Baylor Rape Op-Ed

The Dallas Morning News
June 2, 2016

The stronger Baylor women get, the more men love football.


When I was 21 years old, I devoured a book by former college and professional athlete Mariah Burton Nelson called “The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football.” I was a Baylor student of philosophy at the time, and this book was not required or recommended reading in any of my courses.

At 21 years old, I knew of at least two rapes among my Baylor family, and their formal reporting was either ignored altogether or twisted into outright discouragement of the survivor. Of course, those rapes were not (to my knowledge) committed by student athletes, and Baylor’s football team in those days was a joke. It was the “good old days” of rape at Baylor: Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t report, and don’t you dare follow up.

Now, when I think about my university mascot’s name — Bruiser — my stomach churns.

A Waco native, and daughter of two Baylor graduates and former faculty at the university, I grew up attending games and homecoming parades and hearing folks speak of football coach Grant Teaff like he was a celebrity. Now, almost everyone in my inner circle has some connection to Baylor and Waco. We often discuss Baylor’s history and internal politics, the stats of recruits, and sports rivals new and old. We watch homemade hype videos and countless re-plays of football press conference hot takes — often at the dinner table.

In these circles, which are much more feminist than many Baylor microcosms, when I bring up The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football, I am ignored, or teasingly called a “hater,” and then ignored.

Surely, I think, after the recent days at Baylor, this can’t be ignored.

But then, I see a quote from Sammy Citrano, a Waco institution and owner of the infamous “George’s Bar” (yes, the one from the Pat Green song), saying, “It’s just sad that something had to happen. I feel bad for any victims or whatever, but it’s a different world we live in.”

I watch interviews with Ken Starr, who has stepped down as university president but will remain a professor, and I think he is either in denial of reality or blatantly lying when he says he doesn’t “believe” that “there is any episode of [rape, sexual assault] on campus.”

(The facts are, of course, that since the beginning of his presidency at Baylor, Baylor’s police department lists 10 reports of sexual assault in dorms or Baylor housing. I think we will see revealed in coming months that Judge Starr may have known more than he’s letting on. The rape culture at Baylor did not start or end with the football team.)

The stronger women get — the more survivors (of any gender) speak out, demand attention, gain support, hold vigils, sue, file complaints — the less we feel compelled to help them. The stronger women get, the more we talk about men: Starr, Art Briles, Ian McCaw, Tevin Elliot, Sam Ukwuachu, Jim Grobe, David Garland, Reagan Ramsower. The stronger women get, the more we accept Baylor’s report about the Pepper Hamilton report, instead of demanding the full text with victims’ names redacted. The stronger women get, the more we dismiss them as angry or, worse, crazy. The stronger women get, the less we believe them. We needed an independent investigation intended to stave off lawsuits to even begin to do so.

The stronger women get, the less we care about women — about survivors. And the more we care about men, mostly white ones in positions of power. The stronger women get, the more we forget that women have driven much of the glory of Baylor and its athletics, with scandal-free championships in basketball, golf, tennis and more. The stronger women get, the more we ignore them in an attempt to “move forward,” whatever that means.”

The stronger women get, the more people love, protect, and defend football.

B. Rae Perryman is a 2008 Baylor graduate who helped mobilize advocates for rape survivors to sign an open letter to the university in February. She lives in Washington.