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Penn State, Baylor And Your Hometown

by on May 26, 2016 2:10 PM

Of all the lines and of all the horrible things in Pepper Hamilton's report on Baylor's intentional disregard and outright suppression of assault victims, there is one that rings the loudest.

A line which states that Title IX administrators at Baylor really believed “sexual assault doesn’t happen here.”

In truth that's probably the most damning statement of them all. That bad things just don't happen here, and when they do, they're taken care of. The notion that assault and evils of the like are something akin to getting hit by a car, it happens sure, but it never happens here, it never happens to you. It's very far off, you understand why it's bad, but it's not like you have to actually do anything about it.

This fall it will have been five years since the Penn State scandal. Since a town where people swore rainbows were born found out that some of its most revered men were front and center of a child abuse scandal. How much the benefit of hindsight worsens their actions is still an argument being had today in the public and legal courts, but it's not important. At the end of it all, over a dozen, and likely far more young men were sexually abused. That's not up for debate, that's not a court filing being contested. It's simply a fact.

And that's at Penn State, probably the last place anyone expected that to happen and under probably the last coach anyone would have guessed could have been involved.

And this is Baylor, a place that promotes a blue collar Texan pride and whose coach had become some combination of Christian values and down to earth teaching. Art Briles' book is titled "Beating Goliath: My Story of Football and Faith." Nobody was going to peg Briles, a God-fearing man who was brought in to reestablish the program's moral compass after a murder, as the one at the middle of the suppression of assault victims.

Ultimately that's the larger problem in play on days like today. The internet becomes a den of people saying "just like Penn State" or "that would never happen here" pushing the issue aside as if their town or football program just won't get hit by that car. Nobody is even looking both ways before they cross the street. We just point the finger and move on our way, just hoping the light is still green.

But if this kind of thing can happen at two established programs, what do you think is happening where things aren't going so well? Where that star recruit is the difference between a contract extension and a new resume. In a town where a team might just get over the hump or where maybe priorities have never been quite in the right order to begin with. In a sport where coaches get more second chances than players.

It could be at the college level, the high school level, it could be for a baseball team or a track team. It's not that football makes people care less about assault, it's that we don't care enough about it in the first place to make it a priority.

So we're faced with two choices, today can be the day that everyone chalks up as "another scandal" a day where another one of those bad things happens that will never happen to you. A day when an unnamed number of athletic departments wipe their brow and sigh that they missed that bullet and live to see another day in spite of their own actions.

Or it can be the day things start to change. When the millionth assault scandal and intentional coverup or suppression of victims finally becomes one too many. A day when athletic departments look long and hard at how they do business and take steps towards preventative measures that make victims feel safe and their stories feel worth coming forward with. A day when student safety is taken as seriously as athlete safety.

Sadly, it will probably be a mixture of both. Some will say that it's an isolated incident, others will just be happy to see their team win and just keep hoping that "it just doesn't happen here" isn't an empty promise.

But I have bad news for you, it does, and if it hasn't, it will.

The question now is what we're going to do about it when it does, and what we're willing to give up to try and make sure it doesn't. 

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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