A new sexual assault case seems to appear in the news nearly every day. What was once a taboo subject which provoked outrage is now commonplace in the average American’s day of media consumption. The epidemic has finally spread to the University of Wisconsin’s pride and joy, the Badger football team, and the response from UW athletics has been underwhelming at best.
Just two days after junior wide receiver Quintez Cephus was charged with second and third-degree sexual assault, sophomore wide receiver Danny Davis was suspended for two games due to his involvement in the April 22 incident. Davis allegedly laughed and took pictures of two women while Cephus sexually assaulted them. Although this Saturday’s game against Brigham Young University marks the end of Davis’ suspension, he should still be held accountable for his actions.
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On paper, Davis’ punishment is legitimate. The Athletic Department has made it clear that it does not condone sexual harassment, including taunting, hazing or bullying — all of which encompasses Davis’ behavior during the incident.
According to the Athletic Department website, “all UW student-athletes are subject to team rules developed by the head coach of each sport.” Coach Paul Chryst is satisfied with his decision to suspend Davis for two games.
“The suspension has been served and he’ll be ready to go,” Chryst said. “I’ve been proud of the way he took it and learned, and I’ve been proud of his response to this point.”
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Per the hard and fast rules, Davis’ plotline has come to a close in the greater tale of Cephus’ sexual assault. Headlines chronicling his complicity will be buried by newer topics, and his reputation may remain fairly untarnished. Although Davis was fairly punished in the eyes of the Student-Athlete Discipline Policy, I hope the moral center of this campus sees that a two-game suspension is nothing compared to the violation and humiliation faced by Cephus’ victims thanks to Davis’ actions.
The official student disciplinary guidelines are not guidelines for the moral responsibility of this university. In the eyes of the administration, Davis has served his penance. But to the victims, a two-game suspension may feel like a slap in the face.
Davis is automatically at an advantage in this situation, as his position as a student-athlete thrusts him into the spotlight of the public and the hearts of Badger fans. Quick forgiveness and a weak punishment absolves Davis of this stain on his career, while the victims will carry the shame and anguish of this event for years to come. UW must take a harsher stance not only on sexual assault perpetrators, but bystanders of injustice as well.
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Desmond Tutu once said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” If we apply this logic, Davis tacitly condoned sexual assault, which goes against everything the university stands for. The Student-Athlete Discipline Policy said the status of being a student-athlete comes with special responsibility, as student-athletes are also representatives of the university. In accord with the Violence Against Women Act and Title IX, UW is committed to prompt and effective measures to respond to sexual assault allegations.
If Davis was really a responsible representative of the school, he would not have made a mockery out of the victims. He has not represented the ideals UW strives to uphold every day. And although changes to his punishment will likely not happen, UW students and supporters must keep in mind that although this punishment was fulfilled, Davis is not absolved of all wrongdoing. We must remember that just because something is legitimate in the eyes of law and university, does not mean it is right. We must remember the behavior of Danny Davis and the horrible effects it has on victims of sexual assault. For UW to adequately acknowledge this problem would be the first step in the shift in morality Wisconsin women and survivors deserve.
Abigail Steinberg ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and intending to major in journalism.