Well the big press conference happened, and no charges will be filed against Jameis Winston, the probable front-runner for college football’s Heisman Trophy and the starting quarterback of an undefeated Florida State University (FSU) football team that is one win away from playing for the BCS championship in January. FSU has had a successful season thanks to the emergence of Winston this season, and had the District Attorney decided to press felony rape charges against Winston, he would have to be suspended from further participating in FSU athletics.
There are three sides to every story. In this case, you have the woman’s side of the story, Winston’s side, and the truth that lies between. No one knows what happened; we only have the two versions that we hear: Winston saying he had consensual sex with the woman, and the woman who says the sex was not consensual – thus she alleges she was raped.
I am not a woman so I have no idea what women who are victims of rape go through emotionally. However, I am the father of a female university student. The parents stand behind this woman’s story, in the same way I would stand by my daughter if she tells me someone forced her to have sex. I would believe her, and were I the parent of this woman, I would be upset about it as I am sure they are.
I am not related to this woman nor do I care whether or not Winston wins the Heisman or whether or not wins the ACC title game and gets to play for the BCS championship. I live on the opposite corner of the continental United States from Florida. I am a college football fan and, as mentioned, a father of a daughter now in college, with another daughter in high school.
It is quite unfortunate that we live in an age where “fans” put more value in the future of their favorite team and its star quarterback than they do that someone may have been the victim of rape. It is a serious charge. In addition, we have a judicial system that states that it must be proven “beyond any reasonable doubt” that the accused is indeed guilty. So the prosecutor must ask himself, “What can I prove?” when deciding whether or not to press charges. When Florida State Attorney William Meggs and his team asked that question after looking at all the evidence they had, they decided that they could not meet that burden of proof and decided not to press charges. I hope that they truly looked at all of the evidence and came to an objective conclusion, the same conclusion they would have come to if the accused was just an average Joe and not a nationally known football star.
There are the extremes of support. You will have people who will stand by the victim no matter what because “all men are capable of rape,” as well as those who are such ardent football fans that it clouds their vision and makes them jump to the conclusion that she is just making this charge because she is a gold digger and found out who he was. No one knows other than the two of what really happened. Was it consensual? Was it forced? Was it consensual at first then she decided no? Because once who press beyond hearing the word know, you have crossed that line to where it is rape.
I hope none of my daughters have to go through something like this with anyone, famous or not. I, like the parents of this woman, would stand by my daughters, and would believe either of were to state that they had forced sex from another man. And I would want to do anything to want to see the accused rot in jail and register to be a sex offender and all of that.
The problem is that our judicial system, though correct in wanting to meet that burden of proof makes the alleged victim more of a victim, making her feel guilty for being in that situation and feeling like the world is against you. The accused gets to face the accuser in court, and she has to live that moment over and over again. I would not wish that one anyone, especially either my daughters. I am afraid that I would want to take that 30,000 foot view and ask them if they really want to go through what this woman went through, having football fans calling her a liar and a gold digger, accusing her of making this all up to cash in on Winston’s fame.
The greatest act of bravery has nothing to do with what happens on a football field. The bravest person in this story is the woman, who believes she was raped and has to withstand all of that criticism to make her case known. I don’t know who is right or wrong in this case. And there are a lot of questions unanswered here. Both Winston and this woman have to live the rest of their lives with what happened, regardless of what really happened.
None of us have any right to judge either of them. Jameis Winston will play in the ACC championship game and potentially win the Heisman and national championship for FSU, and most likely a pro career. The woman will have to pick up the pieces and move on, though may be able to pursue a civil case down the road against Winston, which does not have the burden of proof requirements that a criminal case has.
I wish her all the best, and will hug my daughters evermore, as her parents undoubtedly are, and hope they don’t have to endure such an experience.