Department of Justice awards $4.14 million settlement to UMBC student-athletes

*Trigger Warning* This article contains sensitive information and subjects of sexual abuse, harassment, and assault that may be triggering for some readers. 

Student-athletes are finally being heard after undergoing years of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination from the late Head Swimming and Diving Team Coach, Chad Cradock. On Wednesday, April 3rd, the Department of Justice released a $4.14 million settlement agreement with the University of Maryland at Baltimore County after the conclusion of an investigation that the university and coach did commit numerous Title IX violations. The Justice Department hopes that this agreement sends “a resounding message” to other institutions about the fact that sexual abuse and harassment will no longer be ignored.

Cradock was also a former UMBC student, which allowed much of his behavior to go unnoticed and without consequence. Survivors of his harassment and abuse recalled that Chadrock “kissed male student-athlete’s necks, hugged them from behind, traced his fingers down their bare stomachs from their belly buttons toward their genitals, and massaged their bare skin.” The students also made clear that many times, the abuse took place within earshot of other members of the Athletics Department, and nothing was done to help the students. 

Students were explicitly reporting the abuse for many years. In 2015, however, a UMBC athletics staff member received a letter detailing their discomfort after a camera was used to film male students in the showers. The call for help only resulted in a flawed police investigation, where the Head Coach was given warning and was able to cover up evidence. Students continued to feel fearful about reporting these incidents, as whistleblowing could result in loss of scholarship or coaching as well as isolation from the team. 

Young women on the team recall their open sexual discrimination and intimate abuse encouraged by the head coach’s behavior. Cradock reportedly “generally disfavored” the young women on the team and often blamed them for the abuse they were enduring. In light of hypersexualization and sexual abuse from fellow men on the team, Cradock encouraged a culture of silencing of the young women on the team. They shared that “male student-athletes had sexually assaulted them, stalked them, and subjected them to dating violence.” 

Cradock even encouraged in-team dating, calling it “Swincest,” and was intimately involved in the athletes’ sex lives and relationships. When reports were made about the dating violence to the university administration, Title IX protocol was not followed. Instead, the head coach led biased mediation sessions, again highlighting another shortcoming of the University’s Title IX compliance efforts. 

After the Department of Justice’s investigation, the coach was banned, forced to retire, and would later on take his own life. The DOJ, under Title IX, has been able to reach a settlement agreement where the University of Maryland at Baltimore County will pay $4.14 million to the survivors, provide full-time support to those who have been victims of sexual violence and abuse, provide additional resources for the Title IX compliance program equipped with a coordinator, enforce clear guidelines for coaching staff, administer surveys to student-athletes on cases like this, and improve the process of reporting and investing sexual violence and abuse.

Although there is a road for reparations at UMBC, stories like this continue to happen across campus throughout the United States. Sexual violence and abuse continue to plague college students, and too many times, they are overlooked and silenced. As we intentionally take the time to talk about issues like this in April, it is essential to remember that there is still more to achieve in this fight. 

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