Women's Sport: NCAA sued by seven women over lack of sexual assault protection

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Seven women have begun legal action against the National Collegiate Athletic Association alleging the organisation failed to protect them from alleged sexual assaults by male college athletes.

The lawsuit involves three US university institutions: Michigan State, Nebraska, and one unnamed Division I college from the America East Conference. It accuses the institutions of negligence, fraud, and breach of contract.

ESPN reports that the lawsuit states the NCAA “knew or should have known that their actions or inaction in light of the rate and extent of sexual assaults reported and made known to [the NCAA] by male student-athletes … would cause harm to female student-athletes and non-student-athletes at NCAA member institution campuses in both the short- and long-term.”

Among the claimants is former Michigan State sprinter, Emma Roedel, who says she was raped by a fellow athlete on the men’s track team. Filed court documents say Roedel informed her then-coach who discouraged her from reporting the incident.

Roedel alleges discrimination and that once she reported the incident her position on the team was changed.

In an interview with ESPN Roedel explained that pursuing legal action against the NCAA as a group of women was an especially powerful move against the organisation.

“To be a part of a group really symbolizes it's not just one person going against the NCAA.

"By standing in a group, we're saying, 'Hey, this isn't just one of us. It is all of us. And if this is happening to all of us, you need to do something and take action.'"

A consistent pattern of neglect

Filed documents date back to 2010 and include correspondence between Kathy Redmond, founder of WeLEAD (formerly the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes), and NCAA president Mark Emmert. The correspondence shows Redmond picking up the NCAA on an apparent lack of action to address sexual violence against student-athletes.

The documents also criticise the NCAA's decision to scrap their Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence in August 2018 which had been set up to address the issue of sexual violence on campus. The policy adopted by the commission included a recommendation that student's participation on the field should be determined by their behaviour off the field.

Two men accused of sexual assault including rape by women involved in the lawsuit are currently in the NCAA's transfer portal. A complaint documented in the lawsuit addresses the NCAA's alleged habit of allowing "accused or convicted of sexual assault or sexual violence to evade responsibility by transferring to other schools".

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