The Wrestler and the Rape Victim
After being raped at a college party, Molly Morris had to endure our broken system for addressing campus sexual assault.
Edited image. Original via WikiMedia Commons
Molly Morris and Corey Mock initially met online via Tinder. This was in December, 2013. They were both students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He was a star wrestler. She was new in town, having moved there in June as part of a national exchange student program with the University of New Mexico.
An overachiever, Morris started a business when she arrived, teaching dance to preschoolers. She also spent time working at a local hotel as a cocktail waitress. In December, halfway through the academic year, she hadn't yet decided how long she would stay in Chattanooga, though it would turn out to be only for another semester.
Morris and Mock chatted via Tinder but never met up. Weeks later, they found themselves in the same Spring semester class about social inequality. "When he saw me, he recognized me and he started sitting behind me," Morris says. Eventually, Mock asked for her phone number so they could "talk about course work." He would walk Morris to her truck after class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
"I had told him that I was not interested in dating or any relationship with a guy. Like, we could be friends maybe," she says. "But I don't really have friends either."
"He asked me out on a couple of dates, I said 'no' to all of them. He asked me to a couple of parties and I said 'no'. He eventually asked me out to a breakfast date which I agreed to, just because that's pretty friendly to me." Morris and Mock had breakfast on a Thursday morning, March 13,the week after the Southern Conference Tournament, where Mock was named Most Outstanding Wrestler. They ate at the Bluegrass Grill, and Mock invited Morris to a weekend party.
Morris worked the closing shift at the hotel barthat Saturday night, so she didn't get to the party until nearly 2 a.m. on Sunday. According to the transcript from the university disciplinary hearing that would take place months later, Morris went because Mock seemed "like a decent person. Sure, like that'd be fine, safe environment."
When she arrived, Morris says, "it was all wrestlers with the exception of one or two of the guys." Shortly thereafter, two more women arrived. They all began playing drinking games, and Morris distinctly remembers that her first drink, a Strawberita, came in an unopened can. Her second drink, a Jack and Coke, was mixed from a sealed flask and unopened can of Vanilla Coke.
But then, Morris says, she turned down some cinnamon-flavored Fireball Whisky from an opened, nearly empty bottle. She looked away from her drink. When she went to drink it again, her Jack and Coke had taken on a distinctly cinnamon flavor. Her memories of the next few hours are sparse.
"It's all just snippets," she says.
Those snippets include another wrestler at the party trying to convince her to date Mock, and her becoming sick and vomiting in the bathroom. During the disciplinary hearing, Morris said, "I was in the bathroom by myself and I was sick to my stomach. My body felt super, just—I don't know. It's like a fog, and just super limp and I was throwing up a lot." She remembers Mock being there in the bathroom, "slapping my face awake, trying to get me to look at him. And so I looked at him, and he was like right in my face and he was freaking out that I was unconscious and not doing okay." Morris still felt sick.
"After that," she says, "all my scenes are about the assault."
Failure to protect
Over the last 18 months, the problem of campus sexual assault has received unprecedented national attention, with investigative journalists looking into a range of policies at schools from the University of Kansas to Columbia University. In addition to increased media coverage—highlighting grim statistics such as one in five women being the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during college—advocacy groups like Know Your IX and End Rape On Campus have pushed the issue to the forefront, helping assault survivors file federal complaints under Title IX with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and sue universities directly.
Under Title IX regulations, schools are required to respond to reports of sexual violence. While the criminal justice system is one option for victims, it's not always—nor often—an effective one, which is part of the reason why only 40 percent of all rapes are reported to the police. In theory, Title IX regulations act as both a second line of defense and a backup justice system: schools may not be able to put assailants behind bars, but they can at least try cases and remove dangerous students from campuses. In practice, however, the law is not a magic fix. To the contrary, victims repeatedly find that their universities sweep their cases under the rug, while the accused in campus cases are also served poorly, confused as to what schools are allowed to do and how they are allowed to respond. It's no wonder that dozens of universities are currently being investigated by the U. S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights for the way they've managed sexual assault cases.
Thanks to Morris, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is now on that list of schools under investigation.
"I just didn't feel ready then"
The morning after the party, Morris says she woke up "in the bed, naked, with a sheet. He was in the bed, too." She got up, gathered her clothes, and left. When she got back to her apartment, she fell asleep. But she woke up not too long after that to take a shower, because she could smell the vomit on her body.
Morris felt ill all day. "It was not hangover illness, it was something completely different," she says. "My stomach was super nauseous, in knots. My whole body felt like it was in a fog. Like, my head was just in a really weird funk. It's so hard to describe." She also had physical injuries including a hickey on her neck and vaginal bleeding. "My entire body was just sore and in a funk." That night, her roommate convinced her to go to the pharmacy and get Plan B, the morning-after pill.
Morris didn't go to the police, a decision that is hardly uncommon. Time magazine reports that a 2007 study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice surveying 5,446 undergraduate women and 1,375 undergraduate men at two large public universities in the South and the Midwest found that just 2 percent of sexual assault victims incapacitated by drugs or alcohol and only 13 percent of "physically forced" victims reported the crimes to law enforcement. Victims often don't want to be shamed or ostracized for coming forward; many have a sense of denial or disbelief that they were actually raped; and they fear the police won't believe them, particularly when their assailants are well-known or celebrated athletes. (For illustration, consider the multiple sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, and why the women accusing him say they didn't come forward sooner.)
Morris says she didn't contact law enforcement "because the day after, I didn't even think about getting a rape test done. It didn't even cross my mind." She believed that the shower she took to wash the vomit off her body had also "washed away all the evidence that could have been helpful."
And Morris felt like she was alone. "All of the people that were there," she says, "were his friends and were wrestling members. I didn't have a single person on my side in this case. I didn't have my family there. I didn't have many friends in town. I was basically by myself besides my roommate." All of this made her keenly aware that she was not emotionally ready to enter a criminal justice system that would scrutinize her life and choices. "I just didn't feel ready then," she says.
Morris skipped the class she shared with Mock that Monday, but ended up attending on Wednesday and Friday. "I'm an honors student," she says, "I'm not going to miss class." But then she adds, "I was freaking out the entire time, wondering if he was going to come in that door. I could not focus whatsoever." To help ease her worries and because she knew Mock was supposed to be away wrestling in the NCAA championships, Morris says she "actually texted him on that Friday and asked him where he was. I was like, 'Hey, how's Nationals going?' to see if he was still there or if he was on his way back or where was he because I was driving myself crazy."
At her roommate's request, Morris visited the Women's Center at UTC and spoke with the director, Sara Peters. "She is the one person at UTC that has her act together," Morris said of Peters. "She's like the only person." Morris didn't know what to do next. "I didn't know if I was wanting to confront [Mock] personally, or if I wanted to report it," she says. Peters listed Morris's options: go to the police; go to the school's dean; go to counseling "to help yourself," Morris says.
The following Monday, March 24, Morris decided to confront Mock. Through his lawyer, Mock declined to speak to VICE Sports. Here's how he recounted his conversation with Morris during the disciplinary hearing: "After class we walked together like we always did and she said can we talk somewhere private. I said okay. We're like looking for somewhere and I suggested we go to the library. We sat down and she just told me everything she felt. And I was totally caught off guard. I was shocked. I didn't even know what to say."
Morris says she told Mock, "this happened and I didn't give consent. I wouldn't have. He basically just said, 'you know, I didn't mean it that way and I'm sorry.'"
It was a short conversation and the two never spoke again, according to Morris. Then Morris heard that another woman had recently reported being sexually assaulted by a different UTC wrestler, who has since left the school and now wrestles at a community college in the Midwest.
"At that point," she says, "that's when I decided to go to the Dean."
"That was the first time I felt betrayed by the system"
The Dean of Students Office at a university often plays a pivotal role in campus sexual assault cases. Their personnel are charged with providing support for student concerns, including crisis assistance—but they are also beholden to the school and its institutional reputation. On one hand, they are required to follow Title IX and guide students through the process of reporting sexual assaults; on the other hand, school administrations sometimes push deans to minimize problems in order to avoid bad press. Last year, a dean from the University of North Carolina signed onto a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights saying the school was pressuring her to underreport sexual assault cases. Jezebel reported on a case at the University of Chicago where the dean offered informal mediation between the two parties, which is illegal under Title IX. That same dean told a different victim "she had 'a lot' of sexual assault cases on her plate already (about two or three) and didn't have the time to handle [the victim's]."
Dana Bolger, a cofounder of Know Your IX, told Rhode Island Monthly that she became an activist after "an Amherst College dean advised her to leave the campus until her attacker graduated." In a piece at the Nation, Bolger and Alexandra Brodsky discuss two other Know Your IX activists, both students at Tufts, who "turned to the school for help; in both cases, the school failed to support and protect them. And both, they discovered, had felt the brunt of this institutional betrayal from the very same dean."
At UTC, associate dean of students Chad Clark handled Morris's initial assault report, meeting with Morris and Peters on April 3. Morris brought up the fact that she had a class the next day with Mock and was unsure what she should do. She recalls Clark saying to her, "Don't go to class and we'll figure out what to do. More likely than not, we'll just remove you from the class." According to Morris, Peters then interrupted and told Clark, "No, that's not how it's supposed to work. He's supposed to be removed from class. She shouldn't be penalized for it. She should be able to remain in class."
According to Morris, Clark "was supposed to submit a No Contact Order [to Mock] that morning" of April 4, which would have prohibited Mock from contacting Morris. "But he didn't submit that order until that afternoon, after the class had taken place," Morris says. Even if Clark had gotten the order in on time, it would have been sent to Mock through his official university email—so there was no guarantee that he would actually see it.
Following Morris's meeting with Clark, the dean began investigating the case. According to Morris, Clark told her "he was going to call in [Mock] and, if there were any witnesses, he would call them in and talk to them, too."
According to Morris, who received her information from Peters about what happened next because "the dean was not communicating with me" despite her request that he talk directly with her, Clark had to contact Mock multiple times before a meeting was scheduled, and the two didn't meet until three weeks after the dean first met with Morris. Following that, Morris says, Clark "submit[ted] summary statements of everyone who met with him. He [gave] them to us for approval."
What Morris saw when she read Clark's summary of their April 3 discussion confused her. "My statement was completely inaccurate," Morris says. "So many details were changed to be the opposite of what I said, in favor of the assaulter. It seemed like he had just sent the wrong statement. When I realized it was in fact mine, I felt so incredibly frustrated." In Clark's "Notes from Investigative meeting with M. Morris," he listed the "alleged sexual misconduct incident on the early morning of March 15 2014," which Morris corrected to "early morning (after 2 am) of March 16, 2014." He also said that Morris had told him that she "became ill from excess consumption of alcohol in a shot [sic] amount of time," which she revised to "Ms. Morris became dizzy and sick to her stomach shortly after consuming the tainted drink." Clark wrote that "Ms. Morris recalls regaining consciousness while She and Mr. Mock engaged in sexual intercourse," which Morris changed to "Ms. Morris recalls regaining consciousness due to sharp vaginal pain. She saw Mr. Mock on top of her, she was lying flat on her back, and his penis inside her vagina."
Morris says that she told Clark, "This is not what I said. Don't use that in my case file." Morris says she submitted a new statement which she believed to be more accurate, replacing Clark's original summary. Morris later asked Clark for documents related to her case and a copy of the No Contact Order, but she says Clark ignored her emails.
Peters declined to speak with VICE Sports. Clark declined to speak about Morris's case, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Note: FERPA bars university officials like Clark from disclosing any information concerning educational records of a student maintained by the university except in certain circumstances. Morris's notes from their meeting would constitute an "educational record" under FERPA). A university spokesperson told VICE Sports that UTC dean of students Jim Hicks "oversees and assists" Clark's work, and that Clark "has received training and conducts his investigations in compliance with Tennessee state and federal law and guidelines."
This was a turning point for Morris. "At that point," she says, "I thought I could trust the university and I had put my trust in the dean, a male, and disclosed my story to him. To have him take it and twist it around like that was so disrespectful. That's actually the first time, of soon to be many, that I felt betrayed by the system."
According to the UTC Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, students accused of assault get to decide what kind of disciplinary hearing they want: a panel hearing in front of the Student Conduct Board, a group ofsix student members plus a student chair who hear the case, and, if the accused is found guilty, assigns a penalty ranging from community service to dismissal from the university;or a hearing that follows the guidelines of a state law called the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA).
Mock chose the latter. Unlike Student Conduct Board hearings, UAPA hearings resemble a criminal court case. There is a university official who acts as a judge—in this case, UTC accounting professor Joanie Sompayrac—and defendants go up against their school, not their accusers. As a result, Morris's only standing in her own sexual assault case hearing was as a witness. She says she had to ask a UTC lawyer to petition for her to be allowed in the hearing room the entire time, instead of "coming in, being interviewed, and being kicked out, and not knowing what's going on in there."
"They allowed me to be present," she says. "However, I still could not have an attorney. I could have an advocate [Morris chose Peters] but my advocate was not allowed to speak."
None of that seems to square with Title IX as it's been interpreted by the Office of Civil Rights. Under a section of the UTC Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures titled "Special Procedures for Cases Involving Allegations of Sexual Offenses" that is based on federal law, it says specifically that:
"… both the accuser and accused are entitled to the same opportunities to have others present during a campus disciplinary hearing. The victim, additionally, has the right to have counsel of his/her choice present during hearing …"
Moreover, the website for UTC Title IX Coordinator Bryan Samuel states that in sexual assault or misconduct cases involving students, accusers have the right to be present during hearings; to present witnesses and other evidence through a Student Judicial Advisor; to challenge the admissibility of evidence through that same advisor; and to have that advisor cross-examine adverse witnesses.
Asked to explain how UAPA hearings are allowed in cases of sexual assault when they appear to violate federal law, university spokesperson Chuck Cantrell told VICE Sports in an email that "the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga conducts [U]APA hearings in a way that complies with Tennessee state and federal law." The General Counsel at the University of Tennessee did not respond to a VICE Sports request for a statement.
Why does the Office of Civil Rights say that accusers should have an independent voice during campus hearings? Simple. Universities can't be solely tasked with representing a victim's best interests, because those same schools have a vested interest in the outcomes of the cases that could affect their reputations and bottom lines.
Helen Eigenberg, a professor of criminal justice at UTC who specializes in issues of violence against women, says that "most students don't use" UAPA hearings. In cases of sexual assault, she adds, they "tend to be more favorable to the perpetrator because it's more like a criminal justice system hearing."
The criminal justice system is remarkably favorable to rapists.
Blame and Shame
Mock's hearing took place on June 24, in a large UTC conference room. It lasted an entire day.
"My assaulter," Morris says, "sat across the table from me and to the right."
Little is known about university disciplinary hearings. Schools like it that way. They take place behind closed doors, universities often refuse to release documents citing privacy concerns, and it can be difficult to get statistics on both the types of cases being heard and the outcomes produced. "School disciplinary boards have rarely done a very good job of handling these cases," the Nation argued in a piece published weeks before Mock's disciplinary hearings, something that has angered the accused as much as accusers.
Sompayrac, who has a law degree, was appointed by UTC chancellor Steve Angle to preside over Mock's hearing. She declined to answer questions from VICE Sports, citing FERPA. A man named Jeff Rufolo was there as Mock's attorney. A former UTC wrestler himself, Rufolo also is the vice president of the Takedown Club, a local wrestling club that lists two UTC wrestling coaches, head coach Heath Eslinger and assistant Niko Brown, on its coaching staff. Moreover, Rufolo was on the university search committee that chose Eslinger to be the school's head coach in 2009, and in 2010 and 2011 participated in UTC alumni wrestling matches.
Courtney Bullard attended the hearing as the legal counsel for UTC. According to Morris, Bullard made it "very clear" that "she was not my counsel and did not represent me."
According to a transcript of the hearing obtained by VICE sports, both sides skipped opening statements and went directly into what Morris says was "four and a half hours" of her being "questioned and cross-examined by both [Bullard] and then [Rufolo].
"Going through the details of the assault and all events leading up to the assault," Morris says with a pause, "it's really hard to describe. I know I have been telling the truth and that it needed to be heard, but that doesn't make it any less intimidating."
Early in the hearing, Bullard asked Morris how she reacted during the moments of the assault when she was conscious enough to understand what was happening.
"And then the next [part] I remember is, I was on my back on the bed and he was on top of me and it hurt like hell and I knew in my mind what was happening, but I couldn't move at all," she said. "And I tried to cry out because it hurt. I was a virgin."
Rufolo objected at that point, stating that the Office of Civil Rights does not allow the accuser's "sexual history with anyone other than the alleged perpetrator" to be included in the testimony. Sompayrac sustained the objection, "because I don't want to open her up to what that could involve." Bullard countered by noting that Morris's sexual history was relevant to "her state of mind as to whether or not she would have even consented that evening."
When the judge disagreed, Morris spoke up. "I understand [the sustained objection]," she said. "Setting it aside, it does have a large impact."
Rufolo again objected, cutting Morris off.
During Rufolo's cross-examination of Morris, he asked her a lot of questions about the parts of the night of which she has little recollection. "He brought up things that happened during the assault I had no clue had happened," Morris recalls. "I had to find out in front of all of these people. When he continued to ask if I objected to events I didn't even know occurred, that was rough. I felt like I wasn't being heard."
After Morris testified, she and her advocate, Peters, sat in silence for the rest of the hearing.
During his testimony, Mock said repeatedly that he never forced Morris to do anything; denied that he spiked her drink; described how much he liked her and wanted to date her; and said she never resisted or verbally told him stop—but if she had done that, he would have stopped immediately. He went into detail about what he did that night, oral and vaginal sex. He admitted on cross examination that he knew she had been drinking, that she had thrown up in the toilet and then in the bed, and that he didn't once ask her if she was OK because "'I mean, people throw up when they drink all the time.'" Morris says that in total, "they questioned him for an hour and a half only."
"All in all," Morris says, it was "extremely difficult to hear and re-live. It was hard to keep it together throughout the day, and his attorney made comments as to how 'fine' I seemed." Morris was not "fine." If she appeared calm, she says, it's only because she had no other choice. "If I didn't hold it together for myself there's no one else there to defend me," she says. "My advocate couldn't speak."
Following the hearing, it took Sompayrac over a month to hand down her ruling. She dismissed the charges against Mock, and after writing that "both parties in this case have exercised poor judgment," she went on to specifically fault Morris, whom she wrote "should not have engaged in underage drinking, nor should she have been drinking beverages that were not under her control the entire evening."
By contrast, Sompayrac wrote that Mock "exercised poor judgment in choosing to have sex with her at that time if he really wanted to have a relationship with her. That said, however, using poor judgment does not necessarily constitute a violation of the UTC Code of Conduct."
The ruling, Morris says now, "was pretty victim-blaming, actually." She lets out a laugh, tinged with disbelief.
Two of Mock's wrestling teammates testified as part of his defense. One had the following exchange with Bullard:
Bullard: So Corey, if he gets kicked out of school, it's pretty bad for the wrestling team, right?
Teammate: Yes. But somebody—if somebody does what he's been accused of then we wouldn't want him on the wrestling team.
Bullard: And you have no knowledge, personal knowledge as to whether he did what he's been accused of?
Teammate: I am very, very confident that he did not.
Lawyer: But you weren't in the room?
Teammate: I was not in the room.
As part of the federal effort to mitigate campus sexual assault, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) spearheaded a report that gathered data from 440 four-year schools and found that "more than 20 percent of institutions in the national sample give the athletic department oversight of sexual violence cases involving student athletes."Following a damning investigation by ESPN's Outside The Lines into how schools and athletic departments protect athletes accused of violence against women, ESPN's Kate Fagan noted that "at about 1 in 5 schools, if a student makes a sexual assault claim against an athlete, that allegation will involve oversight from athletic department personnel, the people with big foam fingers whose livelihoods revolve around the school's athletes and sports teams."
Case in point: one of the biggest university sexual assault cases in years broke in November 2013, when multiple outlets reported that Jameis Winston, FSU's star QB, on his way to winning a Heisman trophy and the national championship, was suspected of sexually assaulting another student nearly a year earlier. Within weeks, the State Attorney announced that he was not pressing charges. The university finally held a disciplinary hearing for Winston on December 2 and 3, nearly two years after the night when the woman says Winston assaulted her. That delay is, according to a recent piece at the New York Times, because "Florida State's athletic department...decided the allegation did not merit a university investigation. Normally, university officials outside the department handle such matters."
There's no evidence that UTC's athletic department oversaw Mock's case. However, Morris found herself facing a variation of the big foam finger problem, one that presents itself when cases of sexual assault involve groups of campus athletes: all of the witnesses from that night are his teammates, people who have built loyalty and trust with the accused, people who literally rely on each other to pull their weight on the field or the mat. In the Winston case, for example, the two main witnesses are his teammates and both of them refused to testify.
Exactly two weeks after Mock was cleared, UTC submitted a Petition for Reconsideration to Sompayrac. Morris wrote a letter of support, which she concluded by stating, "I ask that you research drug-facilitated sexual assault and reconsider your decision. Maybe meet with Sara Peters and others who have experience in the field."
Whether Sompayrac did either of those things is unclear. What is known is that one week later, on August 25, Sompayrac overturned her initial ruling.
Without holding another hearing—or obtaining any new evidence—she now found that Mock "engaged in sexual misconduct" and was guilty of sexual assault under the school's student conduct code. While maintaining that the university never proved with a preponderance of evidence that Morris "was incapable of consenting to sexual activity," Sompayrac wrote that "the University's claim that [she] never consented to sexual activity with Corey Mock was proven with a preponderance of the evidence."
As a penalty, Sompayrac dismissed Mock from UTC. On August 27, he petitioned for a stay, which Sompayrac granted only 62 minutes after it was submitted. The stay allowed Mock to remain on campus until his appeal was decided, and the school's athletic site noted in its season preview post that Mock had been "named to the preseason All-SoCon team."
On November 15, he wrestled for UTC.
Contacted on November 21 by VICE Sports, Cantrell wrote via email that UTC has a policy that "allows for suspension or other disciplinary action based on university disciplinary investigations, actions, or outcomes." He also wrote that "without getting into the details of any specific case, we have become aware of a student-athlete that had been placed on indefinite suspension from athletics-related activities for violation of department policy but who had mistakenly been allowed by the head coach to practice and compete. That suspension has been upheld and remains in place." A few days later, when asked by VICE Sports if Mock was the student athlete, Cantrell confirmed that he was referencing Mock, though he noted "student privacy laws prohibit releasing the specifics of a student violation."
On December 2, chancellor Steven Angle handed down the Final Order on the case, agreeing with Sompayrac's revised order and finding that Mock had engaged "in sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct." Mock was immediately dismissed and expelled from UTC, retroactive to August 25.
"Corey Mock is not enrolled as a student at UTC," a university spokesman told VICE Sports.
However, Mock remains free to transfer to another university—and, in theory, wrestle for one more year. NCAA rules require athletes who change schools following disqualifications or suspensions for "disciplinary reasons" to sit out a year before being eligible to compete, but do not impose stricter standards or outright bans on athletes suspended or disqualified for sexual assault. Moreover, the one-year sitout is often skirted using a one-time transfer exception available to almost all athletes, except those in revenue-producing sports (and even those athletes can use the exception if they drop down a division).
Bottom line? Mock could be back on a college mat in matter of days or weeks.
"If a student is charged with sexual assault, or even found responsible in a university system, there is nothing to keep that individual from transferring to another school," a representative from End Rape on Campus told VICE Sports. EROC has helped Morris file her Title IX complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. "Basically, this means rapists can transfer freely, and commit the same crime with the only penalty being a completely new pool of victims at a different school."
Much like schools in general, campus athletic departments are under no obligation to review athlete disciplinary records before accepting transfers. (There's an argument for why it should be that way.) And even when athletic officials are aware of an athlete's troubled past, many look the other way. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham left Missouri for Oklahoma earlier this year after being dismissed from the school's football team following an incident in which he pushed a woman down a flight of stairs. Two Vanderbilt football players who were dismissed from the university after being charged with multiple counts of sexual assault as part of an ongoing gang rape case have managed to transfer and play at other schools. Last year, then-Providence basketball player Brandon Austin was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student and was "prohibited from participating in games for the rest of the season." He transferred to Oregon, where he was eventually expelled with two other players after an accusation of gang rape. He now plays at Northwestern Florida State College, where school president Ty Handy says Austin will have a chance to "succeed, to grow, and to develop."
Similarly, Mock didn't begin his college wrestling career at UTC. During his sophomore season at North Carolina, he was charged with misdemeanor simple affray and resisting arrest for his involvement in a street fight on the morning of February 8. His subsequent "indefinite suspension" came to a definite end by March 15, when he was in St. Louis wrestling in the NCAA championships. Three days later, Mock was arrested again, this time for damaging personal property. ("Several vehicles," according to a witness quoted in a police report.) His final match at UNC was in December 2012, and three months later, the Chattanooga Times Free Pressreported that Mock was transferring to UTC.
Asked by VICE Sports if anyone at UTC knew about or investigated Mock's brushes with the law before accepting him as a transfer student, school spokesman Cantrell declined to comment, citing FERPA. He also said that in general, "recruiting coaches are responsible for researching recruits. Likewise, student-athlete recruits go through the regular admissions process that all students undergo."
During Mock's disciplinary hearing, his lawyer, Rufolo, asked Morris, "You understand the university can't put [him] in jail?"
Morris said she knew.
"And how does that protect you if they kick [him] out of school?" Rufolo said. "You're not coming back to school, are you? You're going to New Mexico."
"But that doesn't account for the other thousands of girls that still attend UTC's campus and are exposed to Corey or other males that are committing this act," Morris said. "If I could just protect one other person. I wouldn't feel right in my mind leaving UTC knowing that I was raped, did nothing about it and he was allowed to stay on campus and continue doing this to other girls without anything happening to him."
"It wouldn't bother you if he transferred to another school and had the opportunity to commit this act on all the thousands of girls of that university?" Rufolo said.
"That's come to my mind," Morris said. "But at the end of the day, I can only do what I can do … If he continues to do this at UTC, that's on UTC. If he continues to do this at another university, that's on that university. But I'm doing—I'm not super woman. I'm doing everything in my power to try to solve a situation that otherwise goes unnoticed."
A Way Forward
If society is belatedly starting to notice campus sexual assault—thanks largely to Morris and others coming forward to tell their stories—then what can be done to mitigate or even solve the problem? Particularly when college sports can complicate the issue, creating extra incentives to protect everyone involved except victims?
Activists and organizations around the country have plenty of ideas.Men-centered organizations like Men Can Stop Rape aim to "mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men's violence against women," and have programs that specifically focus on educating college students. There are calls for the NCAA to step in and take a firmer stance against sexual assault, and there are programs that rely on coaches to "coach boys into men". Some want to move beyond the penal system as a model and replace it with restorative justice—which focuses not on punishment but on creating a space where, should victims want it, they can dialogue with the person who harmed them and possibly with the community at large, all as part of their healing process.
Here at VICE, Anne Theriault recently suggested that the problem of sexual assault will never change because the toxic masculinity and sexism at the heart of it are too ingrained in our culture—and so it may well be that "we need to raze almost every cultural belief that we have about sex, women, and rape and create an entirely new foundation from scratch."
Barring an unlikely total cultural reboot, what we know is this: victims like Morris have little recourse. The criminal justice system rarely punishes the crime. Civil cases sometimes work—but only if the victim is wealthy enough to make it worth a lawyer's while to take the case. If you are a college student, you can go through your school's non-judicial judicial system, but the deck is stacked against you, and in the case of UAPA hearings in Tennessee, your federal rights are pushed aside. Indeed, this Title IX-mandated alternative form of adjudication is mostly toothless, in part because the consequences for being convicted can largely be avoided by assailants simply switching schools. All of this is compounded when the perpetrators are athletes, with community ties and special stature within universities. At the very least, the answer to mitigating the problems of campus sexual assault, violence against women, and interpersonal violence have to start with education and prevention, and must stop relying almost solely on punishment as a deterrent. Because, too often, there is no punishment.
Following Angle's final order, Mock filed a petition with UTC requesting a stay on his dismissal and expulsion so that he could complete his fall semester classes. It was denied within hours. He then filed a restraining order against UTC in a Chancery court, arguing that he needed to be able to complete his finals in case he eventually wins his appeal. That was granted on December 4. Mock has 60 days from December 2 to petition for an additional review that would move his case from the university's jurisdiction to the Tennessee state court system.
Meanwhile, Morris has moved back to New Mexico, where she is teaching dance and taking classes. She says she's satisfied with Mock's expulsion, but not with the university disciplinary process that led to it, a process that has left her feeling angry, minimized, manipulated, and ultimately blamed for her assault. In September, she filed a Title IX complaint with the Office of Civil Rights against UTC. On December 5, she received confirmation that the OCR was moving forward on her complaint. She contends that her UAPA hearing violated federal law and remains upset that she had to go through it.
"From beginning to end," Morris says, "injustice has been done."