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Addressing sexual assault in college sports is not a 'distraction'

Two weeks before the start of March Madness, Tom Izzo, the men's basketball coach of the State University from Michigan, participated in a small media scrum in the gym after the practice of his team. Tired of the media scrutiny surrounding his program, he issued a stern directive to the journalists gathered around him: Entering the Big 10 tournament and the NCAA postseason, his players would only answer questions about basketball.

"I tried to do the best I could for all of you," Izzo told the assembled media. "Never cut my wardrobe or anything else, but now, it's going to be basketball time." These players, this staff, deserve to focus on basketball. "No more" distractions. "

Media scrutiny was the result of from Yahoo reporting on FBI Investigation ] on infractions of the NCAA rules regarding the payment of players but, moreover, of the many months of reports on failures in MSU to adequately respond to the reports of sexual harassment and violence, including the Izzo basketball program and the school's soccer program.

Izzo became the de facto spokesperson for the school, since its season was ongoing as national attention focused on the sentencing of Larry Nassar , the former US gymnastics doctor and MSU doctor who sexually abused hundreds of athletes several decades . As Izzo held press conferences after the games, he answered questions on issues of sexual assault, sometimes sounding exhausted of everything.

It's a really strenuous thing, this abusive and misogynistic culture. But imagine being the victim and being ignored for weeks, months or even decades.

But that's the point. It's a really strenuous thing, this deep-rooted misogynist culture, one that is violently like that. It drains you, you have to think about it, question it and answer for it over and over again. But imagine being the victim of this abusive culture and being ignored or disbelieved for weeks, months, years or even decades (there are so many who do not have to imagine this, of course, because they have lived it). It's a fatigue that students and staff at Michigan State know very well.

A current MSU student says that three of the college basketball players raped her in 2015 and that when she told a school counselor, the They forced not to report it to the authorities. The school (which when responding to a student's claim may have broken privacy laws ) says that no one in the athletic department knew of his accusation.

That lawsuit came three days after the news broke that a member of the basketball team had been arrested and accused "minor assault after a crime" sexual conduct investigation "(Outside the Lines reported that a woman had reported the player for having groped her in a residence ).

In addition, it is The head of Nassar in MSU Dr. William Strampel, the former dean of the Faculty of Osteopathic Medicine of the school who was charged at the end of March with a serious misdemeanor of felony in charge and criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree. Four former medical students told investigators that Strampel sexually harassed them or sexually assaulted them.

And then there's the debacle of interim president John Engler, who serves in that capacity because the former president, Lou Anna K. Simon, ] resigned under great pressure due to administrative failures identified by the Nassar case. A victim of Nassar, Kaylee Lorincz, 18, said during public comments at the MSU board of trustees meeting last week that Engler offered her a $ 250,000 settlement for her to withdraw her lawsuit against the school. Engler has responded that her memory of what happened in a meeting with Lorincz is "different from her."

But Engler, the former Republican governor of the state, has a questionable file that deals with reports of sexual assault, which makes Your MSU appointment is curious and disturbing unless the point was hiring someone who would protect the school at all costs.

Local reports on the MSU scandal remain stellar, especially by The Lansing State Journal, Detroit Free Press and Michigan Public Radio, and the national media as Outside the Lines of ESPN and ThinkProgress continue to cover it, but who can keep up with all this?

If we have learned one thing from student activism around the campus assault in the last five years or from the stories that have emerged as a result of the #MeToo Movement It should be how common sexual harassment and gender violence is. The other side of the huge volume of reports is that we miss many of them. Or if we catch them, they appear as spots in our media landscape.

Harassment and sexual assault happen so often that we're just stopping the news cycle long enough to be outraged by them, even if we're all I agree that they are worthy of our indignation.

I know that these cases are emotionally exhausting, but we have to plan for the long term. We are all going to have a great weight if we want to change this culture.

Trust me when I write that I know that these cases are emotionally exhausting. The weight of simply holding them can be unmanageable at times. But we all have to go to the gym, calculate our shoulders, back and emotional and plan for the long haul here. We are all going to have a great weight if we want to change this culture that we have created and maintained.

Many victims of sexual assault already carry a greater burden than their own. But for the rest of us, especially for people like Izzo who have power and purchase in their communities, we must keep up with these stories. We must see them not as individual moments, but as cultures that must be exposed and forced to change. We, the public, must pay attention and give testimony of all of them, as we did with the victims of Nassar during their sentencing hearing. We must find ways to overcome our emotional exhaustion with him.

There is a guaranteed way to reduce "distractions", put an end to frustration and get rid of exhaustion: start solving problems right now, today. This is a long-term job. The stories will not stop because the damage will not stop. If it is not your school today, it will probably be your school soon; Maybe it's not your university, but maybe your local high school, the company you work for or the church you attend. The only way forward is to continue to expose and talk about our culture of sexual assault, no matter how tiring it may be.

Jessica Luther is an independent journalist, author and co-host of the feminist sports podcast "Burn It All Down."

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