A lot of victim blaming takes place when it comes to rape, along with accusations that are not thoroughly investigated. Someone should always be able to come forward when they have been physically or sexually abused without worrying about someone being mad at them for speaking up, or with the fear the suspect would not be properly punished. No matter what, survivors should always feel like they are able to contact someone in time of need, and get not only help, but ensure justice is served. Speaking up could mean saving someone else’s life from unwanted sexual acts.
Early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she had been raped by a stranger somewhere off campus after a night of drinking at a popular Tallahassee bar called Potbelly’s. The events that took place on this December evening had been a well-kept secret for nearly a year, but when the allegations were burst into the open, the university was rolled and threatened its prized asset.
Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football was publicly identified as the suspect in the allegations that were given by the freshman woman claiming she had been raped. The storm passed for Winston though because the local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback went on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship. Virtually, the New York Times has found there was actually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university. The police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA, and the detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.
With the unfolding of this case, colleges and universities across the country are facing rising criticism over how they deal with sexual assault, as well as questions about whether athletes sometimes receive preferential treatment. Based on the New York Times examination, looking at police and university records, as well as interviews with people close to the cases, including lawyers and sexual assault experts it was found that in the Winston case, Florida State did little to determine what had happened. Telling Jameis Winston’s accuser she would be “raked over the coals” if she pursued the case because Tallahassee was a big football town, along with the false statement of the investigation was suspended because the accuser was uncooperative is the main reason people don’t speak up and speak out. Regardless of being a football town among other things, everyone (male and female) has the right to report a criminal act and seek justice.
The athletic department had known early on that Mr. Winston had been accused of a serious crime. This knowledge should have set off an inquiry by the university, According to federal rules, any athletic department official who learns of possible sexual misconduct is required to pass it on to school administrators. Florida State declined to respond when asked if top officials, including the university president, had been informed of the encounter. The truth of the matter is, everyone wants to keep this matter a secret, and brush it under the rug like a criminal incident didn’t take place. There are even hateful things that come from people who are aware of the case: “All day every day I am bombarded with messages of hatred for the alleged victim,” the woman wrote. “I am sad and ashamed to be part of a student body that is quick to support a man who is accused of sexual assault, simply because he is a good football player, and even quicker to condemn the alleged victim of the crime as a liar.”
How many more times are university administrators going to be in apparent violation of federal law without promptly investigating either the rape accusation or the witness’s admission about the encounters? Athletes should stop getting a pat on the back and being able to continue their season and career without having to answer any questions or being held accountable for their actions. Not only are universities sending the wrong message, but police who are supposed to serve and protect are also showing their incompetency and how they are not as trustworthy as they seem.
Read the full New York Times article on the Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation here:
Yours in Advocacy,