Former Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Newsday sportswriter Kat O’Brien told a harrowing story in an opinion piece for Sunday’s New York Times, in which she revealed that she was raped by a Major League Baseball player in 2002.
O’Brien said she was compelled to share her experience after news of former New York Mets general manager Jared Porter sending sexually explicit texts and photographs to a female reporter was reported. Though O’Brien hadn’t been a sportswriter for 11 years, reading other reporters’ accounts of their own ordeals with sexual harassment made her realize she needed to speak out.
The incident in question occurred in 2002, while O’Brien was working on a story about foreign-born players and how they adapted to life in Major League Baseball.
“I sat down in a hotel room with my interview subject. We spoke for a few minutes as I asked some questions and he answered. Then he moved suddenly to kiss me. I said, no, no, I don’t want that, but he pushed me over to the bed. I tried to shove him. I said no, stop, no, stop, over and over. He pushed further, getting on top of me, pulling off my skirt, and having sex with me against my will.”
Why didn’t she report what happened? Unfortunately, it’s for a reason we see all too often with stories like these, making the ordeal even more painful for the victims. O’Brien was one year out of college, had an opportunity to cover a major sport, and didn’t want telling anyone about the sexual assault to hurt her career.
“I was 22 with no track record, and at that time — nearly two decades ago — most people in baseball would have rallied to protect the athlete. So I blamed myself. I must have been too nice, too trusting, too friendly and open. Even though I said no, it must have been a misunderstanding. I lived in fear the story would get out.”
As if the assault itself wasn’t traumatic enough, O’Brien describes working in the visitors clubhouse at The Ballpark in Arlington and having an All-Star player stare at her, say her name, and the name of his teammate who had raped her. Word had gotten around. The attacker boasted of his actions to his fellow players and portrayed O’Brien as the worst assumption people make about women in the media.
Related: HBO’s Real Sports, Andrea Kremer profile female sports reporters recently sexually harassed, abused
It’s a troubling story to read, but O’Brien should be supported for sharing this in such a public forum. As she puts it in the NYT column, she’s found her voice.
What’s truly unfortunate — and, frankly, disgusting — is that such a climate existed that allowed the ballplayer to get away with an assault, that she felt people in the baseball industry wouldn’t support her claims and affect her profession. Yet by speaking out, O’Brien is trying to demonstrate that this ordeal doesn’t define her. She’s also directing a harsh spotlight on behavior that just can’t be tolerated.