Survey Documents 1 in 4 Student Athletes in Colleges Nationwide Endured Sexual Abuse by a Campus Authority Figure, Usually a Coach
EVANSTON, Ill. –– Nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel Steven M. Levin, founding partner of Levin & Perconti, today announced they will file suit on behalf of at least 15 former student athletes who were subject to hazing, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at Northwestern University. They are in conversations with at least 50 others.
“The revelation that our clients have had to endure humiliating, deeply damaging emotional, physical and sexual abuse is both shocking and inexcusable. For many scholarship athletes, leaving was not an option,” Crump said. “It’s time for a reckoning at Northwestern and colleges across the country where this kind of behavior has been excused for too long.”
The Northwestern scandal is just the latest dramatic incidence of sexual abuse or harassment of college athletes to become public. Attorney Crump, who also represented students who were sexually abused or assaulted at Ohio State and Michigan State, has been warning about endemic sexual abuse and harassment by authority figures on college campuses – and the toxic cultures that give rise to it – for several years.
He pointed to a 2021 national survey of college-educated Americans conducted by the sexual abuse prevention non-profit Lauren’s Kids, in cooperation with Attorney Crump and attorney Rick Schulte, co-counsel in the OSU and MSU litigation. It found 1 in 4 current and former college athletes say they endured inappropriate sexual contact from a campus authority figure, most often a coach. Student athletes were 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual abuse or harassment than other students.
Attorneys say the former Northwestern athletes they represent were forced to participate in humiliating sexual acts and punishments that inflicted severe physical discomfort and psychological trauma, in some cases with coaches’ knowledge and participation.
“These former Northwestern football players are participating in this legal action because they believe that more stringent oversight and accountability are required in college athletics to prevent such abuses from happening to other players in the future,” said Levin. “The physical, emotional and sexual abuse not only violated Northwestern’s own policies, but also numerous laws, and worse, has led to irreparable harm, with some players even experiencing suicidal thoughts.”
Allegations include forced naked acts, termed “bear-crawls,” “car-wash,” and “under-center snap”. Perhaps the most concerning is a ritual known as “running,” where eight to ten upperclassmen wearing masks would restrain a player and “dry-hump” them in front of the rest of the team. Other incidents include the “Gatorade Shake Challenge,” causing physical discomfort to the extent of sickness and vomiting. Furthermore, at least three former players have alleged a culture of racism within the program, with black coaches and players pressured to cut off longer hairstyles to fit the “Wildcat Way.”
“The abusive hazing was so entrenched in the Northwestern football culture that even some of our coaches took part in it. So where would we go to complain? The hazing was well known in the football program. It was no secret,” said former Northwestern quarterback Lloyd Yates. “We were all adversely impacted by the hazing especially when it came to our mental health. We were physically and emotionally beaten down. Some players even contemplated suicide as a result.”
The legal action is expected to expand beyond Northwestern’s football program to expose extreme and abusive hazing in other college athletic programs as well.
ABOUT BEN CRUMP LAW
Through his work, nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump has spearheaded a legal movement to better protect the rights of marginalized citizens. He has led landscape-changing civil rights cases and represented clients in a wide range of areas including civil rights, personal injury, labor and employment, class actions, and more. Ben Crump Law is dedicated to holding the powerful accountable. For more information, visit bencrump.com.
ABOUT LEVIN & PERCONTI
Levin & Perconti is a nationally renowned law firm committed to protecting and vindicating the rights of people who have been injured due to systemic flaws and corporations choosing profits over people. The lawyers at Levin & Perconti are committed to protecting and vindicating the rights of people who are injured. The firm concentrates on all types of personal injury, physical and sexual abuse, medical malpractice, nursing home, and wrongful death litigation. Please visit www.levinperconti.com for more information.