Florida State QB / Heisman front-runner Jameis Winston learned yesterday that he’d not be facing criminal charges stemming from a 2012 rape allegation. Had Winston been arrested, at the very least, it would’ve represented a significant stumbling block in the Seminoles’ National Championship aspirations, but there always the possibility said charges would’ve been part of what The Nation’s Dave Zirin calls, “a long and ugly history of accusing African-American men of rapes that did not occur.” But while we’re talking long and ugly, Zirin — one of the few guys in sports journalism who feels comfortable using the term “rape culture” while speaking on ESPN — is equally alarmed by America’s “recent history in the Internet age of destroying women on social media and threatening their families, if they dare bring forward any accusations of rape against athletes.”
If it is proven true that a local police detective said to the accuser’s lawyer that Tallahassee is “a big football town, and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable,” then we can only hope that the family will pursue charges against the Tallahassee police department and sue them back to the Stone Age.
There are too many cases of too many women who are intimidated to come forward and pursue charges of sexual assault. There are too many cases where jock culture and rape culture are so intertwined you don’t know where one ends and the other begins.
No matter the result, the Jameis Winston case has become yet another instance where the sports environment sends a message to women that if you are sexually assaulted, your best course of action is silence. That, above all else, must change.