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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Institutional Perpetuation of Rape Culture: A Case Study of the University of Colorado Football Rape and Recruiting Scandal


Heterosexual rape among university students is neither new nor uncommon. Research in rape prevention is largely limited to two areas: (1) what women can do to protect themselves from rape, which continues to place the burden of prevention on women; and (2) understanding why men rape. The studies in these fields have added to the body of knowledge surrounding rape on university campuses. The current study takes this information into consideration while using a different lens to examine the University's role, as an institution, in perpetuating rape culture.

This study specifically analyzes the rape and recruiting scandal at the University of Colorado at Boulder to better understand how the University, through its reactions to a lawsuit brought against it by three rape victims, perpetuated the rape culture pervading its football community. This ongoing research brings together the fields of institutional theory, theories on sporting masculinities, and feminist rape theories. Additionally, it takes an intersectional feminist approach to examine the dimensions of gender, race, class, and sexuality that are vital to understanding rape, athletics, student life, and one's interactions with institutions. The goal of this work is neither to blame the University of Colorado for the rapes that occurred among its students, nor to relieve the perpetrators of their responsibility. It is the aim of this research to illustrate the systemic nature of rape culture and hence to show that rape is a wide spread societal problem that cannot be pathologized, individualized, or ignored.

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