The Graffiti Artist and the Rapist

the star player of the basketball team had raped one of the women, and that she was only one of several women


In the fall of 1990 I had moved to Tampa, Florida to finish up a bachelors degree at the University of South Florida. As a transfer student working and carrying a full schedule at the same time I didn’t have a lot of spare time, but on this afternoon I decided to grab my camera kit and wander around campus looking for a good subject. USF in 1990 was a large campus sparsely covered by buildings with sidewalks that meandered from building to parking lot to building and so on.

On one of these sidewalks two coed students crouched down frantically drawing. They suddenly stood up and hurried farther down the walk and into the common area of one of the buildings. I approached the section of sidewalk where they had been working and found “Coach lets rape happen” scrawled in chalk. I grabbed my flash from my camera bag, connected the off camera cable to the camera and photographed the message.



Being new to the school, I was puzzled and a little shocked by the message so I followed them to the common area of the economics building. I looked around and found a flyer taped to the glass on the cigarette machine that resembled a ransom note.


By this time the sun was down and I continued my journey in darkness towards the Sun Dome. I hurried my pace wanting to catch up to the women and find out what, and who this was about. USF didn’t have a football team in 1990, but they did have basketball, soccer, baseball, softball and others teams that could have been the subject of the complaints. Luckily they were using a flashlight and I saw them not too far ahead. I jogged over to them and asked about the messages they were posting.

When I asked what this was about, they asked if I was working for the school paper, which I denied. I expected a relief, but they were hoping their messages would get published. They went on to tell me that the star player of the basketball team had raped one of the women, and that she was only one of several women that had been raped in the past year.

I wrote down their contact info and took a couple more photos of more graffiti and found my way to the Oracle newsroom where I introduced myself and passed along the story, and that I had photos to run. It would take a year of investigative reporting by other writers, editors and myself before the player in question was removed from the campus, but some degree of justice was meted out.




About the author David R. Wagner

Photographer, technologist, free-thinker.

All posts by David R. Wagner →

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