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Lawsuit: Softball Hazing Drove Player To Suicidal Thoughts

Illustration for article titled Lawsuit: Softball Hazing Drove Player To Suicidal Thoughts

A former softball player at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia has sued the school in federal court, alleging that she was forced to drink, simulate sex, and was mocked for her sexual orientation as part the team’s hazing. The former player, who filed Monday as Jane Doe, says in her complaint she was “often reduced to tears and began having suicidal thoughts,” and head coach Terri Adams knew about the hazing but did nothing to stop it.


The team has already been suspended for the season in response to a university review of hazing among team members.

The lawsuit claims various violations, including Title IX, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract. It discusses how the former player was recruited to the Catholic university, with Adams and assistant coach Ron Shoemaker extolling how the program is “family oriented” and St. Joseph’s “sought to empower students by instilling Christian values including social justice, appreciation of diversity, tolerance,” according to the complaint.


The former player committed and arrived in the fall of 2013. From there, the lawsuit outlines how the hazing worked among softball players. Initiation week began with notes delivered to team members. Here are a few of them:

([Name of upperclass team member 1 redacted]): Freshmeat, you may have thought that you were a part of this team from the moment you walked onto the field. THAT IS NOT TRUE!! You are scum, low level swine, who only got a glimpse of this team from the outside. This is your deliverance week, a time to realize your place, the lowest rung on the totem pole! Remember that and never forget it. This week is time to show respect to your upperclassmen. You are not on this team just yet. You must make it through this week in order to fully understand the bond we have as teammates. I licked [Head Coach] Terri’s FUPA [Fat Upper Pussy Area]!!

([Name of upperclass team member 3 redacted]): Some general rules that must be followed by all...never allow anyone in an authoritative position in the university of your friends know what you are doing or why you are doing it. This is between the softball team and the softball team only!! If you break this trust you will suffer the worst of all consequences. [Head Coach] Terri has sexy facial hair!

([Name of upperclass team member 5 redacted]): Each of you is going to show us your true self this week based off of your Spice Hawk Identity. It is your job to figure out which spice you are; Sporty Puritan Hawk, Posh Clueless Hawk, Ginger “ ” Hawk, Baby Chatterbox Hawk, and Scary Frisky Hawk. Your costumes for Friday must be CREATIVE and reflect the spice hawk each of you represent! Lick a Dick!

([Name of upperclass team member 6 redacted]): You are NOT ALLOWED to use ANY form of social media (including Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook), WE WILL BE WATCHING! In addition to the rules in your personal letters that you will be receiving, as a group you are expected to have dinner together every night. You will sit together and no one else will sit with you and you WILL be checked on by an upperclassman. I’m an ass clown!!!

The complaint goes on to describe various things the freshmen had to do and, yes, some of it sounds like the pretty typical, stupid, sexualized stuff college students use to establish their hierarchies: cleaning people’s homes, drinking gross concoctions of random kitchen sauces, putting bananas between their legs with condoms on them, no looking upperclass softball team members in the eye, and lots of simulated sex and orgasms.

One particularly degrading act that Plaintiff recalls involved calling an upperclassman named by the nickname “Jersey Gem” and performing a sexually lewd dance referred to as a “Jersey Turnpike” in front of this upperclass member of the team. The term “Jersey Turnpike” refers to a sexually lewd act involving bending over ‘doggie style’ in front of another person and simulating intercourse;

But other requests were more dangerous or demeaning. Like this example:

Being forced to drink alcohol, including Jell-O shots, despite the fact that she was on medication and after informing the upperclassmen that she did not want to drink alcohol while on mediation because it was unsafe;

Or when the player was forced to answer questions about her sexual orientation:

Plaintiff recalls being asked about her sexual orientation, what sexual positions she likes, what sexual acts she had performed, to identify persons with whom she’s been sexually intimate and being asked questions about pornography;

In the middle of initiation week, the seniors said they were told by their coach that the administration found out about the hazing. But there was no formal investigation by the school, according to the complaint, and the harassment continued. The former player was given various nicknames—“Chaftey,” “Chafer,” “Chafty First,” “Queeffer,” and “Queeffing Thighs.” Adams knew about this and came up with nicknames of her own.

For instance, during Plaintiff’s freshman year and thereafter, Coach Adams started calling Plaintiff “Sippy” and/or “Sippy Shit in Pants” explaining that Plaintiff was worthless and was no better than “shit in pants.” Coach Adams called Plaintiff these demeaning and derogatory names in front of other members of the softball team, thereby humiliating, harassing and bullying Plaintiff.


She also claimed harassment for her perceived sexual orientation.

In addition, Plaintiff is and was constantly berated about her sexual orientation by other teammates who told her that she was gay and she should come out of the closet and other language to that effect. Moreover, other teammates who befriended Plaintiff were called lesbians for associating with Plaintiff.


The next fall brought little relief. Sophomores were told “that their initiation and hazing was picking up where it left off from their freshman year as the prior year’s initiation had been interrupted,” the complaint said. She got another nickname (Dirty Sanchez), and the same behavior continued. She says she began crying uncontrollably, felt like an outcast, and began having suicidal thoughts. Her mother spoke to Adams about her concerns in a meeting that lasted two or three hours and Adams said things would get better, the complaint said. But nothing changed.

When news reports about the possible hazing surfaced, players assumed she was the source of the leaks and threatened to “rip her head off and shove a softball down her throat,” the complaint said, and Adams allegedly told the players to “plead the fifth.” Assistant Coach Gary Falasca said the media found out because “their ‘parents had big mouths and need to learn to keep their fucking mouths shut’ or words to that effect,” according to the complaint.


The former eventually withdrew from the school. When local media reached out about the lawsuit, the university declined to comment. The full complaint as filed in federal court is below.


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