Jameis Winston Case and Victim Blaming

stop-victim-blamingOver the past few weeks, many sports writers and personalities have been discussing whether Jameis Winston, the Heisman candidate quarterback at Florida State University, will be charged with sexual assault. Before Thanksgiving, the State Attorney, Willie Meggs, said any announcement of charges would probably not occur for at least 2 weeks.

As this case is analyzed in the media, please watch for the following occurrences of victim blaming:

  • “She is doing it for the attention” statement. According to the police report in this case, the female reported a crime and went to the hospital within 2 hours of the assault. She never came forward to the media until media outlets released the police report just a few weeks ago (10 months passed before she or her attorneys ever talked to the public). Clearly, her behavior is not consistent with someone “seeking attention.”

    When high-profile cases occur involving a male athlete and a female partner, you often hear this excuse used against the female. As I travel the country, I’ve asked people, “Can you name a survivor in a sexual assault case who was proven to have come forward just for the attention?” While people can name cases where the charges were dropped (a prosecutor knows that “dropped” simply means there was not enough evidence to get a conviction – regardless of innocence or guilt), they can never name one person who was proven to accuse someone of sexual assault for the purposes of gaining attention.

  • “She knew what was going to happen” statement. This reasoning means you believe the accused is someone who rapes individuals. You are implying that once you go with someone to a place to be intimate, you no longer have the right to choose in what capacity you want to be intimate – because the accused was going to do what he does when he is alone with someone – regardless of what you want to have happen.

    FYI: Consent laws make “She knew what was going to happen” an irrelevant argument. Even if you did “know what was going to happen,” your partner still has to request, receive, and honor consent. Plus, you always have the right to change your mind.

As often as people use victim blaming language, you might think false reports of sexual assault are common. Less than 7% of sexual assault cases that are brought forward are ever found to be false. Keep in mind that only 10% – 30% of sexual assaults are ever reported (depending on which research you use). Doing the math of multiplying 7% by 10% or even 30% calculates that .7% (less than 1%) to 2.1% of all sexual assault cases are ever false.

Am I asking you to assume guilt? No. Assume nothing. Let the facts come forward and let each side be presented. Then apply the definition of consent to the case being discussed. Was consent requested and honored throughout? Was the person capable of giving consent?

For those college football fans who are reacting with hostility and cruel comments, please consider how devastating sexual assault is to the lives of survivors. When you use hurtful language online against the female in this case (in “Comments” sections of websites), those words can impact thousands of additional survivors who may read your comments. A point can be discussed without cruel language being used.

While this case involves a person identified as a male and another as a female, please know that sexual assault occurs to people of all genders. Victim blaming occurs to people of all genders.

How do you recommend people address victim blaming when they see it and/or hear it occur?

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