Roethlisberger Case

[Trigger warning.]

As most of you probably know, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit by a former employee of a hotel in Lake Tahoe at which he was staying during a celebrity golf tournament. You may also know that ESPN put out a do not report memo about the case—and the victim-blaming is in full-force just about everywhere.

I don't want to write a whole lot about this case right now, though I will say this: One doesn't need proof of the veracity of the allegation in order to call bullshit on the media coverage and rape apology tropes being wheeled out on rickety old carts yet again.

Point-blank: I have no idea whether Ben Roethlisberger raped the woman who alleges he did. Even knowing everything I know about the association between privilege and entitlement sexual aggression and professional athletics, even knowing everything I know about the rarity of false reports (more infrequent than false reports of car theft, which itself is rare), and even knowing the statistics on the ubiquity of sexual assault, I still don't know whether Ben Roethlisberger raped the woman who alleges he did.

And that truth has fuck-all to do with my saying that statements like this one from Roethlisberger's attorney, David Cornwell—"The timing of the lawsuit and the absence of a criminal complaint and a criminal investigation are the most compelling evidence of the absence of any criminal conduct"—are total bullshit. Because even if this woman isn't being truthful, the absence of a criminal complaint has fuck-all to do with the absence of criminal conduct in general, and it's a deeply cynical thing to say when most intellectually honest people, even ones with clients accused of rape, will acquiesce that lots and lots of women (and men) don't report being sexually assaulted.

Roethlisberger guilt or innocence is a wholly separate, and frankly incidental, thing from a discussion of how a denial of his culpability is reliant on existent victim-blaming narratives, dependent on the rape culture even as it reinforces it.

Recommended Reading: Samhita, Yes Means Yes Blog, Colleen, and Sady.

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