By Grace Potts, Wynn McDonald and Drew Troutman
The Bellarmine community was left reeling Tuesday by the news that female athletes were secretly filmed while changing in an away locker room between September 2012 and October 2013.
According to several news reports, the footage taken from a locker room at Limestone University in Gaffney, South Carolina, was posted to one of the world’s largest porn sites. The site has a policy that requires videos posted to have consent by those shown in the videos, and they have all been removed.
Bellarmine President Dr. Susan Donovan notified the campus community through an email, which condemned the crime and offered resources for concerned students. Now, university administrators are strategizing how to move forward and protect athletes in the future.
“We just want to be vigilant because it’s the greatest violation of private space,” Donovan said. “We don’t want to turn a blind eye to it and assume that just because it happened there, it couldn’t happen somewhere else.”
According to the Courier Journal website, “Police in Gaffney, South Carolina, told local news outlets that Limestone College officials were made aware of five videos that showed five different women’s athletic teams showering and changing clothes in the men’s soccer team locker room.”
This invasion of privacy has left many students concerned for their own rights to privacy.
Junior Alexa Foster, a former Bellarmine softball player, said. “It would really make you question whether or not that was the only time that happened and if that happens more often than you think,” she said.
Locker rooms are seen as a safe space to athletes, Foster said.
“A locker room is supposed to be somewhere that you are safe to do whatever you need to do, like change or shower, and it’s just very unfortunate that present and future athletes may not feel safe doing that somewhere now,” she said.
Hailey Wachter, a junior at Bellarmine, said: “As a female, we suffer from self -confidence issues enough, having this happen, unknowingly, only increases those issues, especially when it was unknown. I hope that the issues are being handled properly and help is offered to those affected by the situation.”
Donovan said school officials were notified of the incident over the weekend and immediately reached out to the students involved, all of whom have graduated. Bellarmine is not releasing information about which team or teams were recorded at Limestone.
“We wanted to make sure that they didn’t hear from others, that we were contacting them directly and offering support,” she said.
Donovan said Bellarmine will take preventative measures going forward. This will begin with a comprehensive review of campus facilities, including residence halls, and could possibly result in implementing card readers as well as regular security inspections.
“While this happened at another campus, and you don’t think it would ever happen here, we want to do everything to prevent that from happening,” she said.
Donovan’s email listed Bellarmine’s Counseling Center as a resource for students looking to speak to someone about sexual harassment or misconduct. The Counseling Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Counseling is free and confidential for all Bellarmine students.
Assistant Director Dr. Melissa Gibson said counseling is available for all students no matter what their presenting problem is.
“Our full-time staff members are licensed professionals in the field of psychology,” Gibson said. “We also have trainees from local doctoral programs who are under the supervision of one of us (Gibson or Counseling Center Director Dr. Gary Petiprin).”
Gibson also encourages students to take advantage of resources in the community.
“We do have a short-term model, so sometimes we can only meet with them for a consultation and then we refer them out to community resources,” Gibson said. “Louisville’s really lucky to have a lot of resources for a variety of mental health needs, specifically for survivors of sexual violence or trauma and dating violence.”
Gibson said the Center for Women and Families is a free resource in the community for all people who live in Louisville or Southern Indiana.
Students can call the Counseling Center at (502) 272-8480 or email Dr. Gary Petiprin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students facing a mental health emergency after hours can call Campus Security at (502) 272-7777. Campus Security will then contact a counselor who can help. Students also can call the Seven Counties Crisis Line at (502) 589-4313 or call 911.
Bellarmine officials have spoken with Gaffney Police and the FBI as details continue to emerge regarding the incident. In the meantime, Donovan urged female students to be cautious of suspicious activity and to come forward with any concerns.
“We want them to be vigilant for themselves, but I’m not satisfied with that,” she said. “We’re just going to have to figure out our best practices to ensure that it doesn’t happen.”