Following two alleged sexual assaults at Boston University, the administration has formed a task force to analyze the “culture and climate” of the hockey team. BU president was quoted on Boston.com in saying that the allegations “understandably lead to questions about whether the hockey team’s culture and climate have contributed in some way to the actions of the two individuals.”
Both alleged perpetrators have pled not-guilty and have been suspended from the team pending investigation. But I don’t want to talk about these two alleged perpetrators. It is neither my job nor yours in reading this post or news articles to determine their guilt or innocence. But what I want to say to Boston University, and all college administrations seeking to figure out why their students are perpetrating sexual violence, is that they are going to have to look a lot deeper than the climate of a sports team.
Of course, we read about sexual assault perpetrated by athletes all the time — at the high school, college, and professional levels. I don’t think I have to list them. Yes, research concedes that masculinity and gender roles facilitate this perpetration and, yes, I think we can also argue sports teams, especially at the college level, are bursting with masculinity. But being on the BU hockey team did not lead these men to perpetrate violence, if, in fact, they did.
These men have been raised in a society that disrespects women, sexualizes women, fails to protect women’s rights. They have been inundated by the media since they could comprehend what television, radio, and internet was in their very basic essence. Advertisements portraying women as sexual objects, commodities, inhuman displays for the purpose of capitalization. Movies, TV shows, and ideo games displaying horrible acts of violence and zero acts of accountability. Chris Brown dominating two performances at the Grammy’s despite his brutal beating of Rhianna, his long-time girlfriend. The public’s response to Chris Brown and Rhianna: Tweets saying “I’d let him beat me any day” and “She should be punched in the face for being with him again” demonstrate the outright ignorance of the cycle of violence.
So no, BU, you cannot just look at the culture of your hockey team. You need to look at the culture in which your students have been raised and if you really want to do something about it, you need to stand up against the way women are portrayed, treated, and displayed to the public eye. Then you have to ensure that you hold perpetrators on your campus accountable. We have read news story after news story where sexual assaults occurred and no justice was sought by the university. This sends a message loud and clear that only supplements what the media is telling these students: You can violate a woman’s rights and disrespect her with no consequences.
I do have to say that I applaud BU for attempting to address the perpetrator side. Too often we hear that women need to dress more conservatively, not drink as much, take self-defense classes. But it’s about time we start raising our men so they never perpetrate sexual violence against anyone.