Sports Have a Sexual Violence Problem

Sevilla Tovar, Staff Writer

By Sevilla Tovar

Staff Writer

   Houston Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson is a collegiate national champion and the beneficiary of a 160 million dollar contract signed before this past NFL season. The definition of a superstar. Up until two months ago, all anyone talked about was whether he was going to be traded and on his way out of Houston. Then one day, all that went out the window. March 2021, over 20 women came forward accusing Watson of sexual abuse, acording to USA Today ( Regardless of whether the accusations are true, they shed light on one of the darker aspects of sports; athletes have an incredibly easy time getting away with sexual assault, and if they are proven guilty, receive minor repercussions.

   Accusations such as these bring attention to the problem that athletes aren’t reprimanded enough for serious crimes such as sexual violence. For example, Former Stanford University Swimmer Brock Turner was released from jail halfway through his six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman ( College Football Player Derrick Washington was accused of one count alleged rape, one count of alleged physical assault, one count of sexual assault, and one count of domestic assault. According to ESPN, “He served four months as part of a first-time offenders program and had to register as a sex offender” ( After Washington got out of jail, he resumed playing in Alabama for the Tuskegee Golden Tigers ( 

   Maybe most notably of all, Former Kansas City Chiefs Running Back Kareem Hunt was suspended only eight games and is already back playing in the NFL after a video surfaced of him violently attacking a woman in 2018 ( The fact that the eight-game ban was among the most severe punishments for violence and abuse cases by an NFL player speaks further to the argument that professional athletes can get away with violence or have lighter punishments than everyone else. According to Eastern Michigan University, “While many of the elite athletes accused of domestic violence, or sexual assault or rape do eventually get arrested, not many of these athletes go on to be convicted for their crimes. The average person accused of rape has an 53 percent chance of conviction while and elite athlete has a significantly lower, 29 percent, chance of conviction” (

   It is incredibly difficult for victims to share their stories of sexual misconduct. There is a fear of being blamed for the attack or perceived as lying, and announcing their trauma for attention. In 2013, a woman confessed her heartbreaking story of being gang-raped by five Baylor University football players, to which the football coach attempted to completely invalidate, insinuating that she wanted it to happen. According to the BBC, only two to ten percent of rape allegations turn out to be fabricated (, and according to a special report from the United States Department of Justice, “A greater percentage of unreported rape or sexual assault and aggravated assault victimizations compared to any other type of criminal victimization were not reported because the victim was afraid of reprisal” ( The stigmatization of survivors is incredibly harmful, as the victim does not feel empowered to speak out, and the offender is never brought to justice. When asked her intention of accusing Watson of sexual assault, Accuser Ashley Solis replied, “People say that I’m doing this just for money. That is false. I come forward so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman” (

   Sexual assault is a topic no one wants to talk about, especially when it involves athletes. It can be difficult to hold an athlete otherwise idolized accountable for such horrible acts. While there is hope on the horizon for a future where there is justice for all victims of sexual abuse, it isn’t happening overnight. It is in our best interest to continue researching and speaking the stories of the unheard, and unceasingly advocating that standards should be held higher than a player’s popularity or earning potential.

   Allegations against Watson are far from insignificant. According to Houston Public Media, “While one woman dropped her lawsuit due to privacy and security concerns …another woman filed a lawsuit, keeping the total to 22 women leveling accusations towards the quarterback” ( Thankfully, these accusations are being taken seriously. According to The Athletic, “The NFL is investigating Watson for a potential violation of its personal conduct policy, and the Houston Police Department is investigating at least two criminal complaints against Watson” ( Many agree that Watson needs to be held accountable. According to Senior Honieh Hemati, “The 22 victims deserve justice and I think the first step towards it is for the NFL to cut off all connections with Watson, not only to give those women some peace of mind, but to also show the country that the NFL stands in solidarity with every survivor. I think sexual assault and rape need to be taken as seriously as crimes of murder and kidnapping because for the rest of their lives, those 22 women will have to suffer through the trauma Watson has caused them. My hope is that our justice system will work hard to hold Watson responsible for his crimes.”

   Maybe, if major league sports franchises  start to think about justice rather than ratings, we will have some change in the future.