Football is having a horrible year—the Ray Rice domestic-violence scandal, Adrian Peterson’s child-abuse allegations, and the rolling train wreck that is Jameis Winston of Florida State University.
So it’s understandable if you missed the flicker of good news regarding dealing with football players and bad behavior this week.
On Oct. 6, the University of Florida announced freshman quarterback Treon Harris was accused of sexually assaulting a female student the day before in a residence hall. His punishment: Suspension from all team activities indefinitely, pending a criminal investigation of the charges. (Harris denies the charges and says he committed no crime.)
It’s far different than the decisions Florida State has made regarding Winston. The Seminoles’ quarterback was accused last year of sexual assaulting a woman, though he continued to play his way through to a Heisman and a national championship in January.
Winston was never suspended for the alleged sexual assault, but was reprimanded for one game after yelling “F—k her right in the p—sy” on campus in September. Florida State continues to be ranked No. 1 in the AP rankings—a hard hit for a Gator fan and recent alumna like myself.
At least we have this: “We have no tolerance for sexual assault on our campus,” Florida President Bernie Machen said Monday. Maybe if there were a national championship on the line, things might be different.
That spark of hope for a game-changing moment for the troubled game was quickly extinguished today in an ugly press release from Treon Harris’ lawyer, Huntley Johnson.
Deadspin pointed out some of the lows of his argument—and wow, are there some gems. The lawyer said the alleged victim and Harris did know each other prior to the reported assault and spent “time together of their own accord.” He wrote that Harris has never been in the alleged victim’s room, and that she’d had sexual relations with someone else less than an hour before the alleged encounter with Harris occurred.
“We know that an individual has given testimony to law enforcement that he had sexual relations with the alleged victim less than an hour before the alleged sexual conduct with our client took place. In fact, testimony indicates that the young lady in question was the sexual aggressor in that interaction,” according to Johnson’s statement.
What is most irritating is that local papers are HEADLINING with the fact that the accuser reportedly had sex with another man right before the alleged incident with Harris. Of course, this will never fly in court under the federal rape shield law, which prohibits using evidence of a victim’s past sexual history to undermine credibility, but the damage has been done.
One deemed a “slut,” as these papers and this lawyer are attempting to do, there’s no recovering. This is the exact reason why that word “slut-shaming” exists. It’s a penalty far more harmful than the average sexual-assault sentence of 35 months.
Think of Monica Lewinsky. TV networks in the ‘90s were taking polls asking people if they thought she was a “tramp.” Lewinsky sadly will never escape this association she has been tied to. Now, this lawyer is trying to Lewinsky his victim.
Later on, the release refers to the accuser as the “sexual aggressor” with “not one, but two young men early last Sunday morning.” Please, stop treating her like she thinks penises are BOGO.
Harris’s lawyer continued by commenting on the alleged victim’s lack of impairment. “She wasn’t drunk or high, so it can’t be rape,” Deadspin put it sarcastically. The press release said the two were seen holding hands before the alleged sexual battery—because apparently holding hands with someone means “I am probably having consensual sex with you shortly” now.
If that were the case, my grandma, who holds someone’s hand whenever she walks, needs to make some drastic lifestyle changes.
Harris’ lawyer reports he is also holding back on text messages that he claims will show the woman initiating contact with the Florida player. Those messages have been handed over to authorities, he said.
This is what perpetuates our rape culture. When someone is involved in a crime, they expect, to a certain extent, to be scrutinized. This information we now have isn’t at all relevant‚ but the damage has been done. What if I walked around telling you the sexual history of your parents or all of your co-workers? It could be a lie, but who cares? You have that picture in your mind now—that the guy in production has a toe fetish.
It’s irrelevant. But now, to you, he’s toe guy.
Until we stop the headlines that scream “slut” in all caps and the press releases that cite a woman’s blood-alcohol level before her fantastic GPA or sense of humor, victim-blaming will continue to prevail, Monica will still be a “tramp,” and A-listers like Jennifer Lawrence will be faulted for expressing their sexuality. Whether a Hunger Games star, White House staff member, or a college student—it seems no one is safe. And while universities worry about titles and championships being taken away, the Scarlet Letter seems to be the only title that never seems to get erased.