On the night of Sept. 7, 2019, Kendall Ware, then a sophomore on the swimming and diving team at the University of Vermont, retreated to the room of a UVM basketball player to discuss the details of their relationship.
“We were having a conversation and the next thing I remember saying was, ‘stop,’ and, ‘no,’ and him saying, ‘Just take it,’” Ware told the Burlington Free Press. “I just remember having the thought of, ‘I can’t believe he just did this.’”
Ware said that the player raped her. 30 days after the alleged assault, Ware filed a complaint to UVM in the hopes that they would investigate. In between the 30 days, Ware said she had suicidal thoughts.
“I had completely broken down and I had thoughts of driving to the New York border and jumping off [the Lake Champlain Bridge],” Ware said.
According to the Burlington Free Press, Ware began taking anti-anxiety medication after the assault, and five of her teammates them submitted C.A.R.E. forms — the school’s resource for reporting a “Concerning And/or Risky Event” — on Ware’s behalf through UVM’s online reporting portal.
When Ware was ready to report the incident, she said that instead of being helped, she was misguided by the school. When she met with a Title IX investigator who works for the University’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunities (AAEO), she was given two options: a formal or informal route. The informal route was an attempt by AAEO to resolve the matter without a formal investigation. It required both parties to voluntarily agree to enter, and a disciplinary process is not part of the informal resolution, according to UVM policy. The formal route included an investigation and would take approximately 60 days to complete. If the person is found responsible, disciplinary action is taken and there could be appeals.
After hearing her options, Ware decided to go with the formal route and informed UVM Athletic Director Jeff Schulman, associate athletics director for external relations and communications and team adviser Krista Balogh and other senior administrators. Shortly after, Ware received a call from an AAEO administrator asking her to rethink her decision.
“They said it didn’t sound like I knew what I wanted and that it didn’t seem like a formal investigation was what I wanted,” Ware said.
The next day, Ware met with Balogh and an AAEO staff member where it was explained that the informal option could involve game suspension and mandatory counseling, according to Ware. This differed from what Ware said she was first told, so she changed her mind and opted for the informal route, as she was led to believe that it could result in disciplinary action. However, she later found out that mandatory counseling and game suspensions are not possible under the informal route.
Disappointed and disturbed by the way UVM handled her case, Ware decided to join a group of seven other women who are suing the NCAA for failing to protect them in alleged sexual assaults. The story was first reported by ESPN with a story in April stating that an unnamed America East school was named in the lawsuit. While the identity of the school was not revealed initially, evidence in the lawsuit seemed to indicate Vermont was the likeliest school to have been accused.
According to USA Today, there is nothing in the NCAA’s 440-page rulebook that stops those found responsible for sexual or violent misconduct from competing. Even if the athlete is expelled from the school, they can transfer to another one. The lawsuit states that the NCAA has a duty to the women “to supervise, regulate, monitor and provide reasonable and appropriate rules to minimize the risk of injury or danger to student-athletes and by student-athletes.”
Not only was Ware disturbed by how UVM handled her case, but many UVM students are outraged, and an Instagram page called @JusticeforKendall was created earlier in the month.
“UVM wants our community to support a rapist,” the owner of the account wrote in a post.
According to the Vermont Cynic, another student, senior Madeleine Kovacs, who is on the DI swim team with Ware, wrote an email demanding the resignation of Schulman and Balogh.
“We no longer feel safe under your jurisdiction; we do not believe in you,” Kovacs wrote to the Cynic. “I firmly believe that you can ensure your student athletes’ safety and well-being by leaving your job as athletic administrators.”
Throughout this yearlong process, Ware has declined to publicly name the student-athlete.
“The reason I’m choosing not to name him, I don’t want it to become all about him,” Ware said. “He’s not in any way, shape or form involved in my life presently. But there’s that shadow that’s been cast over me from the assault.”
Schulman and the University of Vermont declined to comment on the Burlington Free Press and Vermont Cynic’s stories.