What will Pittsburgh Steelers fans who support Ben Roethlisberger swallow? They swallow their sense of right and wrong for the sake of enjoying their football unencumbered by their conscious. They do that when they defend Roethlisberger and denigrate a twenty year-old college student for not expecting to be treated like a prostitute at the end of an evening of drinking alcohol and sexual flirtation. I’ll say this for Roethlisberger, at least his sin, if not crime, came while intoxicated. Steelers fans defense of Roethlisberger is harder to understand.
A recent fun and occasionally heated [the 2 are related] sports argument began with a defense of Tim Tebow and ended up with my assertion that at least Tebow was not a rapist like Ben Roethlisberger. You will not be surprised that the family member I told this to is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He responded with the always solid advice of ‘put up or shut up.’ Given that one of my heroes, GK Chesterton, stated that even a bad shot is dignified when accepting a challenge, here it goes. While writing a blog post destined to be read by friends and seen only briefly by dozens of others–who arrive courtesy of Google and Bing searches which were too general to be useful–may not qualify as ‘putting up,’ but it will have to do.
First a disclaimer: I have a parental role with 3 teenagers, 2 of the female persuasion. My sympathy for violent acts against women of drunken males who are typically civilized when coherent, is limited. When the perpetrators are wealthy athletes who use their money and status to select their eventual victims and then escape responsibility, my sympathy is nonexistent.
In an American court of law, ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ is the standard of evidence required to validate a criminal conviction. I’m glad it is, there. But that standard is not an excuse to go through life as a moral pygmy, unable to form opinions and exercise one’s judgment because life does not unfold with a readily available youtube video or a detailed grand jury report to confirm events.
The case of what happened with Ben Roethlisberger and the twenty year-old female college student on the evening which began March 4, 2010 is a good example. Other than referring to the twenty year-old female as a victim, none of these bullet points are in dispute:
- Five female college students, most sorority sisters, hit the clubs on a Friday night in a small college town, Midgeville, GA.
- Roethlisberger, in town for a golf event, also hit the clubs with an entourage of six people, two of which were law enforcement officers.
- The Roethlisberger entourage and most of the females eventually went to three clubs that evening, Velvet Elvis, Brick and Capital City.
- At each of the clubs, Roethlisberger ends up in the VIP area where his entourage can protect him from the crowds and invite women to join their group.
- The victim meets Rothlisberger at Velvet Elvis and allows him to buy her alcohol and was flirting with him there and at Capital City.
- Close to midnight at Capital City, the victim is asked by one of Roethlisberger’s “bodyguards” to wait for him in a “side door/hallway” an area adjacent to the VIP room.
- Roethlisberger and the victim move from that hallway to a small [9×5] nearby bathroom.
- The victim’s friends become concerned when she is missing, partly because she was so drunk. One of them attempts to get into the area where the victim went but is rebuffed by one of Roethlisberger’s bodyguards who tells her he doesn’t know where her friend and Roethlisberger are while simultaneously denying her access to the hallway/bathroom area.
- Another friend finds the club manager, who she already knew, and tells him [Rocky] that her friend is very drunk and shouldn’t be back there with Roethlisberger. He tells her not to worry, since Roethlisberger wouldn’t do anything that would “ruin his reputation.”
- The victim emerges after about 10 minutes crying and immediately tells her friends that Roethlisberger had raped her.
- They find a police car outside the club and report the rape immediately.
- The victim and five of her friends give written and video testimonies to the police later that same evening.
- After the police station, they head over to a local hospital where a standard rape evidence kit was collected from the victim.
- One of Roethlisberger’s law enforcement bodyguards is later dismissed from his job due to his involvement in the incident.
Here is part of the statement by the local District Attorney on why he declined to prosecute Roethlisberger:
The victim was driven by a friend to the Oconee Regional Medical Center, the local hospital in Milledgeville. An emergency-room doctor and two nurses examined her. Noted in their report was a superficial laceration and bruising and slight bleeding in the genital area. Everything else in the medical examination was normal. The doctor stated that he could not say these were or were not from any kind of trauma or sexual assault. A standard rape evidence kit was collected. The doctor found no evidence of semen or discharge. The swabbings from the rape-evidence kit were tested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Atlanta, Georgia, and the initial testing found human male DNA present. Additional extensive testing was done, but because the sample was so minute it would not yield a profile. The crime lab advised that extracting DNA from Mr. Roethlisberger at this point was futile due to the fact that no profile was available from the minute male DNA sample submitted in the rape-evidence kit. Hence, that is when Mr. Roethlisberger’s attorney was informed that no buccal-swab samples for DNA would be needed from his client anymore.
Here’s where the criminal justice system and our consciousnesses need to diverge.
I read the victim’s statement believe her for two reasons. First, she reacts like someone who has been victimized. She emerges from the bathroom distraught and does the following without delay: Tells her friends that she has been raped, finds a police officer, gives written and video statements at the police station and travels to a hospital to be examined for rape. Her actions and the timeline reveal no indecision or hesitation. The second reason are the comments she reportedly made to Roethlisberger as the rape unfolded. They are so understated that they add to her believability. She told him, “you don’t have to do this” and “this is not right.” If someone was inventing a rape, the comments attributed to Roethlisberger and her own would have been more incriminating.
The incident reminded me of a very good movie called The Sure Thing. Here’s the plot as simply as possible: A guy is setup with a girl who will ‘put out.’ Just before they will have sex, she asks him an innocent but devastating question, “Do you love me?” John Cusack’s character lacks the heart to lie and so there was no sex. Behind the innocent and simple question was a great insight; even ‘sure things’ never want to be treated like ‘sure things.’
That’s why I can believe that the twenty year-old female, aided by her libido, alcohol and her imagination, was perhaps even hoping for some type of sexual encounter with Rothlisberger as she sat on the stool waiting for him in that hallway. But when he emerged in that hallway right next to the VIP room with his penis hanging out, those thoughts began to change. Fear elbowing out lust, as her intoxication begins subsiding. When they stumbled into the small bathroom, any amorous thoughts likely vanished along with her hopes of dissuading him. Then, not unlike the ‘sure thing,’ she pleads, “you don’t have to do this.” Meaning, ‘hey, I want you, but come on … not like this.’
But her ‘date’ was not a movie character written to do the right thing. Her date was a wealthy celebrity accustomed to getting what he desired. He was also drunk, physically imposing and likely upset that his bodyguard-aided selection process ended up with someone who was now having second thoughts. So he ignored her no’s, her pleading and her tears. One more reason why porn should come with a disclaimer. It would read something like this:
Warning: The women portrayed here are paid professionals. Do not attempt to recreate these scenes either at home or in public urinals unsupervised.
But even Roethlisberger’s drunken fantasies were no match for the victim’s passive tears, which is why there was “no evidence of semen or discharge” as he likely wound down in shame within minutes. That’s the scenario which seems likeliest to me. To think otherwise requires someone to believe that even an intoxicated female welcomed the idea of copulating in a urinal adjacent to the VIP room, enjoyed the sex [all 6 minutes of it], but then decided–in the 30 seconds between walking out of Roethlisberger’s Kohler faucet fantasy and seeing her friends–to engage in a criminal conspiracy in the hopes of further cashing in on the experience.
What do you believe and why? It is not enough to say that we don’t know, when a young woman’s psyche lies in the balance. What do you believe is likely? If you are a Steelers fan and prefer to avoid the topic you are putting your sports allegiances ahead of your conscious. Weak. Those who actually defend Roethlisberger and believe the victim is lying don’t just have a different point of view. They have a point of view which is illogical and cynical in the extreme regarding the motivations of an attractive twenty year-old college student. Is that really the profile of a person we can reasonably believe that at the end of a Friday night of bar hopping with friends would instantaneously devise a lie which entailed making false statements to law enforcement, undergoing a medical examination for rape and enlist friends to perpetuate that lie?
When the people who doubt the young woman are also Pittsburgh Steelers fans, their motives call into question their integrity. As in, someone who believes the convenient at the expense of the meek. They side with the powerful out of expediency, not with logic or compassion. Blessed they are not.
Roethlisberger rape related links:
Here’s what a false rape accusation might look like – 2nd woman – Andrea McNulty
TMZ – Link to Midgeville, GA police reports
TMZ part 2 – Police report about another [3rd] woman involving Roethlisberger
Art Rooney II – Documenting rape related charges
Peter King – Documenting rape related charges
Tim Keown – Documenting rape related charges
Pro Football Talk – Documenting rape related charges
ESPN – Documenting rape related charges
Politicol News blog – Documenting rape related charges
Penalty Flag blog – Documenting rape related charges