Student-Athlete Sexual Violence against Women: Defining the Limits of Institutional Responsibility

By Davis, Timothy; Parker, Tonya | Washington and Lee Law Review, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Student-Athlete Sexual Violence against Women: Defining the Limits of Institutional Responsibility


Davis, Timothy, Parker, Tonya, Washington and Lee Law Review


I. Introduction

On August 26, 1991, Katherine Redmond moved to Lincoln, Nebraska to attend the University of Nebraska (University).' Upon her arrival, Redmond moved into a women's residence hall operated by the University.2 According to Redmond, less than a week after her arrival, she was sexually assaulted and raped in an adjacent University residence hall.3 A few days later, Redmond's assailant allegedly appeared at her residence hall and sexually assaulted and raped her while two other males watched and stood guard.4 Redmond identified her assailant as Christian Peter, a prominent scholarship athlete on the University's football team.5 According to Redmond, Peter's sexual assault of her represented another incident in a pattern of sexually abusive and lawless behavior by Peter that included arrests for: sexual assault against another female student,6 assault for threatening to kill a parking lot attendant, disturbing the peace, trespassing, and urinating in public.7

On June 26, 1995, attorneys for Redmond filed a lawsuit against, inter alia, the University and Christian Peter.' Redmond alleged that the University engaged in a pattern of conduct- including refusing to investigate her allegations of sexual harassment, failing to alleviate the sexual harassment,9 and failing to investigate, counsel or discipline Peter" - that created a hostile educational environment in violation of Title IX." Redmond specifically claimed that the University had a duty to provide and ensure an educational environment for the Plaintiff free of sexual innuendo, intimidation, and discriminatory animus and to enforce the regulations, rules and laws necessary to protect the Plaintiff and other female students from acts of sexual abuse, including but not limited to bias and discrimination. The failure of the Defendants to take action to prevent or stop sexual harassment constitute[d] deliberate indifference and intentional discrimination.'2

Redmond also asserted claims against Peter sounding in sexual assault and battery,l3 false imprisonment,l4 and intentional infliction of emotional distress.'5

Redmond's allegations against Peter attracted national attention when the New England Patriots selected him in the 1995 National Football League (NFL) draft.'6 Following a public outcry over allegations of Peter's sexual misconduct, the Patriots relinquished their rights to the football player.'7

However, in January 1997 the NFL's New York Giants agreed to sign Peter to a contract. According to the Giants, Peter had proven he was getting treatment for the alcoholism and attention deficit disorder that he claimed were the source of his behavioral problems.'8 In March 1997, the University agreed to pay Katherine Redmond an estimated $50,000 in settlement of her claims against the school.19 The terms of Redmond's settlementwith Peter were undisclosed.20

The forgoing scenario draws attention to a complex and emotionally charged issue residing within institutions of higher education: male studentathlete violence against women students.2' This Article explores the availability of Title IX as a vehicle for imposing legal liability on colleges and universities for acts of sexual violence22 committed by their athletes against women students. In addressing this issue, this Article endeavors to avoid the hyperbole that so often accompanies the discourse regarding this issue. Such overstatement often involves claims without empirical basis regarding the extent to which athletes, in contrast to other males in our society, engage in acts of sexual violence against women.23 Therefore, a necessary predicate to this Article's discussion of institutional accountability is to present the social and factual context surrounding student-athlete sexual violence against women students. Part II begins this process with a review of literature that attempts to answer a fundamental question: Do male athletes, in contrast to nonathletes, possess a greater propensity to engage in acts of sexual aggression against women? …

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