In 2016, thanks to the letter written by the anonymous Stanford rape victim, America has been forced to acknowledge and examine its rape culture. Although it’s something that has been voiced in the past, victim blaming, especially when the alleged rapist is a college or professional athlete, is a very real issue. Thankfully, it appears that some coaches and school officials are taking steps to ensure that players who commit sexual assault are punished, not only in the courtroom.
On December 14th, 2016, the University of Minnesota suspected ten of its football team’s players, just weeks before they were expected to play in the Holiday Bowl. Although few details regarding the suspension have been released, a lawyer who is representing several of the players has indicated that it is in relation to an internal university investigation about an alleged rape that took place on Sept 2nd, 2016.
According to police reports, the victim is a 22-year-old woman who told officers that at about 4:00 a.m. she was sexually assaulted by four of the football players after a night of partying. She sought medical attention before filing her report. She also filed restraining order against her alleged attackers.
Another report indicates that somehow, recordings of the sexual interactions were made. An anonymous source indicated that the victim is clearly intoxicated and while she initially appears to be ok with the sexual contact with the first man seen on the recording, officials believe that the sexual contact with the other players was not consensual.
It was announced on November 2nd that a settlement had been reached between the parties involved and the police decided not to press charges. However, the university clearly believes the incident merits further investigation. It is possible that in addition from losing a place on the team, they may face being expelled from the school.
What Is Victim Blaming?
Victim blaming is when someone says something or asks a question that insinuates that the victim could have done something to prevent what happened to them or perhaps that they had acted in a way that “invited” their attacker to choose them.
Some of the most common forms of victim blaming include:
Asking If They Were Intoxicated
One of the first questions that are usually asked is “Did you have anything to drink?” or “Did you take any drugs?”. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the victim was sober or intoxicated, conscious or unconscious, if the sexual contact wasn’t requested, it is illegal.
What Were You Wearing?
Female victims, in particular, are asked this question. Again, it doesn’t matter. Even if they were wearing a particularly alluring outfit, if they didn’t agree to the sexual contact then it is assault. An outfit cannot give permission and is not a reason for committing a crime.
Did You Flirt With The Accused?
In the majority of sexual assault cases, the victim knows their attacker. It is also quite possible that at some point they may have chatted with, been friendly with, or even outright flirted with them. But none of this means that they were accepting of or comfortable with what happened.
These are just a few examples of victim blaming. Sadly, despite increased awareness, it still happens every day. Just recently, earlier in December of 2016, the father of a football at De La Salle high school stated that there was no way that his son had raped his accuser because “as a handsome athlete, he has to fight off all the girls who want him.” He then went on to say that “When young, fast girls see something they like, they go after it.” A look into his own past revealed that he himself is a convicted sex offender.
The alleged victim, in this case, went on the local news to say that this simply isn’t true and that what happened to her was not consensual, regardless of the boy’s status as a freshman football player or his looks. “Boys need to know that no means no, period. Point blank.” she stated.