Kathy Redmond, like the rest of her family, bleeds scarlet and cream. So, on the eve of the Huskers’ glory years, she started her undergraduate career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, ready for the National Championship win she’d been waiting for — and she got it.
On Jan. 1, 1995, Nebraska beat Miami 24-17. But Redmond was livid.
Three years earlier, in her first week at UNL, Redmond alleged she was raped twice by future National Championship captain Christian Peter. Not wanting to face the Nebraska Athletic Department, she said she barely told anyone for a year.
“My personality started changing to the point that I was confronted by my sisters,” she said. “They point-blank asked me if I was raped, and I couldn't answer them.”
It took Redmond more than two years after the assault to file a report with the UNL Police Department, another year and a half to file a Title IX lawsuit against the university — the first of its kind — and until 1997, when UNL paid her $50,000, to reach a final settlement. Today, Redmond is the founding director of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, where she helps other sexual assault survivors through the system that traumatized her.
She said she founded NCAVA in 1998 after realizing how many other victims had stories like hers. Having gone through the system for so many years, she said her experiences could act as a playbook for others.
“What I found, and what was really important to me, was the number of women who would call me with very similar stories,” she said. “There were so many similarities in how it was handled and how the investigation went, and even how these women were sexually assaulted or abused. The similarities were jarring to me.”
Redmond said when her sexual assault took place in 1991, Title IX offices didn’t exist. The purpose of Title IX, she thought, was solely to maintain gender equality in sports.
“The closest that we had back then to rape awareness was a little piece of paper that was taped to the bathroom stalls in the dorms,” she said. “You know, ‘If you're raped, call this number,’ and there was no way I was going to call that number.”
When Redmond filed her police report with UNLPD in 1993, she was sent to the victim advocate at the time, who was the police chief’s wife, but said she didn’t feel safe talking with her.
When she later filed her Title IX lawsuit, Redmond said she had to subpoena her own police report in order to view it.
“That's when I found out that what was in the police report, some of it did not match, and it was nothing that I said,” she said.
Redmond said she went to the Lincoln Police Department but was told her case wasn't in their jurisdiction. Later, during litigation, she found out that UNLPD never investigated her case.
In Redmond’s experience, she said universities don’t handle Title IX cases the way they were intended. Title IX, she said, should be handled the same way as Title VI, which covers race-based discrimination.
The main difference, she said, is that Title VI cases use preponderance of the evidence, where the accuracy of the evidence only needs to be more than 50% likely. Title IX cases, however, use the clear and convincing standard, which says the probability of evidence being true needs to be substantially greater than it not being true, according to Redmond.
“What they've done is subjugated gender violence … [and] gender discrimination to second class treatment,” she said. “Because they're not dealing with it in the same way that they deal with race-based discrimination.”
She added that Title IX has more difficult standards than what would be used in sexual assault claims outside of universities. For instance, she said, if the assault doesn’t occur on campus, university police typically decide it is out of their jurisdiction. Additionally, she said, universities let criminal investigations by local law enforcement get in the way of Title IX cases.
“Title IX on a school campus, on a college campus, has nothing to do with a criminal investigation going on in law enforcement; they are two separate things,” she said. “So, for a school to say, ‘Well, the police didn't charge,’ or, ‘Well, let's wait until the police investigation before we investigate this complaint or this report,’ is ridiculous.”
Redmond said Title IX is very clear, but she doesn’t believe schools correctly implement or remain unbiased when implementing practices and policies. She also said victims lack resources, such as an ample amount of Title IX defense attorney in Lincoln.
Today, Redmond’s work is two-sided. She helps victims with their Title IX cases and connects them with resources, like lawyers and support groups. She also works to prevent violence by consulting for professional sports teams, such as the New England Patriots.
She said she built NCAVA specifically against athlete violence because she witnessed the power athletes and athletic departments have over entire towns, and she didn’t feel there was an organization equipped to help victims oppose them.
“[Athletes] have access to basically everything in the system. Victims don’t,” she said. “So, I decided upon my organization to deal with athletes — number one because they have so much power, and it takes something that specialized. And number two, they have so much power that they can be the solution.”
Redmond said many of the male athletes she works with said they want to be good allies but don’t feel safe or comfortable reporting things they’ve seen or heard other players do for fear of retribution, like a loss of playing time.
“That's really where I would love to see this culture shift to, is having those guys feel comfortable with confronting those issues,” she said. “There are a lot of good guys in there, but they don't know what to do.”
The UNL Athletic Department provides regular education on sexual misconduct, often presented in conjunction with the Title IX office, according to a statement from UNL spokesperson Leslie Reed.
Most recently, in 2016, former head football coach Mike Riley invited survivor Brenda Tracy to speak to the team. Riley knew of Tracy from 1998, when she accused two of his Oregon State football players of gang rape.
Reed also said any issues of sexual misconduct involving a student athlete would be taken immediately to the Title IX Office for follow up.
In addition to her own experience, Remond said she uses the information she’s received from working with victims to educate the athletes she speaks to.
“I'm going to absolutely support and advocate for these victims, and I'm going to tell you their stories, and I want them to tell you their stories,” she said. “Then, on the flip side, whatever I advise of teams comes directly from all of the victims that I've worked with and that I've helped. [The victims] do have a voice in it, and I want them to know that they have a voice in it.”
Through her various responsibilities with NCAVA, Redmond said she wants to use the organization to bring awareness to the victims’ sides of the story and how hard it is for them to oppose athletic power.
“You hear it all the time, ‘A rape accusation will ruin his life.’ What people don't realize is the victim side of, ‘It will ruin my life,’” she said. “Whether it's going through the rape itself, whether it's reporting it, or reporting the violence, you get labeled, you get blackballed, you receive quite a bit of retribution, you are the one who is vilified. And, again, for nothing that you did wrong.”
Editors’ Note: If you or someone you know has had an experience with the Title IX office you’d like to share with The Daily Nebraskan, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is part of a Title IX series. Click here for a table of contents.