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You've Rooted For Rapists

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Trigger Warning: This is a discussion regarding sexual assault and rape

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

You've rooted for rapists. In sports, you've rooted for rapists. In entertainment, you've rooted for rapists (I can think of one beloved America's Uncle right now off the top of my head). In many areas of life, you've rooted for rapists. You (hopefully) were not aware of the situation at the time. The rapists may have not even considered themselves to be a rapist.

These types of disturbing thoughts have been stewing in my brain for a long time. Baylor's release of the non-report regarding many mis-handled rapes at their school really crystalized into something I wanted to write about for CGB.


If you missed what happened there:

Baylor University admitted Thursday that administrators discouraged reports of sexual assault on campus, even going so far as to retaliate against one accuser.

These details and more came from an independent investigation ordered by the school's board of regents into how the Texas university handled reports of sexual assault, especially accusations against football players. The report found a "fundamental failure" by the school to obey federal laws to protect female students and a belief the winning football program was "above the rules."

In response to the report, the board of regents fired football coach Art Briles, sanctioned athletic director Ian McCaw, and removed Kenneth Starr as president, effective May 31.

Here's the thing. What Baylor vaguely admitted to was horrific (I use the word vaguely because their non-report has no specifics and only general conclusions). Not just ignoring rape allegations, but actively retaliating against women making those allegations. In a world where it is extremely challenging for victims to come forward with rape allegations, Baylor's position was that it was too easy to make such allegations and that football has to be protected above all else. The Athletics Department made it even more difficult for victims to seek justice. This was designed to ensure the continued success of the football program.

However, the scope was even wider than that. This was not just a college football problem, it was a school-wide problem. Many of the victims were not raped by football players. It was not until the sports media (like the spectacular Diana Moskovitz at Deadspin) looked at the cases relating to football players that the larger patterns at the school were considered.

The focus of this post is not specifically to Baylor. Sadly, almost nothing that occurred at Baylor surprises me. You could have put any other college sports program's name in there for Baylor and I would have expected the same. What occurred at Baylor is a reflection of a rape culture (ie a culture where rape is common and seems normal) that prizes protecting alleged aggressors over victim safety coupled with the intense pressure to succeed and make millions in college athletics. It is a sordid and vile marriage that spawns situations like Baylor.

The simple truth is this: Rape happens everywhere. Anywhere and everywhere. The first step to trying to help minimize rape culture and avoid situations like Baylor is accepting that reality. That reality has never been accepted in history, ever. Even the Wikipedia article on rape culture explicitly notes this:

During the 1970s, second-wave feminists had begun to engage in consciousness-raising efforts designed to educate the public about the prevalence of rape. Previously, according to Canadian psychology professor Alexandra Rutherford, most Americans assumed that rape, incest, and wife-beating rarely happened

This was a problem in the Baylor situation and was explicitly called out in the Pepper Hamilton non-report:

The report described an attitude among administrators that sexual violence "doesn't happen here."

People think rape is something that happens to other people. At Baylor, this misconception was partially due to its identity as a religious school. While religion is, to a certain extent, a means to construct society so as to control humanity (and, specifically, women), many religious adherents flip the script. They view themselves as more "moral" than the average person. To these people, because they follow their religion, they are in a group of people less likely to commit violent crimes such as rape. This is not specific to any one religion, because I have seen examples in pretty much every religion I've ever read about.

Unfortunately, that dangerous moral complacency promotes rape culture. "It doesn't happen here" is flat-out wrong. It happens everywhere, whether you are at a small religious school in dark red Texas or a massive state institution in deep blue Berkeley.


There is even a scandal currently brewing regarding the National Championship crew team at Cal:

BERKELEY -- Rocked by a widening sexual misconduct scandal, the University of California on Thursday revealed it has hired an outside investigator to examine a sexual assault complaint against a member of the Cal men's rowing team. .

The alleged victim, a former female member of the team, also claims coach Mike Teti, an Olympic medalist and nationally regarded coach, knew she had been sexually assaulted in December 2013 at a rowing team party. Instead of reporting it, she said, the coach told her to stop crying, saying, "You're no angel anyway," and asked her about her sexual relationships with other rowers.

Reached Thursday evening, Teti wrote in an email the "allegations are completely false and I'm confident any investigation will prove this."

I have next to no idea as to the truth of the situation here. I cannot speak on whether any sexual misconduct occurred or whether Coach Teti did anything inappropriate. I am hopeful that this outside investigator does a fair and complete investigation in providing their report. I am hopeful that justice can be served here.

This additional portion here of the above story implies that the allegations relating to Teti's questions to the alleged victim were true:

While the campus's office of anti-discrimination determined last year that Teti had not violated the university's sexual harassment policy, an officer told the woman in an email that she had spoken with Teti "about the kind of questions and conversations he had with you, and the language he used."

It implies that Teti's alleged response was to attempt to diminish the alleged victim's allegations because she was "not an angel" and that he questioned her sexual history as a means to diminish the allegations. Thus, the officer had to speak with Teti about his approach to the allegations. These types of questions are in line with the standard protocol for many people in responding to sexual abuse allegations. In specific, since they consented to other sexual acts (either with the alleged aggressor or other people), the alleged rape is somehow more likely to not have been a rape.

This type of issue also arose in the Yanni Hufnagel case when people stated that because the perceived victim had acted in an allegedly flirtatious manner with other people, Hufnagel was more justified in his actions towards the victim. Since she had seemingly consented to sexual attention from other people due to her alleged flirtiness, she consented to sexual attention from him. Although sexual assault and sexual harassment are two wholly different actions, people's responses to them are often similar (albeit different in degree).


The former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner's victim (no need for the word alleged since he was convicted in Court of sexual violence) penned a heartbreakingly eloquent letter and made many, many salient points, including the following comments:

It is deeply offensive that he [the defendant] would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of "promiscuity". By definition rape is not the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can't even see that distinction.

When people raise issues of promiscuity, they are clouding the issue of consent. Promiscuity (again used, as men are rarely described to be promiscuous, as a means to control women and their sexuality) is defined as too much consent. As the victim there notes, rape is the exact opposite. Promiscuity has no place in a rape discussion.

Finally, understand that rape is a violent action taken by a person. It is not a hazy byproduct of excessive drinking as Brock Turner's father tried to argue here:

People take actions. It's very simple. Committing the violent action of sexual assault is an action. Often in these types of matters, the fact that rape is an action that people could/should take responsibility for is lost in a tsunami of other excuses (i.e. alcohol, promiscuity etc etc). Nobody would ever say "Yes, I drove drunk and got in a fatal car accident, but it was just a symptom of an alcoholic society. I didn't *really* do anything wrong." They would not say "Yes, I got drunk and assaulted somebody, but that was just a symptom of the pernicious nature of alcohol on college campuses. It's not *really* my fault."

However, in the context of a rape discussion, those thought processes emerge. When one is convicted of sexual violence, they are not victims of a hard drinking culture or a failure to comprehend the basic rules of consent. The absolute easiest way to not rape somebody is to not rape somebody.


So, what was my point here? Firstly, I wanted to touch on the fact that what happened at Baylor could have occurred anywhere and everywhere, even a place like Berkeley. I wanted to take a look at what is happening right now in regards to the Cal crew situation at Berkeley.

Most importantly, I wanted to provide a different understanding for approaching rape and rape cases. Sexual violence towards all people is probably something that will never truly be solved in the world. However, progress can be made. To make that progress, we first have to re-orient our understanding, so we can better assist victims and try to deconstruct a culture that could lead to future rapes.

The first step to bending that moral arc to justice is understanding that you have rooted for rapists and that people you think could never commit a crime like rape easily could and have. Understand that even our heroes, friends, and family could be potential perpetrators. Understand that, whether you are religious or atheist, by believing "it couldn't happen here," you are promoting rape culture. Understand the processes to allege and then prosecute rape are so stacked against the victim that they make it extremely difficult to actually come forward with an allegation and seek justice. Understand that Baylor is just an extreme example of a societal and cultural setup that exists everywhere and anywhere. Understand that when one is convicted of sexual violence, s/he is not a victim of a hard drinking culture

We cannot go back in time and stop rapes that have already occurred. However, by better understanding the nature of rape and how best to provide dignity to its victims, we can try to shape a society that helps people understand what is and is not rape. By better recognizing the reality of the situation, we can take the first step towards disassembling rape culture.