The Jameis Winston rape case was criminally mishandled, and it will always matter.

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.


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7 comments for “The Jameis Winston rape case was criminally mishandled, and it will always matter.

  1. ldouglas
    April 19, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Frankly I think rape (along with other violent crimes) should be taken completely out of the hands of school administrators. God knows the police have a shitty enough track record, but the only ones worse are the bureaucrats who- on top of all the rape culture problems that infect the criminal justice system- are also deeply invested in protecting the reputation of their school above all else.

    Not only is there a colossal conflict of interest, schools also don’t have the investigative resources to handle serious crimes- their discipline committees are suited for cheating on tests, not violence (including sexual violence). That’s another part of the reason you get either cover-ups and dismissals (for people who for various reasons are deemed important, trustworthy, or ‘good kids’), or star-chamber-like hearings where ‘defendants’ have no rights and can be expelled based on hearsay (for students who are considered unimportant, frequently people of color, people who a history of mental illness, etc).

    I think the best solution is a two-tiered program; let students request nondisciplinary remedies from their universities like switching dorms or rescheduling classes, and forward all complaints above that to law enforcement (while making it clear that is what the rules are- no forcing people to go to the cops who don’t want to).

  2. April 21, 2014 at 8:22 am

    When I was in college, a fifteen-year-old student who had been home-schooled and received her high school diploma early was admitted. Within six months, she became the plaything of the football team. It took over a year before it was determined that she was no longer attending class and had been introduced to drugs. Despite the fact that she was still several years underage, she had begun having sex with athletes.

    The full story is below.

    http://espn.go.com/magazine/vol5no12uab.html

    No criminal charges were ever filed, but the family did file suit with the university and eventually win a settlement. From my own personal experience, campus police were utterly toothless. There was confusion of jurisdiction between campus police and city police. The fault is copious. Colleges and universities have tentatively agreed to be surrogate parents to their students, but the formal roles and responsibilities are often unclear.

  3. Brad
    April 22, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Wonder how many rapes are reported about college athletes as a % of the male participants vs pro athletes vs general population of males in the appropriate age ranges. Are they the same…. more…or less? In other words, are male athletes more likely to perpetrate
    mindless, criminal sexual violence on women than other males?

    • Andrew
      April 23, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      Brad,

      The answer is yes, to such a proven degree that it is surprising the question is still asked. I don’t mean to denigrate your question; it’s important that we have the discussion as many times as necessary.

      Multiple books, articles, both scholarly and general, have been written about the increased rates of sexualized violence amongst athletes, especially those with highly competitive, aggressive elements such as football.
      I won’t bore the readers here with linksalad, as an easy Yahoo search will show a lot of results and discussion on the topic.

      • ldouglas
        April 23, 2014 at 9:17 pm

        Almost everything I’ve seen in peer reviewed journals found that the link between athletics and sexual violence is inconclusive, with a small number of studies suggesting vastly higher rates of violence among athletes. Overall, the most persuasive research I’ve read suggests that while sexual assaults committed by athletes (and fraternity members) are more publicized, that it’s largely because they’re more likely to fall under the stranger-rape or party-rape narratives that predominate in discussions of sexual assault in the first place. When all sexual assaults- which, in college as in the rest of life primarily take place within established relationships- are considered, the numbers are (again) close enough so as to be inconclusive.

        So while I can certainly find some studies that support your assertion, it’s not enough of an open-and-shut case to justify your level of confidence.

      • Andrew
        April 24, 2014 at 10:12 pm

        If we’re including ALL sexual assaults, including minor sexual assault within families, then yes, you are correct.

        This discussion was focused specifically on college where a vast majority of sexual assaults, usually unreported, occur amongst adults.
        I also study peer-reviewed publications and attend conferences which support my original statements.

        And, while it may be anecdotal, a large number of the young women I’ve treated were assaulted by an athlete (usu. football/basketball, though oddly sometimes hockey) or frat boys.

      • ldouglas
        April 24, 2014 at 10:46 pm

        This discussion was focused specifically on college where a vast majority of sexual assaults, usually unreported, occur amongst adults.
        I also study peer-reviewed publications and attend conferences which support my original statements.

        Link them, then, because I stand by my original statement.

        And, while it may be anecdotal, a large number of the young women I’ve treated were assaulted by an athlete (usu. football/basketball, though oddly sometimes hockey) or frat boys.

        First six words are the most important here.

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