Admittedly, I don’t follow college sports or their athletes. I could generally care less, but I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz recently about the possible charges facing Florida State University’s quarterback Jameis Winston as a result of a rape accusation. On December 5, the State Attorney, William Meggs, announced that Winston would not be facing criminal charges
due to what he called a lack of evidence, elaborating, “We have a duty as prosecutors to only file … charges if we have a reasonable likelihood of a conviction.”
It’s important to interject here to explain what Meggs meant. Criminal charges were not filed because prosecutors did not believe that they would be able to prove to either a judge or jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the crime(s) in question occurred. That does not mean a crime did not occur. It means there isn’t enough evidence to prove it in a court of law. It does not mean the victim falsely reported a rape, falsely implicated Winston, or did anything falsely. It means that there is not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime occurred. I would also like to venture that even if charges were filed against Winston and he were found not guilty, that does not mean he was innocent. Even if he were found guilty it doesn’t necessarily mean he did it — just that the evidence shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he committed the crime.
After the announcement was made, I popped over to Twitter to take in my timeline. To say I was disgusted by what I saw is a gross understatement. I’ve very rarely seen so much vitriol spouted toward a person who is a victim of such a vile crime and creating excuses for rape. It makes me so disappointed to see the people I allowed into my social media space begin victim-blaming, rationalizing Winston’s alleged actions, and supporting rape culture
What that indicated to me was how very little people understand about the nature of sexual assault and what should be healthy and consensual sexual relationships.
Here are a few points that people HAVE to understand if we’re ever going to make progress:
- Rape is never OK. You are not entitled to any sexual act(s) from another person. Nothing, short of consent, gives you permission to engage in sexual acts with another person.
- If you don’t have consent from the person you’re about to engage in a sexual act with, it’s not OK to proceed. I would also say that such consent should be verbal, explicit, freely-given, intentional, and affirmative. A drunken grumble or a detached lack of dissent does more constitute consent.
- Your partner’s impairment, whether induced by drugs, alcohol, or any other means, is an absolute sign for you to STOP. Do not proceed. If they are not coherent enough to give you clear consent, then they are not coherent enough to determine whether they want to consent. That means if they’re so drunk they can’t tell you “yes, I want to have sex with you,” you bear the responsibility, as a decent human being and non-criminal, to stop.
- No one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted. Nothing they do will justify it. Not what they wore, where they were, who they associate with, how much sex they’ve had before, or how much alcohol/drugs they consumed. Nothing. Just the same, nothing makes it excusable for someone to sexual assault someone else. Not who they are, what they’ve accomplished, who they have around them, how nice they normally are, or how much sex is thrown their way on a regular basis. Nothing.
Again, I’m not here to argue whether a crime was committed. I don’t have access to the evidence. But the fact that this is even a question in 2014 should be enough to give us pause. I’m proud to say the conversations have become more numerous and the noise created by them louder. I don’t claim to be an expert in the area of rape and consent, but I think there is some great work being done to raise awareness about consent and how to have healthy sexual relationships. I just really hope it begins to make a meaningful difference because rape is everyone’s problem.