Home Sexual Assault Cases Goodman: Allegations against UAB involving rape can’t be ignored

Goodman: Allegations against UAB involving rape can’t be ignored

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The mishandling of sexual assault allegations is a disturbing pattern in higher education. For those reasons alone, this latest lawsuit involving a former student at UAB demands full attention.

It cannot be ignored.

Truth to power is what we say in journalism. Justice, we like to believe, is what protects the weak from abuse. When it comes to collegiate athletics, though, there is an inconvenient truth. The apparatus is often considered too big to fail. We’ve seen it at Penn State, Florida State, Baylor, Michigan State … the list goes on. It is a plague spread by an easily corruptible system.

Signs of this sickness are now in Birmingham.

There is an explosive civil case in federal court that accuses UAB of negligence related to the university’s alleged inaction after a young freshman reported to campus police that she was raped by a football player. This is the kind of thing that can take down an entire program, and tarnish the reputation of a university.

But, more importantly, destroy the lives of victims.

The reflex in these cases is always to question the victim and not acknowledge that college football again and again and again lives in a world where the potential for corruption is inherent. Why is that? Why can’t we even admit there is a serious problem?

In this case, the freshman was allegedly ignored by campus police. From the complaint, page seven: “In or around January 2021, the Plaintiff reported to three UAB Police officers (one male and two female officers) that she was raped at Blazer Hall. However, the UAB Police officers were deliberately indifferent and refused to treat the Plaintiff and refused to investigate the matter which ultimately led to multiple suicide attempts by the Plaintiff requiring hospitalization and withdrawal from UAB.”

No.

Please, no.

But we cannot look away.

How can these things allegedly happen? More appropriately, why do these types of things keep happening? Why does the system always fail these young women?

Here’s what keeps popping into my head about this specific case. This alleged assault by a UAB football player occurred in January of 2021. Just a few weeks before this incident, on Dec.17, 2020, a former UAB football player shot and killed a nursing student on campus. Destiny Washington was 20 years old. The shooter was Carlos Stephens, who was later convicted of murder. He shot her over some AirPods.

Murder and then an alleged rape within a month at UAB, and both of them involving people associated with the football team?

The lawsuit essentially accuses UAB of covering up a culture of sexual assault. When a student reported a rape, the suit says, “officers were deliberately indifferent and refused to treat” the student. Instead, notes the suit, an officer walked the student back to Blazer Hall after telling her that “it happens.”

How can this be true? We know how, though. We’ve seen it all before.

It happens.

Blazer Hall is a co-ed dorm at UAB. The former student, I am told by her attorney, was a highly motivated student. The complaint says “the officers did not take her name, did not take notes, did not ask who the assailant was.”

This all allegedly happened during the pandemic. Imagine the pain and isolation.

And then this: “If the university had taken action in January 2021 when the sexual assault was disclosed to the UAB officers, the assailant would not have sexual [sic] assaulted another student which in fact he did after the Plaintiff’s initial reporting.”

More allegations could be coming, according to the attorney who filed the complaint. Jamie Johnston, who is representing the former student, told me over the phone on Thursday that she is meeting with the other victim noted in the lawsuit.

Here’s the bottom line. The people in charge at UAB are under fire based on these allegations. The statement I received from a UAB spokesman is not going to cut it, and only places UAB in a more negative position. I requested to speak with athletics director Mark Ingram and a long list of other individuals, including representatives from the president’s office, the police department and the crisis center.

No one will be saying anything, UAB replied in email, and they then essentially accused the victim of lying.

“The following,” wrote a public relations representative, “should be attributed to UAB Title IX Coordinator Kasey Robinson: UAB strongly disagrees with assertions made in the lawsuit recently filed in relation to a current case under review by our Title IX Office. UAB is limited in what we can say at this time due to student privacy laws, the ongoing investigation and pending litigation.”

Under review? Still? It apparently happened 20 months ago. No one wants these things to be true, but for a long time, according to this lawsuit, UAB did little or nothing and the implication there is not a subtle one.

A sickening truth surrounds this latest case just like all the rest. None of it is going away.

Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the making of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team’”. You can find him on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.





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