I know as a good liberal feminist I’m not supposed to say this, but when the brave victims of sexual assault come forward to tell their stories, they always do so with the same intention — so that no other woman will have to go through what they did. They don’t always come forward with previously unheard accusations while seeking tuition reimbursement just a few weeks after a near million-dollar settlement from Florida State University was granted to a woman who couldn’t put forth a believable enough account of an assault for Tallahassee Police Department or the District Attorney’s office to find it a credible allegation.
Let’s remember, we’re talking about a lawsuit that blames Lil’ Jon for enabling the “culture” of sexual assault the plaintiffs allege exists, as well as referencing a 20-year-old allegation lobbed by a woman who was involved in habitual frivolous litigation.
Which is why when I came across Rachel Kirby’s open letter to the Jane Does in the University of Tennessee lawsuit, I truly felt conflicted. See, I know better than most that one in four women on college campuses are sexually assaulted. I know that 80% of those aren’t reported. And that the majority live the rest of their life asking those very questions that Ms. Kirby posed.
I know that while we’re all focusing on athletes involved in civil litigation, we miss the fraternity brothers, band members, upperclassmen, underclassmen, and grad students with the intent to assault as I write.
I also know that when I was 15 years old, I had to give a statement to the police department when a former friend and classmate got pregnant. When her parents found out, she told them that she was raped. The problem with that was that the party at which she claimed she was raped, was one in which we were all in attendance. I had no reservation over being forthcoming and never thought twice about telling the police the truth — that she was a very willing participant in her own pregnancy — and she never spoke to me again and eventually transferred schools. While I am unquestionably pro-victim, I learned a very important lesson then. That while every victim is someone’s daughter, every male is someone’s son too.
Just because these kids play a violent sport doesn’t mean that they’re all violent men, just because a white woman accuses a black male doesn’t mean that she’s incapable of lying, and just because a disgusting, sickening, reprehensible attack took place at Vanderbilt University in a football dorm doesn’t mean that all football players are Brandon Vandenburg. And just because allegations of assault perpetrated by athletes are all the national media wants to focus on, doesn’t mean the problem isn’t widespread.
I wish Ms. Kirby had addressed her letter to all survivors of sexual assault. Because when she doesn’t, and when she makes the assertion that all of the allegations are true — she labels our school a rape haven, our boys of fall a team of predators, and Coach Jones a borderline sociopathic monster who cares more about pigskin than the lives of women.
Based on the evidence at my disposal, without a day in court, I’m not ready to make that assertion — are you?
If you’ve ever loved a little ball-playing boy who grew into a man, you wouldn’t want someone, or God forbid an entire publication, to assume that they were guilty of heinous, inexcusable sexual crimes based solely off their desire to pursue a career in a sport that they love.
Candice Mathis, Nashville.