Let me start out by saying sexual assault is a horrible thing. As a father of two teenage girls, I can honestly say that there is nothing I fear more for my daughters than them ever being exposed to that.
With that said, let's now turn our attention to what is quickly becoming the most talked about sexual assault accusation in the country, involving Florida State star quarterback and current front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, Jameis Winston.
|Photo by: Streeter Lecka|
I'm also not in favor of unfair treatment of athletes, either.
And herein lies the problem. Winston has already paid a major price before the first charge has even been filed, due to an accusation made nearly a year ago by someone who was admittedly under the influence of alcohol.
This young man, simply by being attached to such a thing, is having his life altered in what could be a way that is virtually irreparable. The laws of many states, and especially the actions of most news outlets, reflect a gross double standard when it comes to sex crimes.
At one point, I was a crime reporter for two and a half years, and we wrestled with this issue many times. We refused to print the name of a woman who claimed to be the victim of sexual assault. In the state I worked, the police wouldn't release the victim's name if it was a sex crime (and many states have laws prohibiting police from releasing those names). The reason is because there is such a stigma associated with sexual assault, that naming the victim would be too traumatizing.
I agree with that assessment.
The problem I have, though, is that no such rule exists about the accused. His name is openly released in most cases (although in the Winston case, both names were redacted from the report). I often times battled editors at my newspaper about this double standard. If it is traumatizing for the victim, how traumatizing is it for the accused when it turns out that either a.) he wasn't the individual who committed the crime, or b.) it was a false accusation altogether?
Don't get the impression that I don't take sexual assault accusations seriously, because I do. And I don't think that a majority of the claims of rape and sexual assault are false. However, an FBI study a few years back put the number of false claims in the U.S. at about 8%. When you compare that to all other crimes coming in at a combined 2% being false accusations, you can certainly see that it is more common for these types of crimes to be reported erroneously than any other.
TMZ, the "news agency" (and I use that term extremely loosely here) that broke this story, found out about the QB's alleged role in the case some other way, since his name was not on the report. As yet, no one knows how.
I have my theories, but I'll keep them to myself.
They have sensationalized this story well beyond what it should be because of Jameis Winston's position in the national spotlight, without even knowing for sure if a crime was committed. To read TMZ's reporting, they already have Winston convicted and the area police embroiled in a huge cover-up to save a local athletic hero.
Here's an idea, TMZ. Let's take a look at what we do know for sure in relation to this case, then let the criminal justice system take over.
A female victim made a call to police eleven months ago at roughly 4am, following a night of admitted alcohol consumption, to say that someone sexually assaulted her. The description she gave was someone who was 5'9 to 5'11 tall, about 245-250 pounds, African-American, with straightened hair.
I suppose Winston could've dropped 25 pounds and let the relaxer grow out of his hair and take it back to its natural state (although no one remembers him ever wearing his hair straight). And I know teenagers can grow pretty fast, but I'm not sure Winston went from 5'9 last December to 6'4 in September.
He does excel in a lot of things, though, so maybe accelerated growth is one of them.
What about this police cover-up TMZ is trying to sell, claiming most recently that Tallahassee Police hid this to protect their superstar football player? Admittedly, Winston is a star now. However, eleven months ago, he was riding a redshirt, would've been listed, at best, a third-string quarterback, and didn't win the starting job until pretty late in fall camp this year. So I'm not real sure what would've motivated them to keep it so hush-hush, as TMZ claims.
Perhaps they are one of those law enforcement agencies we've all heard about in a college town that is always covering up the actions of the university's athletes? But wait, in the last two years, FSU players James Wilder, Jr., Greg Dent, Arrington Jenkins, Avis Commack, Greg Reid and Jermaine Thomas, just to name a few, were arrested for various alleged crimes. So that leads me to believe, if and when they have sufficient evidence, they won't hesitate to arrest athletes.
My point is this; I don't know what happened on that night last December. I don't know if a sexual assault took place or not. I don't know if Jameis Winston was involved in whatever took place that particular evening, crime or otherwise. And until we know these things, TMZ, we shouldn't have a story at all.