NORFOLK, Va. – Shawn Fahey, a former Ocean Lakes High School football player who signed with Norfolk State University, is going public with his claims of sexual assault and hazing problems he says he encountered while a part of NSU's Division I football team this past fall.
According to Virginia litigator Diane Toscano, these claims were not isolated events, and the university knew about the behavior and failed to act to protect student-athletes. Details about those claims were disclosed at a press conference held Thursday, May 5 at 10 a.m. at Slover Library in Downtown Norfolk.
Fahey alleged that he was sexually assaulted, sexually harassed and hazed by members of NSU's football team, then was baited by coaches to rejoin the team the next day as if nothing happened.
"I was told by coaches I was risking my career," Fahey said. "Then NSU made my pain worse by sharing sensitive information about the situation to the whole team. What a terrible decision it was for me to put my faith and safety in Norfolk State University when I accepted that football scholarship over others."
During the press conference, Toscano said Fahey's case was not an isolated incident and said she had heard from other student-athletes who reported similar issues at NSU during the same period.
"There are coaches on the current staff that knew of the problems because the incidents happened right under their nose," Toscano said.
Some of the behavior Toscano alleges took place at NSU include players grabbing others' genitals in front of coaches, as well as holding down freshman players and sexually harassing them. Toscano also said that instead of reporting the behavior or disciplining the people responsible, one coach warned one player, "It will catch up with you."
Toscano said she and Fahey are exploring all their legal options. She also announced the creation of a nonprofit organization, Goal-Line Stand Together, which will raise awareness of the larger problem of sexual assault and hazing in American football.
Thursday afternoon, NSU responded to Fahey's allegations, saying they immediately launched an investigation into the matter when it was reported. The university also acquired the services of an external consulting firm, Rebecca Leitman Veidlinger, Esq., PLLC, which "specializes in investigating and adjudicating allegations of violations of Title IX including harassment, sexual misconduct, and assault."
You can read NSU's full statement below:
Norfolk State University cares about the safety and wellbeing of every student, faculty, and staff member. We have a “culture of care” at the institution, and we work diligently to address the needs of our community.
NSU is aware of allegations regarding the conduct of the NSU football program and immediately launched an investigation when the matter was reported. Subsequently, NSU also acquired the services of an external consulting firm, Rebecca Leitman Veidlinger, Esq., PLLC. This firm specializes in investigating and adjudicating allegations of violations of Title IX including harassment, sexual misconduct, and assault.
The firm is currently investigating the allegations. The University is prohibited by federal law from disclosing any information about any investigations involving students. We acknowledge that this can make it difficult for members of the public wanting to know more information.
We encourage anyone with any information regarding sexual misconduct, harassment, or any form of discrimination to please contact the Office of Institutional Equity at 757-278-4121