, 2019). In 2014, there was a resolution that was passed by the board that lists of different expectations for college athletic departments. The purpose is to develop a foundation for the policy so that student athletes can feel more protected moving forward. The NCAA created a handbook specifically for sexual assault and violence in athletics.

The handbooks have tips that help student athletes keep college campuses healthy and safe. A tool kit is included with the handbook to assist athletic directors in networking with other personnel to be free of violence and create a safer environment for students. There are three principles with the NCAA policy in the fight again campus sexual violence. The principles are that the athletics department should be notified and accommodate in all campus wide policies in preventing sexual violence, checklist recommendation would be viewed yearly of the NCAA Sexual Violence Prevention Toolkit (NCAA, 2019). Lastly, they should use the resources to serve as leaders around campus in supporting campus wide prevention. Each institution, president of the institution, athletic director, and Title IX coordinator must agree on all principles and sexual violence policies.

Sexual Harassment in Sports

Sexual harassment is defined as any form of sexual behavior towards another person. It was be verbal or non-verbal. Some examples of sexual harassment are making degrading comments of sexual nature to another individual, displaying non-verbal behavior such as staring in a sexual way or whistling, making sexual comments about a person’s body, gear, or secret life, written letters of sexual intent, giving or receiving photos on unwanted sexual content, making jokes or demands of sexual nature, unwanted sexual touching or grabbing body parts, forceable acts, and attempting to rape someone (Fasting, 2005). Sexual harassment and abuse have may similarities and differences. The similarities are they can occur at any moment and time.

Many times, with sexual harassment it can take repeating offenses for one to lead up to the other. Often happens by someone that the victim knows personally or has had contact with, and gender neutral (Swartz Swidler, 2019). Sexual harassment can occur anywhere and anytime. It doesn’t require any physically touching, were sexual assault involved physical contact. Some valid points on sexual harassments are that it’s never the victim’s fault, the harasser’s behavior is not welcomed or wanted, victim should express their feelings for the harasser to stop, and victim should reach out to support groups, friends, and family for assistance (Swartz Shidler, 2019).

The Penn State University sexual harassment and misconduct case was one of the biggest scandals in sports history. In the case, the NCAA handed down a severe punishment that will impacted the Penn State community for many years. Penn State was guilty for displaying illegitimate acts that was associated with former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and consecutive schools’ administrators (Dennie, 2012). The NCAA handed down a punishment that was out of code by standards of the NCAA. They penalties that was handed down was one of the biggest fines in NCAA history against a historic college or university. Penn State was fined $60 million.

In addition, the NCAA based Penn State from participating at any bowl game for 4 years, 5 years of probation, and forgetting all victories from 1998-2011 (Dennie, 2012). There have been several scandals in athletics associated with sexual harassment and misconduct. Several agencies have recommended that more sports organizations create policies that hand down stiff punishments for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in sports. The Olympic Committee creates a morals and ethics policy that is strongly against coaches and players having any type of sexual or romantic relationship (Dennie, 2012). Many institutions are following the same path in making sure that all coaches, student athletes, and administrators are on the same page.

The University of Arizona has started a comprehensive educational and support system that focuses on and protects student athletics and coaches from situations related to sexual harassment and sexual violence. Institutions must have the appropriate safety measures in place in order to avoid an action lawsuit. Athletic trainers at institutions work one on one with student athletes. There is always a risk of sexual harassment. According to reports, at least two athletic trainers have filled an action lawsuit for sexual harassment against colleagues in the state of Georgia and Tennessee.

A study on sexual harassment was performed amongst 100 college athletic trainers on the east coast. It was determined that 25% of both gender trainers have experienced some type of sexual harassment while at work. There are some challenges that come with athletic trainers when working with student athletes. Athletic trainers should always treat athletes carefully and consider the sexual harassment policy. It allows the athletic trainer and student athlete to be covered.

Most athletic trainer are not familiar with the policies at their institution for sexual harassment. A study was performed on athletic trainers and sexual harassment matters in college athletics. The results showed there were 67% of athletic trainers in college athletics were familiar with the sexual harassment policy (Velasquez, 1998). There were 14% of athletic trainers who had no clue that there was a sexual harassment policy. In addition to the 67% who were familiar, 24% were unsure if the policy was institution base or just within the athletic department.

Less than half of the athletic trainer who participated in the study understood the dynamics of the policy. The facts are concerning for institutions if administrators or athletic trainer are not familiar with the sexual harassment policy. Institutions present a huge risk for a liability lawsuit. It is of great importance that all personnel and student athletes know the sexual harassment policy. Athletic trainers should build close relationships with personnel in the athletics to make sure each person is following the law and school policy on sexual harassment.

When a policy is created it should be detailed and concrete. It sends a clear message that sexual harassment won’t be tolerated in any shape or form. Each institution should create a self-evaluation form on sexual harassment for employees and student athletics to complete


In conclusion, there are some beneficial sexual harassment and violence athletic programs, nationally. Many athletic programs have been helpful in keeping student athletes and personnel safe from sexual harassment and violence. Risk factors have presented great awareness on things to look out for with sexual harassment and violence. Title IX created many opportunities moving forward to men and women, which have proven to decrease sexual harassment and violence. Overall, there are programs that have changed the dynamics moving forward for student athletes to feel safer at institutions.

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