Last week, the New York Times provided a breakdown of a breakdown — an accounting of the investigative errors that turned rape allegations against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston into a non-event.
I’ll give you a minute to try and contain your shock.
Indeed, how convenient it was that Winston was able to make it a year and a Heisman season before the allegations gained any attention. Long enough for him to become a local sports hero and her to become a bitter woman with buyer’s remorse who only decided to take him down after he became someone — the fact that she raised the allegations immediately after the offense notwithstanding. Notwithstanding that when she went to the police the morning she was raped, the officer suggested that maybe it wasn’t actually rape and that filing a report would be “awkward” for her as a “female.”
It’s gratifying (to the extent that anything about these situations can be gratifying) that faulty investigative non-efforts of the type that plague so many rape cases — not just ones involving celebrities — are getting national attention. What’s lousy is that that attention is still happening in the context of the shadows thrown over this woman’s allegations. No matter how many people and institutions point out how utterly ruined this case has been because authorities screwed it up over and over and over, it’s still a girl who came forward a year later because she had a grudge against poor Jameis Winston.
Most of us here, of course, know why the Jameis Winston case — and particularly the astonishing mishandling thereof — is relevant. It’s not just because it’s a sports star, and it’s not just because it’s college — the Steubenville rape case demonstrates that rape negligence and apologism starts early. It’s relevant because at any age, in any circumstance, the way rape accusations are addressed by authorities influences the way women look at themselves, at the offenses committed against them, and at the way they deserve to be treated.
At Every Day Should Be Saturday, Jane lays out a list of reasons that the Jameis Winston case — and every other case like it — remains relevant to sports fans, to students, to college administrators, and to anyone who cares whether women are safe and crimes go punished.
Because, for some reason, sexual assault is treated at universities and colleges like mine and probably yours in a manner that doesn’t serve victims or those accused.
Because young women* think sexual assault is “normal” and we blame the victims of sexual assault because what were they wearing? What were they doing? What made them think they could wear that or say that or be like that or be there without something bad happening to them? You know women just want to fuck Division 1 football players for the fame/money/because they are sad pathetic whores and women lie about rape all the time so it’s probably her fault anyway.* *
Because college football is fucking awesome, and your college football team is the fucking awesomest, and when an investigation like this happens and it’s your team, you feel sick inside, and sometimes you hope that it’s all some weird misunderstanding because this couldn’t happen at Michigan or Florida State or your favorite school, right?
Because this didn’t happen, and in cases like this, seems to never happen:
“It makes the most sense to me, if somebody comes in to report a violent crime, investigate it, and we’ll talk about what to do with it after we’ve collected the evidence and have the most thorough picture,” she said.
Because sexual assault is a crime, and should be treated as such by all parties, even if it involves football and the media and the batshit insanity that is sports. And when it’s not, when it’s made into either a means of silencing victims or hounding the innocent, that’s a goddamn shame, and we should report on it and talk about it until it stops fucking happening.