As many as a quarter of all sexual assaults reported to police in the United States involve athletes, according to a study from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sports Injury Research.
And that’s not counting the number of assaults that happen on the ice.
“There’s a great deal of anecdotal evidence that people who do go out and perform sexual activities are also at higher risk of sexual assault,” says Mark Berman, a professor of sports medicine and director of the Center for Sport Injury Research at the University at Buffalo.
In the first quarter of 2017, the number one cause of sexual assaults in the U.S. was “being a high-profile athlete,” he says.
“The number two reason for sexual assault was being a celebrity athlete, and then third was being in a position of power, such as being in the sports arena.”
When asked how common it is to be assaulted by an athlete, Berman says, “I would say that it’s not common at all.”
But what about the number and type of assaults?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 2,638 reported sexual assaults by high school athletes in the 2016-17 school year, or 0.1 percent of all reported incidents.
“When you compare that to the number who are sexually assaulted by a person who is in the military, or who are victims of domestic violence, the difference is staggering,” Berman says.
The study also found that one in three high school girls reported having been sexually assaulted or harassed by someone in her class.
A high school girl was also twice as likely as a college student to report being a victim of a sexual assault, according a 2014 study.
“This is not something that is surprising to people, especially if you look at the military and the police,” says Berman.
The Centers for Domestic Violence Prevention and Prevention of Violence Against Women is a national organization dedicated to ending violence against women.
It works to eliminate violence, protect victims, and end sexual and domestic violence.
In 2017, it reported that 5,092 women were sexually assaulted, with 1,531 victims of the military.
There were also 1,924 reports of rape, with 775 victims of victims of sexual violence.
“Women are disproportionately targeted for sexual assaults,” Berman explains.
“Men are disproportionately targets of these types of assaults.
And yet the men are also disproportionately victims of these forms of violence.”
In the NHL, where many athletes have sexual partners, sexual assaults are also a huge problem.
According to statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are approximately 2,300 reported sexual assault incidents in the league each year.
“It’s an epidemic, and we have to deal with it,” says Lori Visser, the National Hockey League’s executive vice president for community outreach and safety.
“We have to stop it, we have no choice.”
The league’s goal, according Vissers, is to prevent sexual assault and violence against all players.
That includes those who are out on the field, and the people who come to play.
“If you see that your teammate’s been assaulted, that’s a very real concern, especially when that person has a partner and a family member,” Visses says.
Berman agrees that sexual assault is an issue that is “extremely important” in sports.
“I think the best thing we can do is be proactive in being more vigilant,” he notes.
“A lot of it is about being aware of who you are with, what you wear and what you do.
It’s also about how we treat each other.
That’s something we have not done well in the past.”
There are several ways to prevent an attack.
“You don’t have to wear a helmet, you don’t need to wear gloves, you do not need to be in a locker room,” Berman advises.
“Just have awareness of your surroundings and what people are wearing, because you will get attacked.”
In other words, “Don’t wear a mask.”
And if you do get attacked, try to keep it to yourself.
The NHL’s safety policy outlines how to handle sexual assaults.
“All NHL players, coaches, and staff must wear a full face mask when participating in any sports activity.
It also includes all equipment worn in the playing area,” the policy reads.
And if there are questions about your safety, the league has posted a video on its YouTube channel that explains its policies.
For those who want to stay safe, Berman suggests that you do the following: Stay home if you see someone acting strange, or if you have any thoughts about an assault.
Call 911 and report the incident to police.
Do not leave your home if there is a police presence.
If you are in a vulnerable position, Berman advises to call 911.
Call a shelter to ask for help if you feel like someone is in danger.
The best way to do that is to stay with a friend