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Looking at the Jameis Winston Case

We are reposting an article written by Amanda Schumacher, entitled “Looking at the Jameis Winston Case”, published with permission from Family Support Center’s December newsletter.

This week, it was reported that state attorney Willie Meggs, of the Second Judicial Circuit in Florida, had arrived at the decision not to charge star Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with sexual assault, after a 19-year-old woman reported that Winston had raped her in December of 2012. Early pieces on Meggs’ decision, from mainstream media sources, have demonstrated a lack of understanding when it comes to the dynamics of sexual violence. It is important, then, that we learn to critically view mainstream media reports on sexual assault cases, keeping the following points in mind:

(1) Just because a state’s attorney has decided not to move forward with charges does not mean that the victim was “lying” about sexual assault, or that the incident she recounted did not have a traumatic impact. According to FBI statistics, sexual assault is a vastly under-reported crime; and, of those assaults that are reported, the percentage that are prosecuted and result in a conviction is small as well. Regardless of whether a survivor made a formal report to law enforcement, he or she still deserves supportive services, like those provided by the Family Support Center, to begin their individual, healing journey.

(2) Many of the reports on the Winston case have cited the victim’s “fuzzy memory” as a reason to discredit her. To those who have not experienced sexual assault, it may be tempting to think, “If something this awful really happened, she would definitely remember every last detail!” In reality, that isn’t how the brain processes traumatic experiences. The acute stage of Rape Trauma Syndrome (a condition that overlaps with complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]) is marked by a number of common symptoms, including “dulled sensory, affective, and memory functions” and “disorganized thought content.”

(3) There has also been speculation, among those following the Winston case, that the victim should not be believed because she “probably just had too much to drink, and regretted what she did while intoxicated.” We need to remember, however, that being intoxicated — even if a person willingly consumed the alcohol — prevents someone from legally consenting to sexual activity. Unfortunately, survivors who were using alcohol or drugs prior to their assault often blame themselves for somehow “causing” or being “responsible for” the assault; and this attitude is frequently reinforced by friends, family members, and the media, leading to even more intense feelings of guilt, shame, and self-doubt.

When supporting survivors, we must always be clear that they are not at fault for their experiences. The perpetrator had the responsibility to ensure affirmative consent to sexual activity from someone who was capable of giving that consent — and failed to do so.

And looking thru a broader lens, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV)’s posting, entitled “A National Perspective on Recent High-Profile Sexual Assault Cases” on 12/9/13…

Steubenville. Chapel Hill. Maryville. Tallahassee. Billings. Nashville. Storrs. Across our nation incidents in cities, towns and universities have put sexual assault in the headlines along sports teams and fraternities. As national leaders in the efforts to respond to sexual violence and support survivors, it is deeply disturbing to us that as a nation we’ve made seemingly little progress in addressing this issue. Why haven’t things changed? Why are we still blaming victims?

Read on here:




Posted in Commentary, News, Teen Issues, Uncategorized.

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