The University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department is investigating how personal photos and video of the women’s volleyball team were shared online, according to a statement from the university’s athletic department.
While the university did not reveal the nature of the sensitive photos, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that they had received one of the images in question. The photo was reportedly taken after the team secured the Big Ten championship in November, and it shows some team members posing with their sports bras lifted. According to USA Today, most of the content has since been removed from the websites where they were posted without the player’s consent.
The athletic department immediately made clear in its statement that while the circulation of the photos was an absolute violation of the women and their bodies, the fact that the photos were taken to begin with is not the problem, preeminently shutting down any outdated “they asked for it” arguments. “UWPD is not investigating the volleyball student-athletes for wrongdoing in this matter,” the statement reads. “Our top priority is supporting our student-athletes and we are providing them with the appropriate services and resources.”
Members of the team contacted university police upon learning that the images were circulating on the internet, according to the university. The athletic department stated that police are investigating multiple crimes, including “sharing sensitive photos without consent.” The photos reportedly were taken on the phone of a team member, according to the Lacrosse Tribune, and police hope to uncover how the images became public.
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Badgers coach Kelly Sheffield reiterated that he fully supports the players, and there will be no disciplinary action for them. The UWPD told the Tribune it could not provide further comment due to the ongoing investigation and did not confirm if other agencies were investigating the case.
According to the Wisconsin State Legislature, revenge porn is illegal in Wisconsin. That means any “private representation”—a photo, motion picture, recording, or video—of a nude or partially nude subject or someone who is performing a sexual act, that’s shared without the subject’s consent, is considered a Class A misdemeanor.
Universities, and especially those that boast collegiate culture marked by rampant binge drinking, fraternities, and football teams, are not often regarded for their swift handling of sexual violence or sex crimes on campus (looking at you, Ohio State, Michigan State and University of Michigan). In this case, it appears the University of Wisconsin-Madison got ahead of the press by putting out a statement on Wednesday night explicitly supporting its players.
But the university’s seemingly appropriate condemnation doesn’t wipe out the gross violations the teammates suffered at a time of joyful celebration. So rarely do we get to see women in sports winning without complications, judgment, invalidation, or, in this case, scandal. But the game doesn’t stop for anyone: The women are set to take on Michigan State on Friday, marching forward, as women are often forced to do in the face of threats to our privacy and security.