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Psychotherapist weighs in on stigma surrounding male victims of sexual assault after former Norfolk State football player's accusations

Shawn Fahey and Diane Toscano.png
Posted at 9:28 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 23:33:02-04

NORFOLK, Va.— News 3 continues to follow sexual assault accusations from a former Norfolk State University football player. According to the former student, he says he was sexually assaulted and hazed by his former teammates.

Shawn Fahey, the former student athlete, and his lawyer sat down for a press conference Thursday. His lawyer, Diane Toscano, believes this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual assault and hazing in football.

Fahey, a Virginia Beach native and Ocean Lakes High School graduate, said he reached his breaking point.

"I worried about having to defend myself physically from players who already have assaulted me. The bottom line was, I fear for my safety," said Fahey.

News 3 sat down with a psychotherapist who says for men who are victims of sexual assault, shame and stigma make coming forward complicated.

"They're socialized to be tough, to endure and to remain quiet," said licensed psychotherapist Dr. Sarah Williams.

"Whenever these incidents occurred, I tried to brush them off because it's not typical for guys to have to talk about this kind of stuff," Fahey said.

According to research from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment or sexual assault in their lifetime. However, Williams said she believes that number is higher.

"Males that are victims of sexual assault need to be encouraged to speak up and use their voice - to open up about the experience the same as we encouraged women," said Dr. Williams.

Toscano said the harassment included allowing players to grab others’ genitals in front of coaches and claims there's evidence of more shocking behaviors.

"One video recording that we have depicts this on a bed while others watched," she said.

Toscano added that Norfolk State has been aware of the issues for nearly a year and is asking for witnesses to come forward in the case.

Dr. Williams said press conferences like the one Thursday are a good first step to seeking answers.

"It's important for men to have that shared experience with other survivors so that they can get strength and feel more supported," said Williams.

With Fahey now anxious about his future, he shares a message to others in his shoes.

"There's nothing more important then your self worth, and if you see something like this to others, please step up," said Fahey.

NSU is aware of the accusations and released the following statement:

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
Norfolk State University