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Investigative Reporter Lavigne Discusses Sexual Assault Scandals

By Jon Sauber

Sports Capital Journalism Program

“You see people in positions of power who think this isn’t a big deal because there are people who think you’re only hurt if you’re pulled off the street and violently raped in the bushes,” ESPN investigative reporter Paula Lavigne said to Pam Laucella’s graduate class at IUPUI on April 17. “I don’t think people understand how traumatizing this is to people who experience this.”

She spoke to the class (J542: Sports, Journalism and Society) made up of master’s students affiliated with the Sports Capital Journalism Program within the Department of Journalism and Public Relations. Lavigne discussed “Violated: Exposing Rape at Baylor University Amid College Football’s Sexual Assault Crisis,” a book she co-wrote with Mark Schlabach, as well as the current sexual assault scandal enveloping Michigan State University.

Lavigne, who has been at ESPN since 2008, spoke to the class for almost an hour via Skype. Her work on the Baylor sexual assault scandal earned her a Gracie Award for Best Investigative Feature from the Alliance for Women in Media.

“I don’t think their first thought is, ‘Oh my gosh this poor woman,’” Lavigne said. “I think their first thought is how is this going to affect our brand. These things happen at your school and then they get out of control and they become part of your image.”

She took questions from the students on topics such as the investigative process of uncovering these atrocities as well as her thoughts on what went on at Baylor and how the scandal was handled by people in power.

Lavigne added that the way victims handled the assaults were impacted by the university being “stuck in the 1950s.” She said that one victim even said that her father would have felt that “she deserved (to be sexually assaulted).”

Lavigne also mentioned a moment on her book tour that caught her by surprise. She made an appearance in Dallas, Texas when a man walked in covered in Baylor garb from head to toe. At one point, the man rose to speak, and said, “I am ashamed of my alma mater. Thank you for writing this book,” according to Lavigne. She added that the moment took her surprise because of the man’s attire.

Lavigne’s conversation was one of several throughout the semester featuring high-profile journalists, a list that includes Marisa Kwiatkowski, an investigative reporter from The Indianapolis Star who helped produce the USA Gymnastics investigation.

To find out more about the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI, visit https://liberalarts.iupui.edu/jour/pages/graduate-studies-folder/ma-sports-journalism.php for more information and http://sportsjournalism.iupui.edu to see the work of graduate students.

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