This is the story of what happens when a naïve 15-year-old prodigy collides with an upward-reaching football program, some of whose players feel like they own the campus.
May 31, 2002 10:17 AM   Subscribe

This is the story of what happens when a naïve 15-year-old prodigy collides with an upward-reaching football program, some of whose players feel like they own the campus. Brittany Benefield started college at age 15 with the dream of finishing law school before she turned 21. Didn't quite work out that way, and hers is an amazing story. Take the time to read this, and think about it. Would you fault her parents, for letting her get into something she wasn't ready for; the university, for letting this get out of control; the football program, for running roughshod over the school; or Brittany, for her own decisions?
posted by msacheson (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i'm not sure who to blame -- seems, again, like the parents pressured the kid too hard. but no one -- 15 or 18, the normal age for a freshman -- should be put in that kind of situation.

i worked as a police reporter in a college town; and yes, football and basketball players walk like they own the joint. at that big 10 school, they did. but there, women (hell, girls) lined up for the privilege; i didn't see anyone checking id's for age.

this poor girl will spend years trying to repair her psyche... sad story all around.
posted by krewson at 10:22 AM on May 31, 2002

What an awful, awful, awful story.
posted by aaronshaf at 10:26 AM on May 31, 2002

Double Post. Though still worthy of discussion.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:27 AM on May 31, 2002

The miracle baby is 17 now, but despite a heavy dusting of midnight-blue eye shadow, she still looks like an apple-cheeked 14-year-old. She does clerical work in her mom's office; she can't afford to go back to college. Instead, she attends weekly substance-abuse sessions. Her meetings with a rape counselor are down from four a week to just one. Three years ago, she chased life at warp speed. Now she barely makes it from day to day. There are moments when she'll sit on her bed and just zone out.
posted by aaronshaf at 10:30 AM on May 31, 2002

Thanks, BlueTrain. Sorry 'bout the double. (This ESPN story does have more detail and insight into her story though).

I'd say that, while her parents may not have pushed her, they certainly should have pulled her back from the awkward situation of living alone on campus. The pressure to fit in was overwhelming.
posted by msacheson at 10:32 AM on May 31, 2002

There's a world of difference between a 15-year-old and a college student. She needed more than paid tuition to survive in that situation, too bad no one realized it until it was too late. I can't imagine a worse scenario than having a kid in a college dorm.
posted by tommasz at 10:34 AM on May 31, 2002

I won't take this opportunity to once again rant about how awful college sports players are and how many women I knew at CU Boulder were raped by players and how players are allowed to do whatever they want because all the schools care about is money... (or did I just?)

This girl was 15!! That's rape even if she was begging for it. That was made clear to the players and coaches, who tried half-heartedly to get them to stop. This poor girl's life is ruined and these nasty, horrible, violent, disgusting football players won't get a thing done to them. They will go on, play pro ball, and continue to rape women, perhaps even beat up and kill women, and do what they want. The whole thing is pathetic. We wonder where it starts? Perhaps we shouldnt....
posted by aacheson at 10:37 AM on May 31, 2002

No need to apologize. The past thread simply had some interesting insight and I felt this thread could benefit from that discussion.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:40 AM on May 31, 2002

This girl was ill-prepared for life on her own. For that I blame the parents, not the college.
posted by revbrian at 10:48 AM on May 31, 2002

hmm, who to blame? The adults who abused the child. And the parents who made a poor choice in lettting a child live in a college dorm. Even a worldly 15 year old shouldn't live in a college dorm. Hell, most 18 year olds shouldn't be living in a college dorm!
posted by culberjo at 10:51 AM on May 31, 2002

Brittany pauses briefly before the words spill out.

"Never trust anyone."

That's what I'm going to tell my sister before she goes to college, a year early.

This girl was ill-prepared for life on her own. For that I blame the parents, not the college.

Bullshit. In loco parentis- the school should have been the surrogate guardian for this child. So what if they were inexperienced, ill equipped, or they just thought it was ok for college football players to rape a child. I can imagine the criminals who did this saying "oh, it's really her parents fault she's here, we aren't responsible for our actions." The same goes for the faculty, the trustees, or whoever, they are all accessories to this horrible story. This is just one public example of jock rape that happens all across the country.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:55 AM on May 31, 2002

Before this turns to blaming college sports. The players were told DO NOT GO NEAR THE GIRL, if you do you will most likely go to jail. There is plenty of blame to spread around here, the parents who assumed a 15 year old could handle being constantly alone at college, the adminstrators who basically recruited the girl and then ignored her, the brain dead players who thought with the little head, and of course the mascot who also went in.
posted by patrickje at 10:56 AM on May 31, 2002

this is one of the saddest stories i've read in a while.

i like sports a lot. i never used to. my heroes aren't always the best players. one of my heroes is a man who played for the chicago bears in the '70s and '80s named walter payton. he spoke with a very soft, high-pitched voice; they called him "sweetness." he was one of the best running backs to have played in the NFL and one of the kindest men to have played the game. he passed away a couple of years ago.

there aren't many men like him anymore, if there ever were. what remains are spoiled brats whose only concessions are to bark "yes coach" when the old man with the clipboard comes around. there aren't many men.

all that said, i don't think i would ever send my son or daughter away to be alone at a college like this girl was sent to be. that's the problem with prodigy; you can skip out of the education, but you do so at the risk of skipping out on maturity and experience. there has to be a better way.
posted by moz at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2002

The complaints even allege that an employee of the UABPD and the student who plays Blaze, the school's mascot, came knocking on Brittany's door.

That's hitting rock bottom: sex with the school mascot.
posted by mrhappy at 11:02 AM on May 31, 2002

[Bullshit. In loco parentis- the school should have been the surrogate guardian for this child. ]

Perhaps the parents should have made sure this was happening? I sure as hell wouldn't take the school at it's word when it came to my son.
posted by revbrian at 11:03 AM on May 31, 2002

The college administration is legally at-fault. The girl was a child, and the college took guardianship for her. In doing so, they accepted responsibility for ensuring her safety and monitoring her behaviour.

The adult college students who had sex with her are also legally at-fault. They knowingly had sex with an underage child, and knowingly assisted her in illegal drug use. In doing so, they knowingly committed criminal offenses. Don't do the crime if you don't want to do the time.

The parents are not legally at-fault. They are, however, guilty of naiveity. The sound like they're a couple of old hicks who've lived their entire lives in the middle of nowhere, with little idea of what goes on in this big ol' world. Certainly they should have kept closer tabs on the situation: trusting the college and students was irresponsible.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:08 AM on May 31, 2002

It is her own fault, even at 15 you know right from wrong. Perhaps her parents are at fault for being too protective; then all of a sudden she is thrown into College and she has complete freedom. Many people can't handle that change even at 18.
posted by LinemanBear at 11:19 AM on May 31, 2002

She went from never having kissed a boy to having sex with three different men in three days. She went from not even having a taste of alcohol to smoking pot in three days. How could a school system be expected to prevent that?

When in doubt, blame those who have the most money.
posted by eas98 at 11:25 AM on May 31, 2002

When I hit college in the big city (NYC) at age 16, my parents were adamant -- I lived with my 2 aunts for two years. I thank heaven for that, because I know that I would've been in a world of trouble, academically at the very least, otherwise.

A 15 year old, alone, isolated, friendless, not being supervised or mentored or even checked upon by anyone is a ticking time bomb. Either they will self-destruct on their own, or they will be helped to it as Brittany was eased down the garden path to hell by footballers bearing beer and pot. Should she have known better? Yes, absolutely, but all kids should know better than to do some of the things that they inevitably do, that's why they have parents, to help them figure out how to fix things when they screw up. This girl had no one.

I hope that when her story is said and done, she will have regrouped, reconnected with her initial motivating spirit, and finished her degree somewhere -- perhaps a school where football players and girls dormitories never meet.
posted by Dreama at 11:32 AM on May 31, 2002

This is a terrible and very astutely written story. The part that got me:

Some players don't deny bad things happened with the 15-year-old prodigy, they just downplay how bad things really were. "We think they're just trying to get money out of the school," says one player not named in the suit. "There's not much we can do about it. I just hope it doesn't make the team look too bad."

That this cretin actually thinks that this action is a business transaction rather than an effort to collect damages for the years of therapy and loss of years that poor Britttany will encounter is one of the more telling revelations of the ignoble human animal that sometimes masquerades as a college football player. And apparently there isn't much the team can do about it. (Oh, like abandon the macho BS and stop preying upon hapless freshmen?) How many others have these rodents molested? And how many of these poor women are afraid to stand up to these goons?
posted by ed at 11:40 AM on May 31, 2002

"It is her own fault, even at 15 you know right from wrong."

Since when is it "wrong" to have sex with someone? It's not a black and white area. For her, having sex with someone isn't "wrong" or "right". It is however "wrong" for a 19/20 year old football player to take advantage of a shy, lonely, depressed 15 year old girl.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:52 AM on May 31, 2002

fucking hell. the evidence of statutory rape (and who knows what else) is there for anyone who wants it, but it doesn't sound like anyone is going to be charged. this is appalling.
posted by zerolucid at 11:54 AM on May 31, 2002

exactly my thought. a civil suit and no criminal prosecution for statutory rape is beyond comprehension
posted by matteo at 12:05 PM on May 31, 2002

It is her own fault, even at 15 you know right from wrong. There are so many things wrong with this, it's hard to start.

Perhaps she did know right from wrong, but the pressures on 15 year old girls to fit in and be liked is so overwhelming and so intense, it's hard to fathom (especially to a man, Lineman Bear.) Additionally, since she was home-schooled, she wasn't accustomed to being a teenager in the public eye. It must have felt so horrible. Then she finds a way to become "popular," and even better, be popular within the popular people's group! Nirvana to a teenager. I could totally see how it happened. I had a hard enough time being 15 and living with my parents, I can't imagine having to be 15 and living in a dorm surrounded by predatory men who feel like they own the school and nothing can touch them (which, apparently, is true.)

As for it being her own fault, it's only her fault in that she is a 15 year old girl, alone, confused, hormones raging, and under extreme pressure. Everything else is the fault of the men who took advantage of her, first and foremost. Then the school administration for letting it happen. Then her parents for sending their 15 year old to college. (Even though they got the assurances from the school, they still should have been there.)

LinemanBear, let's hope you never have a 15 year old girl.
posted by aacheson at 12:45 PM on May 31, 2002

If Matt had a dime for every time a campus athletic star committed date rape, only to have the university cover it up afterwards, MeFi wouldn't have server time outs--ever.
posted by BentPenguin at 1:00 PM on May 31, 2002

It's the player's fault. They are the one who were in the room and they are responsible for their behavior. She was 15. They got her drunk. They raped her.

It doesn't matter if the players knew how old she was. If they had sex with her, they are guilty of statutory rape.

Linemanbear, I hope you're trolling.
posted by donpardo at 1:08 PM on May 31, 2002

NEWS ! We now learn that 15 years old girl, and many times even 30+ years old men or woman need to learn how to become self-confident and discriminating!

That isn't news, that's human life ! It's obvious that a 15 years old girl, even if gifted, has a lot of things to learn about life outside the class. She needs a parent with her and a good one that can explain her how life is lived when one gradually grows older, and how to deal with older people. Letting a 15 years old live like she's 18+ is nonsense, she isnt yet. 3 years from 15 to 18 are seem to be just 3 years, but they're extremely importat , a transition phase from kid to young male or female.

It's NOT ONLY about sex ! It's about living with people, deciding when it's time to say yes or no, learning how not to be influenced by other opinions's becoming an adult and a lot of people, even 30+ years old aren't adult yet.

Guess that this girl was not ready to show enough self-respect, but ready to have sex. She inconsciusly mixed the two things, connecting self-respect=respect from others=sex with people I want to receive some sort of appreciaton from. Unholy mess , she was ill-prepared for that.

And again religion... SEX IS NOT BAD ! Repeat with me SEX IS NOT BAD OR EVIL ! Don't be distracted by the religious idea that sex is bad, it isn't ! It's not forbidden, it's not insane, you will not rot in hell for sex. You'll probably have a lot of problems if you don't learn how to say "YES" and "NO" with confidence, that's 99,9999% sure.

Damn distorted religions, damn old parents who consciously or inconsciously want to quit their life task, the one of being full-time parents.
posted by elpapacito at 1:12 PM on May 31, 2002

Is this proof that homeschooled kids have trouble interacting with non-homeschooled kids? The South Park episode with the homeschooled kids was just on -- that little girl became a whore too. Anyone seen if this girl was hot or not?
posted by uftheory at 1:16 PM on May 31, 2002

If this thread was a person, I'd kick him in the nuts.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:22 PM on May 31, 2002

If uftheory was right here, I'd kick him in the nuts.
posted by SpecialK at 1:47 PM on May 31, 2002

So two people make a wrong decision, and it takes two to tango, and now just the guy is at fault? I don't think so. She wasn't forced to do anything, and if succumbing to peer pressure is her defense, i'm sorry but that is no excuse. If she couldn't handle the next step in life, i.e. going to college, living in the dorms and experiencing the college lifestyle etc, then she shouldn't have gone in the first place. She could have had an off campus apartment, or commuted, etc.

That being said, the guy is at fault because current laws in Alabama state (rape in the second degree):

Sexual Assault Laws of Alabama

13A-6-61. Rape in the first degree

A male commits the crime of rape in the first degree if:

He engages in sexual intercourse with a female by forcible compulsion; or He engages in sexual intercourse with a female who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated; or He, being 16 years or older, engages in sexual intercourse with a female who is less than 12 years old.

13A-6-62. Rape in the second degree

A male commits the crime of rape in the second degree if :

Being 16 years old or older, he engages in sexual intercourse with a female less than 16 and more than 12 years old; provided, however, he is at least two years older than the female.

He engages in sexual intercourse with a female who is incapable of consent by reason of being mentally defective.
posted by LinemanBear at 1:55 PM on May 31, 2002

I guess the main question here is whether more or less the same thing would have happened to brittany in high school. It's by no means unheard of for 15 year olds to experiment with drugs and sex, be coerced by peers, or do stupid things in the pursuit of acceptance. The seniors in a high school football team could have just about as much power over a freshman as these college students. The differences would have been a) she would not have automatic notoriety as the 15 year old prodigy - though apparently her first encounter was with a student who didn't know who she was - and b) she would have lived at home. It seems to me that basically everyone involved is at fault to some degree, but in my head the order is football players, brittany, parents, school.
posted by mdn at 2:03 PM on May 31, 2002

Who were the administration and coaches at that school? Catholic Priests?
posted by srboisvert at 2:20 PM on May 31, 2002

uh, what about the way the story portrays the love tetrahegon (sp) that brittany participated in against her will?
posted by pxe2000 at 2:28 PM on May 31, 2002

bah, i commented on this last time it was posted, and i'm reminded again of just how bad this story made me feel. it made me want to not believe in anyone, at least not in the "inherent good" in anyone...

everyone involved was stupid. i know there's much more to it than that, but at the moment, that's the only explanation for atrocities like this that my head will accept.
posted by lotsofno at 2:29 PM on May 31, 2002


So two people make a wrong decision, and it takes two to tango, and now just the guy is at fault? I don't think so. She wasn't forced to do anything, and if succumbing to peer pressure is her defense, i'm sorry but that is no excuse.

the whole point of the statuatory rape law is not just to put dodgy men in prison. it's to establish a social standard and legal assumption that if you are below the age of consent, you cannot reasonably be expected to accept blame for the consequences of your sexual activity.

If she couldn't handle the next step in life, i.e. going to college, living in the dorms and experiencing the college lifestyle etc, then she shouldn't have gone in the first place.

that's assuming quite a bit of wisdom for a 15 year-old. on this point you could blame the parents, and i think they do share some of the blame. i don't think you can blame the girl in this case.
posted by moz at 2:29 PM on May 31, 2002

This is a sad story - I can't think of anyone I know who was properly mature at 15 - thats why its second degree rape to do what happened. She should have chilled and gone to college at the normal time - hindsight is great, being 20:20 and all..
posted by Mossy at 3:13 PM on May 31, 2002

There were a number of 15 and 16-year-olds who went to my college (no, it wasn't Bard, although that might have been a good place for Brittany) and most of them did just fine. While it seems pretty obvious in hindsight that UAB might not be the best place for an academic prodigy of any age, I'd really hate to see this get cast as another "psycho parents force child to perform" story. The real problem is with the educational system that holds kids like her back. Maybe she would have done better taking a few classes at the local community college, but based on my experiences with kids who start college young, there's no reason to discount the idea entirely. Most of them were well-adjusted socially, and one became a Rhodes Scholar.
posted by transona5 at 4:10 PM on May 31, 2002

What a badly written story.

I'm not done yet, but I just read this:

Of the roughly 700 men who lived on campus, nearly one in nine played for Brown. They literally had the run of the place.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone knows how literally is supposed to be used.
posted by jragon at 4:13 PM on May 31, 2002

When I was 14 I went through a similar experience, going from a very strict environment to a very lax one. I, too, soon became involved w/ alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity. However, all the boys were just that, boys. They were all my age. Oh, and there was no school to blame.

So, speaking as a voice w/ some experience, here is my opinion. Her parents are ultimately responsible, she is their child. She is not without blame, a child raised in a strict environment knows better than to drink underage. In this case, the school is also accountable, because the student was a minor, and had allegedly made promises to the parents.

However, 80 million? Give me a break.
posted by Miss Beth at 5:48 PM on May 31, 2002

the great fault here was made by the parents, i would never let my child to live alone in college…

i'm really starting to feel uncomfortable by the new kind of football players. they think they are all-powerful and i can't stand it. someone should teach them a lesson
posted by trismegisto at 7:09 AM on June 1, 2002

i didn't bother to read the story, but sports doesn't belong in school. mash a cream pie in a jocks face today. some poor kid'll be glad you did.
posted by quonsar at 3:55 PM on June 1, 2002

This story really sickens me. A couple of points: Brittany's family home in Childersburg is a straight shot to Birmingham, about a half-hour drive, maybe twice that in heavy traffic. There is no reason she couldn't have commuted to school.

UAB's football program is now and forever shall be a joke. It's a money sink and no one gives a damn about the Blazers anyway. For years, UAB athletics was all about basketball, they fielded a decent team, they played Division 1A schools, and they sold out UAB Arena regularly. It's a damn shame that UAB has an institutional inadequacy complex. They don't need a football team. They need more dorms, more parking, better security, and an expanded undergraduate liberal arts program.

On the flip side, if I ever need serious medical attention, I'm damn glad to be in Birmingham, because UAB is one of the best teaching hospitals in the country, has one of the country's top AIDS clinics, and is affiliated with the best orthopedic and cardiothoracic surgeons around.

But, it's Alabama, so if it ain't foobaw no one considers it praiseworthy.

She should have gone to Samford.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:01 PM on June 2, 2002

I didn't read the whole story, but when was the girl raped?
posted by delmoi at 9:17 PM on June 2, 2002

did you read the thread either?
posted by mdn at 6:39 AM on June 4, 2002

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