Woman accuses UC Berkeley football players, staff of sexual harassment

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A former sports medicine intern in the athletic department at the University of California, Berkeley is accusing the football team’s players and staff of sexual harassment. 

The student wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday that an unnamed member of the coaching staff told her, “I will get you fired if you do not have sex with me.”

The woman told ESPN she reached out to Cal Athletics director Jim Knowlton and other staff members about her experiences last fall but did not receive a response, which in part led to her going public with her story, she said.

She outlined several instances of sexual harassment in her social media post, alleging she was objectified by Cal Athletics football players and staff. 

“If I responded please leave me alone to a [direct message on social media], I was answered back with, ‘I’m going to treat you like the hoe that you are,'” she wrote.

In the Facebook post, the woman says she has “medically withdrawn from school, seeking intensive therapy and psychiatry for the post-traumatic stress syndrome and anxiety that happened from the time I spent working for the Cal Football team.”

The woman alleges a coach left comments on her Instagram that reportedly led to texts and an invite to Memorial Stadium at midnight. 

“I was under the influence, and not legally in a state of mind to be consenting to sex,” she said in the Facebook post. “He snuck me into his office … and he immediately grabbed for my waist. I was terrified, my mind was fuzzy, and I do not remember much from that night. He kept kissing me, pushing me against the wall, and I left.”

She said after she blocked a staff member on Instagram, he allegedly followed her home and suggested they go to the pool because he thought she would “look amazing in a bikini.”

“This coach is still employed by Cal Football, just to make that clear,” she wrote.

Director of Athletics, Jim Knowlton, sent the following statement to friends and supports of the Cal Athletics program: 

Dear Friend of Cal Athletics –

I am writing to you regarding a recent Facebook post that presents a series of serious and disturbing allegations regarding the conduct of individuals associated with our football program. Let me be absolutely clear: we will lend our full moral and operational support to the campus inquiry into these allegations. We will support the imposition of appropriate consequences as required by the outcome of that inquiry. We believe in a culture that fosters dignity and respect. The alleged actions run completely counter to the core values of Cal Athletics and our University.

When I, Coach WIlcox and my leadership team first became aware of these allegations, we immediately, as per policy, referred the matter to the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD), which is responsible for investigating allegations of discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. We encourage anyone needing confidential support or other campus resources to contact the campus’ PATH to Care Center.

These allegations are surfacing in the midst of a concerted and ongoing effort across our department that began several years go to educate and engage our staff and student-athletes about preventing and responding to sexual harassment and violence. Through formal training sessions for coaches, staff and student-athletes, we have been clear and consistent about our refusal to tolerate this most egregious form of misconduct. If necessary, we will do more.

I have been in close communication with Coach Wilcox, and I know he shares these values, principles and commitments.

As the person entrusted with well-being of more than 1,000 student-athletes, coaches and staff, I have no greater responsibility at this moment in time than ensuring we do the right things in the right way. We will be as transparent as possible every step of the way. You have my word on it.

Go Bears,

Jim Knowlton

Director of Athletics

Cal Athletics sent the following statement to KRON4 in response to the allegations: 

We are aware of the very disturbing public allegations made on social media. As is our policy when such assertions are made, we have immediately referred the matter to the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, which is responsible for investigating such assertions. These allegations go against the very core of our values.

Cal Athletics is and will always be committed to fostering a culture where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected. All of those associated with the department are expected to maintain ethical standards at all times. We encourage anyone who is feeling distressed or troubled to contact the PATH to Care Center for confidential support, and other campus resources.

Athletics does not have its own specific conduct process nor does it investigate allegations or cases on its own, but follows the University’s policy and works in concert with campus professionals who are responsible for those areas.

While we can discuss our process for handling these matters, we generally cannot address any specific case. Allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment by campus employees are confidential unless officials determine policy is violated, and disciplinary action has been decided. Such allegations against students remain private regardless of the outcome, under UC policy and federal law regarding student records.

Campus prevention and response efforts have increased in recent years. All university staff and all students are required to complete sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training. In addition the athletic department sponsors supplementary formal training for coaches, staff and student-athletes in sexual violence awareness and prevention, bystander intervention, and campus reporting procedures.

Some students at UC Berkeley are not surprised over the allegations. 

“All these things are pervasive on our campus as well as across the country in the world, so as horrible as it is, it’s not that surprising — which is one of the saddest parts of it,” one student said. 

A student-athlete on the campus told KRON4 she works with the same coaches accused in the social media posting. 

“That is surprising,” she said. “Those coaches are also our trainers as well. We’re around them as much as the football guys are. It’s never come off any of them ever in any form like that.” 

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