CLICK HERE if you are having a problem viewing the photos on a mobile device
GILROY — Lorenzo Lares-Garcia, a sophomore defensive end for the Gilroy High School Mustangs, wanted to quit playing football after allegations that four football players sexually assaulted a teammate in the locker room rocked this tight-knit community.
“Honestly, when everybody quit it made me lose my enthusiasm to play,” Lares-Garcia said. “I just didn’t have it anymore, either.”
But Lares-Garcia, 16, and about a half dozen other varsity players were on the field Thursday night with the junior varsity football team, 10 days after Gilroy administrators canceled the rest of the season, saying that the majority of team members decided against continuing after the alleged assault.
Lares-Garcia said he returned after friends and family members encouraged him to play. The varsity players joined the JV team at Garcia-Elder Stadium for a stripped-down edition of one of California’s most storied rivalries, pitting Gilroy against San Benito-Hollister.
Affectionately known in these farm towns as the Prune Bowl, the game has taken place since the 1920s and the stands are usually full. But Thursday’s game was sparsely attended, kicking off under soft, yellow October light in front of only about 300 spectators, 36 cheerleaders and no marching band. The crowd was subdued as the home team sputtered on offense, to lose 15-6.
“Even though it is JV it still is worth it,” Lares-Garcia said.
He said when he and the other players move back to varsity next season they “won’t make the same mistake we had this year. They won’t mess around. They will be more mature.”
Experts on hazing and sexual assault say locker room incidents have increased in recent years, although they acknowledge they do not have good data about how prevalent the problem has become. But cases like the alleged Gilroy attack have led educators in the Bay Area and nationally to begin addressing a culture they believe breeds such behavior in team sports.
“The era of toxic masculinity is coming to an end,” said Nelson Gifford, Palo Alto High School football coach and athletic director. “It is our responsibility to guide these young men to a healthier sense of self and identity — one that doesn’t rely on dominance or conflict to be the singular, defining characteristic of masculinity.”
The alleged assault occurred in the locker room after a Sept. 26 practice and was relayed to school administrators and officials at Gilroy Unified School District, who notified police, authorities said. Details about the allegations, including the names of the students involved in the incident, have been withheld by the school district and authorities because they are minors.
The accused students were arrested, suspended from school, issued juvenile citations for sexual battery and released to their parents, police said.
Gilroy police Capt. Joseph Deras said this week that his department had concluded its portion of the case. A Santa Clara County District Attorney spokesman said his department could not confirm or deny the existence of a case involving minors. As a result, it is unclear what, if any, consequences, the players involved will face.
Neither Deborah Flores, superintendent of the Gilroy Unified School District, nor Martin Enriquez, the Gilroy High principal, responded to interview requests from this news organization. Mustangs athletic director, Justin Pors, declined to comment, saying he had been directed to forward all inquiries to the school district office.
But in a recent email sent by Enriquez to the parents of varsity team players, Enriquez said, “It is my intention to take a close look at the culture of our athletic department and sports teams as we identify acceptable behavior and expectations of conduct for student-athletes.”
Richard Delapaz, whose son Richard was a senior running back and free safety on the varsity team, said he is upset that the season was canceled because it penalizes players who had nothing to do with the allegations.
“I don’t believe there is policy over this,” said Delapaz, a Los Baños real estate agent. “There’s not a playbook, because it doesn’t happen every day. It’s tough because you want to do the right thing all across the board.”
Frankie Delgado, whose son Frankie is a freshman on the junior varsity team, said parents were told at a meeting with school officials last week that students no longer were allowed in locker rooms without adult supervision. Still, Delgado told his son, 13, to fight back if anyone tries to touch him.
“He’s worried about that,” Delgado said of his son. “He said he doesn’t want to fight anyone. I told him, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t want you to fight anybody, but you have to defend yourself.’”
Junior varsity football coach Sam DeLeon, a former Gilroy High player whose son now is on the Mustangs team, said after the game Thursday night that he was shocked when he heard about the incident. But he also said he has not used the situation as a teachable moment for his JV players.
“We keep this as their sacred ground here and keep all the negativity out,” he said. “They don’t deserve it. We don’t talk about it. But we do make sure these kids don’t horseplay.”
Sam Pena, a member of the 1989 and ’90 Gilroy varsity football teams and now the Mustangs game announcer, said the situation has been embarrassing for a school two years removed from winning its first Central Coast Section title in history.
“We were in SI.com for the wrong reason,” Pena said, referring to the Sports Illustrated website.
An Associated Press investigation in 2017 found 70 cases of high school sports-related incidents over a five-year period, starting in 2011. But experts said such numbers probably are low because most attacks go unreported.
In the last 20 years, locker room incidents have become more frequent, more humiliating and more the norm in high schools, according to Susan Lipkins, author of “Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers, and Coaches Can Stop the Violence, Harassment, and Humiliation.”
“The quickest way to say I have power and you have none is to humiliate you sexually,” said Lipkins, a New York psychologist who has been called as an expert witness in cases involving high school athletes. “With boys, it is sodomy or some kind of penetration or some kind of threat of that.”
Lipkins and other experts say the behavior has become so normalized on some teams that players who were assaulted in some cases become the perpetrators as upperclassmen.
B. Elliot Hopkins, an executive with the National Federation of State High School Associations, said many freshmen athletes now elect to shower at home after practice because they don’t want to be exposed to ridicule or embarrassment.
“Kids are afraid to take showers for the fear of having some kind of incident,” he said.
Most cases go unreported, experts say, because of shame, and the fear of being ostracized by teammates or the community, and because players don’t want to risk their standing on a team.
“It isn’t like the #MeToo movement, where young men come out the way women came out,” said Hank Nuwer, author of “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives, Wrongs of Passage, High School Hazing.” “It is embarrassing, but the light has to shine on it and it is not in a lot of places.”
Details of incidents often only become public when a victim’s family files a civil suit against a school district or players are charged as adults, as was the case last year in Maryland when authorities said several junior varsity players sexually assaulted four freshman teammates using a broomstick.
The cases were transferred to juvenile court, where Montgomery County judges closed the hearing to the public. A report of an investigation by the school district released this week said that the locker room at Damascus High School, a three-time reigning state football champion at the time of the episode, was unsupervised during the 25 minutes when the incidents occurred.
Bay Area coaches and athletic administrators said the Gilroy incident and others like it have triggered renewed discussions with athletes about appropriate behavior.
Monte Vista-Danville football coach Matt Russi has created something he calls “Wisdom Wednesday,” where coaches talk to the players about issues like hazing and bullying that they say can cultivate an unhealthy culture.
Every social issue from concussions to dehydration to eating disorders has received heightened awareness, said Leo Lopoz, De La Salle High School’s athletic director and East Bay Athletic League commissioner.
“Parents are more complicated,” he said. “Students, how they are growing up, are more complicated.”
Delgado, the father of a Gilroy freshman, said the climate now is very different from when he was a teenager.
“It’s not like when I grew up, with tough skin and you don’t talk about it and we just move on,” he said. “My son says, ‘We can’t forget about what happened in the locker room. It’s something serious.’”
Central Coast Section Commissioner Duane Morgan, though, noted that proper adult supervision can head off many potential problems.
“The No. 1 rule in coaching is you never leave kids alone,” he said. “That’s coaching 101 right there.”
Lipkins, however, the expert witness for cases involving athletes, said she doubts much will change until victims of such sexual assaults organize a #MeToo moment of their own.
“Outside of that I don’t have a lot of hope,” she said.
Staff writers Vytas Mazeika and Darren Sabedra contributed to this report.
- Testimony alleging past Weinstein sexual assaults bolstered difficult case
- DAY OF RECKONING: Harvey Weinstein found guilty of rape and sexual assault
- Harvey Weinstein found guilty of rape and sexual assault
- Everything You Need to Know About the Sexual Assault Allegations Against Donald Trump Before Election Day
- Read the 12-Page Letter by the Stanford Sexual Assault Victim to Her Attacker: 'I Had No Power, I Had No Voice, I Was Defenseless'
- Harvey Weinstein convicted of sexual assault in win for #MeToo movement but is acquitted of being a serial predator
- The Fall of Bill Cosby: From America's TV Dad to Imprisoned for Sexual Assault
- Harvey Weinstein convicted of sexual assault, but acquitted of being a serial predator
- Michigan High School Football Player Dies After Undergoing Knee Surgery
- Harvey Weinstein found guilty of rape in sexual assault trial
- He Held Her Down, Choked Her, And Masturbated Onto Her. The Law Said It Wasn’t Sexual Assault.
- Harvey Weinstein verdict in New York makes a conviction in L.A. more likely, experts say
- Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape, in victory for #MeToo movement
- Weinstein convicted of sexual assault, rape, in milestone verdict for #MeToo movement
- She Protested Against Campus Rape Culture After Being Sexually Assaulted. Then Her School Banned Her For Life.
- Who are the 22 'most wanted' men accused of sexually assaulting and exploiting children?
- Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape, in turning point for #MeToo movement
- Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault
- Media Outlet Tied To Qatar Tricks Young Liberal Americans Into Spreading Anti-American Propaganda, Experts Say
- 'I hope those handcuffs are tight': Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Gretchen Carlson and Ronan Farrow praise Harvey Weinstein's accusers as the producer is found guilty of rape and sexual assault in stunning verdict
Gilroy High football players struggle after alleged locker room sexual assault. Experts say such attacks are increasing. have 1860 words, post on www.mercurynews.com at October 12, 2019. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.