Trevor Bauer’s Major League Misogyny Harms Survivors

The Trevor Bauer case exemplifies Major League Baseball’s major problem with domestic violence. It’s long past time for change.

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The third annual Women’s March Iowa inside the rotunda of the Iowa State Capitol in 2019. (Phil Roeder / Flickr)

“Talking about it is traumatic, but not talking about it is as traumatic in a different way,” wrote Kat O’Brien about the sexual assault she endured at the hands of a Major League Baseball player in 2002. A former sports journalist, O’Brien told her story in The New York Times this summer after keeping her assault a secret since she was 22.

Following the #MeToo movement, we’ve seen an outpouring of support for women reclaiming their power after suffering abuse in male-dominated industries. O’Brien said times were different back then, and if she spoke up, “Most people in baseball would have rallied to protect the athlete.” 

In recent years, we’ve seen multiple MLB players—some as recently as 2021—suspended for domestic violence.

Today, the San Francisco Giants’ Alyssa Nakken is the first female coach in MLB history, and Kim Ng, general manager of the Miami Marlins, is the highest-ranking female executive in baseball. Maybe the MLB has begun to learn a thing or two about accountability for violence against women since the days of O’Brien’s assault. Maybe it does make space for women to feel safe, equal and supported. 

But O’Brien’s revelation came just over a week before Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer was placed on administrative leave after a 27-year-old woman accused him of sexually assaulting and beating her on two occasions. The winner of last year’s coveted Cy Young Award, Bauer is known as a controversial figure, especially since becoming a social media star for trolling on Twitter and pulling pranks on teammates for YouTube views. In 2018 he said, “I’m good at two things in this world: throwing baseballs and pissing people off.”


O’Brien said times were different back then, and if she spoke up, “Most people in baseball would have rallied to protect the athlete.” 


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Trevor Bauer is on leave while authorities decide whether to charge him in an alleged sexual assault. (Instagram)

The accuser, known only as Ms. Hill, reported that Bauer choked her until she lost consciousness, anally raped her while she was asleep, and punched her in several places on her body. Since then, Bauer’s fan base has contributed to Reddit threads and tweetstorms attacking Hill with common refrains including, “She was asking for it,” “Rough sex shouldn’t end an athlete’s career” and “Free Trevor Bauer.” 

While Bauer has remained relatively quiet during the investigation, he broke his silence in August in response to a Washington Post article about allegations from another woman. The article detailed the case of a Cleveland woman who, like Hill, sought an order of protection against Bauer in 2020 after he nonconsensually punched and choked her during sex, leaving her with injuries. He responded by tweeting a litany of screenshots of a text conversation between himself and the woman, to show that she was the one who had initiated contact and that he did not want to be involved with her. 

He called her “insane,” told her to “get ahold of herself,” refused to see her after she traveled to meet with him, and then flat out ignored her. For victims of abusive relationships, his behavior is all too familiar. The texts, which Bauer seemed to think would vindicate him and contradict the Post piece, only confirmed something we already knew: He is an expert gaslighter. In a 2019 Sports Illustrated profile, Bauer disclosed feeling like everyone “hated” him, a classic narcissistic manipulation strategy.

“I just couldn’t figure out why everyone hated me. I used to feel really bad for myself,” said Bauer. “Why don’t I have any friends? Why don’t girls like me? … Am I really that bad of a person?”  

Anyone who has been abused, especially by a romantic partner, recognizes this pattern: playing the victim to gain sympathy (“everyone hates me”), bullying to maintain control (“you’re crazy”), and once they’ve gotten what they wanted, the silent treatment. For survivors who love baseball, it’s maddening to realize how normalized—and even celebrated—Bauer’s behavior has been. 

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Kat O’Brien. (Twitter)

It turns out, like many now-disgraced men, Bauer has been telling us exactly who he is for years. (Seriously, just Google any number of Marilyn Manson’s songs about women.) In the same Sports Illustrated piece, Bauer explained his dating rules: “No feelings. As soon as I sense you’re developing feelings, I’m going to cut it off, because I’m not interested in a relationship and I’m emotionally unavailable. … I sleep with other people. I’m going to continue to sleep with other people.”

Nobody can say that Bauer has ever tried to hide how he feels towards women, but we should acknowledge the damage that has been done by celebrating those feelings. Most of the press highlighting Bauer’s controversial persona started circulating well into the #MeToo movement, when many men complained they were “scared” to even talk to women out of fear of saying the “wrong” thing or being called an abuser.

To brag about being terrible towards women in a time when being terrible towards women was finally labeled as a bad thing? In the words of LA Times columnist Dylan Hernández, “How narcissistic. How selfish. How Trevor Bauer.” 


For survivors, there are already so few places that feel safe, and following your favorite team is supposed to be joyful, not harmful.


Regardless of the legal outcome of Bauer’s situation, it’s important to acknowledge—and work to repair—the larger problems that this scandal represents within baseball and beyond. During the pandemic, watching sports at home has provided a bright light in a dark time for many of us—a place to gather to celebrate a great victory or cry over a great loss. For survivors, there are already so few places that feel safe, and following your favorite team is supposed to be joyful, not harmful.

It’s time for the MLB and the press to commit to lifting up women and their stories—not the men who use their power to hurt them just because they can. When I think of where we go from here, I return to what Kat O’Brien aimed to do by telling her story, writing, “I hope I can help bring about systemic change rather than seek unlikely-to-come justice for one horrible act.” 

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About

Kristi DiLallo holds an MFA from Columbia University and teaches at the California State University, Monterey Bay.