Vanderbilt University’s Rape Case Echoes the Steubenville Trial

When I read about this incident involving a group of football players and an unconscious young woman, I immediately thought, not again, not after everything. Eerily similar to the Steubenville rape case, it is reported that a high-profile college football player went out drinking with a 21-year-old girl at a local bar. Somewhere in between a good time and a sinister catastrophe, she passed out.  Apparently, a group of Vanderbilt’s football players kicked down the door of a dorm, dragged the girl’s body inside and sexually assaulted her. The victim, who woke up the next morning presumably still in the dorm room, did not realize what had happened until she saw a video of it.

Yeah. Someone recorded a woman being raped again. Sources say that after the young men entered the room (it’s unclear where exactly this happened, because the dorm’s security camera was tampered with by one of the men), objects were used to penetrate the victim. Vandenburg (the football player who went out with the young woman that night) took pictures and recorded all of this on his phone; he sent proof of his actions to four individuals, a kind of bragging that is grotesque and frightening.

Immediately after the incident, police went door-to-door questioning Vanderbilt students if they had any helpful information about that night. Most of the students were confused and at a loss for words. This kind of terrible behavior was alien to the campus.

Several days after the assault, the university announced that four members of the football team had been “dismissed from the team in connection with a sex crimes investigation.” On July 15th, authorities released the names of the four men. In August, a Davidson County grand jury indicted the football players on five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Vandenburg was charged with covering up the security camera and taking unlawful photographs of the victim.  On August 21st, these four young men plead not guilty.

Vanderbilt University, a prestigious private school in the South, was never known for its football team until Coach James Franklin stepped in. Last year, the team won nine games, the school’s best season since 1915. Although Franklin has told reporters that “the rape case breaks his heart professionally and personally,” and that he has been “making the rounds of campus groups to reassure the community that the allegations are not a reflection of wider problems with his program,” it’s suspected that he knew about the video Vandenburg took and advised him to delete it.

Obviously, this isn’t the first time institutionalized sports have been put on a pedestal and vehemently protected. A university that just recently invested a significant amount of money, branding, and endorsement, does not want to become portrayed as a kind of school that allows rapists to represent their sports teams.  It’s more likely than not, that the football coach did his best to cover up any evidence that his newly refurbished team would take part in such an evil, humiliating act.

Luckily, these rapists are sloppy. These young men are so obsessed with documenting and showcasing what they have “conquered”, that clear and indisputable evidence is able to be used against them. That, and these boys don’t keep quiet. The rape and sexual assault of a popular, friendly young student is seen as a victory; the truth is easily spread by word of mouth.

The university has attempted to keep details about the case as far away from the media as possible, but facts about that night are beginning to leak.  The players’ next court date is in two weeks.

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