Editor’s note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a sexual assault survivor, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
A former North Carolina State football player sued the school in federal court on Tuesday, claiming he was sexually abused for years by the Wolfpack’s former director of sports medicine under the guise of treatment .
The lawsuit filed by Benjamin Locke accuses Robert Murphy Jr. of improperly touching his genitals during approximately 75 to 100 massages that he says lacked “legitimate” medical necessity between August 2015 and May 2017.
The lawsuit also alleges that another male athlete told the school Title IX office of his own claim during his investigation, which began earlier this year after Locke came forward and contacted university police. This athlete has not been identified.
During the Title IX investigation, the lawsuit says, Locke learned that former head coach Kelly Findley allegedly told a senior track and field official in February 2016 that Murphy “was in contact with student- male athletes who he believed were consistent with ‘grooming’ behavior.”
Murphy, who arrived in 2012 from Mercer, moved to more administrative duties in 2017 before being promoted in 2018 to associate athletic director. The school said Tuesday that Murphy was placed on administrative leave last January as part of the Title IX investigation. The lawsuit said Locke learned in June that Murphy was no longer working at NC State due to an “involuntary separation,” although the reasons were not disclosed.
The Title IX investigation ultimately found that “a violation would have been justified on the preponderance of the evidentiary standard” if Murphy had remained at NC State, according to a letter to Locke from the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity of school. According to the lawsuit, Murphy admitted to school investigators that he touched Locke’s genitals with his bare hands, but then declined further interviews.
Attorney Seth Blum, who worked with Murphy during the Title IX investigation, said Murphy performed “proper medical procedures that may include pro forma touching, but nothing that was ever sexual in nature. “.
“Mr. Murphy has consistently denied these allegations,” Blum told The Associated Press. “He denied them as part of the Title IX investigation and he denied them as they relate to this federal lawsuit.”
The AP does not generally identify those who say they have been sexually assaulted or abused, but Locke speaks out publicly. He arrived on campus in January 2015 at age 17 and never played for the Wolfpack due to injuries until transferring to Lipscomb, where he played from 2017-19 and graduated.
Locke told the AP he wanted to ‘shed light’ on his story and allow any other potential victims to come forward ‘instead of living with the burden, the fear and the outcome of what might have happened to them. “.
“I feel a lot of burden, I feel a lot of responsibility,” he said. “As it happened five, six, seven years ago, I still realize today the effects it has on different parts of my life. … There are times when I think to myself, ‘Oh, that still has an impact on me and my relationship with my wife’ or the intimacy I have with her. Or the relationships I have with others or my image of myself and the perception I have of myself- same.
Locke was seeking treatment for a lingering groin injury at the time of the alleged abuse. He said working with Lipscomb’s coaches led to a “complete awakening” that Murphy’s tactics seemed inappropriate. He said he dealt with depression and anxiety before seeking counseling in 2021.
The suit names Chancellor Randy Woodson, retired athletic director Debbie Yow and former assistant athletic director Sherard Clinkscales as defendants in watchdog roles. Specifically, he states that Findley — now Liberty’s head coach — informed Clinkscales of his concerns about Murphy’s conduct before Clinkscales left that year to become Indiana State’s athletic director.
“I have always been and will continue to be a protector and advocate for the welfare of all student-athletes,” Clinkscales wrote in a text message to The News and Observer of Raleigh. Yow declined to comment in a text message to the AP.
In a statement, NC State said campus police conducted an investigation earlier this year and did not file any criminal charges. The school said Locke’s decision to come forward in January “marked the first time the university has been made aware of the charges” by him or any other athlete.
North Carolina Department of Justice attorneys typically represent the school as a public entity. In an email, spokeswoman Nazneed Ahmed said the department was working with NC State “to determine appropriate representation in this matter.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, as well as asking the school to “identify and notify” any other potential victims from January 2012 through January 2022.