Guilty of sexual assault or not, Jameis Winston is getting off and here’s why

by Matthew Stinson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Image by Matthew Stinson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

If you haven’t heard by now, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding recent revelations that Florida State quarterback (and Heisman Trophy candidate) Jameis Winston is currently being investigated for sexual battery. Controversy stems from these two facts; 1. That a woman would dare to accuse such a talented young athlete of rape and 2. Allegations that the case has been handled about as well as… well… just about every other rape caseever (i.e. it’s been a one-sided shit-show).

First, a quick review of the facts. Here’s what we know; A report was filed on December 7th, 2012, accusing Winston of sexually assaulting a fellow FSU student earlier that night. Evidence was collected and pictures were taken of the alleged victim’s injuries. We also know that as of November 24th, 2013 charges have not been filed against Winston. Those are apparently the facts not in dispute.

Notice the almost year long gap in there? Apparently in that time the case was closed (or not, depending on who you’re talking to), and according to the Associated Press, the alleged victim was told by local police that; “[Tallahassee is a] big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against [Winston] because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.” On top of that, when the alleged victim’s family asked Tallahassee police to obtain DNA samples from Winston, they were allegedly told that “such activity would alert Winston and the matter would go public.” They claim police refused to get a DNA sample or interview potential witnesses. Like I said, a one-sided shit-show.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

That Tallahassee police detective was right, FSU is a big time football school and Tallahassee is a football obsessed town. And, in that football obsessed town Winston is innocent and the woman filing charges against him is a liar and a whore, guilty of seeking money, fame and the chance to take down a potential Heisman Trophy winner. She is in fact being raked over the coals and I’m guessing that her life has been pretty miserable since December 7th, 2012 and only getting worse.

If only this behavior stopped at the borders of Tallahassee. Sadly it doesn’t. Just about every report I’ve seen since the news broke has looked something like this report I saw on ESPN one morning (sorry I can’t embed it here). First off, notice that they call the alleged victim “the accuser.” Perhaps it’s used for convenience? Sure, writing or saying “alleged victim” is a bit more cumbersome, but am I the only one who finds “accuser” to be a rather loaded term (did you know, for example, that in Hebrew “Satan” translates to “the accuser”)? Then, 33 seconds into the report, ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz suddenly breaks in with; “…some say that the accuser is out to destroy Jameis Winston or perhaps capitalize on his fame…” He brings this up because he apparently discussed the point with the attorney, but man does it feel jammed in there. I’m sure he discussed a number of things with that attorney, why jam that point into his report? I wonder about his motivation. Viewed in context of all of ESPN’s reporting on this case, it feels eerily reminiscent of a tactic we see very often in politics; take a talking point, repeat it enough times and people will eventually take it as fact.

She is in fact being raked over the coals and I’m guessing that her life has been pretty miserable since December 7th, 2012 and only getting worse.

Which brings me to the conspiracy theorists. People who claim that reports of the alleged assault came out now because they were timed to ruin Winston’s chances of winning the Heisman. This makes no sense to me. If he is guilty of rape, then he’s the only one to blame for not only hurting his chances at winning a Heisman, but for also hurting a fellow classmate. If he’s innocent, don’t blame the alleged victim for the timing of this case, blame the bumbling Tallahassee police department. You know, the same police department that, according to the Associated Press; recently lost track of an informant during a drug deal, thus allowing her to get robbed and shot and in another incident broke a woman’s cheekbone during a DUI arrest. They are the same ones that refused to advance this rape case or collect DNA from a suspect until the media started sniffing around (lo and behold, once they did finally collect some of Winston’s DNA it matched evidence taken from the alleged victim’s underwear). 

All of this tells me one thing; If –and that’s a big if– this case ever makes it to a Tallahassee courtroom, the chances that this will be a fair and impartial trial are zero-to-none. I don’t know if Winston is guilty of rape, but he’s certainly benefiting from a sports obsessed culture’s hero worshiping (topped with a healthy coating of male privilege). He is innocent until proven guilty and should be treated as such, but the alleged victim should be treated with respect as well. No one is rallying around her. No one is talking about how strong she is for carrying on while her world crumbles around her. Instead the town of Tallahassee, and the country as a whole, treat her like a convicted criminal. The accuser. Satan. Because of this, guilty or innocent, in the end Jameis Winston is going to walk.

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