Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Justice: Just a Perspective?

David Whitley of FOX Sports wrote an interesting opinion piece about the announcement by Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs that Jameis Winston--quarterback of the top ranked Flordia State University football team hoping to play for the national championship, leading Heisman Trophy candidate, and future millionaire National Football League player—would not be charged with sexual assault.  This freed up Winston to continue his football playing through the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and possible national championship games.  Whitley stated that he wasn’t sure that “justice” had been served, and that it all depended upon individual perspectives of the whole sordid affair.  Whitley quoted the state attorney, when asked that question (more or less), as saying: “The folks want to look for conclusions.  They’ll have to draw their own.”  Never, in the opinion piece, does Whitley offer an answer as to whether or not justice was served . . . he pretty much avoids answering the question.

Instead, Whitley, basically states that it all depends upon where the individual’s loyalties are . . . if you are a big Florida State Seminole fan, then justice was served, Winston was falsely accused, and everything is back on track towards the Heisman and national championship.  If you are a person who believed the woman and should have her day in court . . . then this all screams of favoritism in a football town, bumbling law enforcement, and a general circus atmosphere where illusions rule the day while the facts will never be heard.  Or, if you are a person who is totally confused as to what you believe . . . well, the whole situation still remains as clear as mud.  As Whitley states, it is all a matter of perspective.

For several years, I worked on a federal grant in the state of Montana that dealt with domestic and sexual violence . . . in particular as it affected women, children, and families.  True, not all domestic violence happens to women—men are also the victims of domestic violence, but the overwhelming majority of domestic violence cases happen to women.  Happens all of the time.  Rape falls under this umbrella of domestic and sexual violence . . . at a rate of 1.3 rapes a minute in the United States according to the federal government.  What I learned and heard in those two years influenced my perspective on the issue . . . and, from that perspective I can honestly say that “justice” was not served in this situation . . . in fact, it never had its day in court.

Earlier in the week, I was not surprised upon learning that the state attorney for Florida was going to have a press conference to announce what his office was going to do with the Winston case . . . at that very moment I knew that Winston was not going to be charged.  If the man was going to be charged, the authorities would have gone and arrested him in as quietly of a manner as they could of—sans all of the publicity.  Nope, that was not going to happen . . . Winston was going to walk free of the accusations.  I saw no reason to even watch the big press conference . . . “justice” wasn’t going to get its fair chance.

When it comes to sexual assault—especially rape—that justice is served . . . at least for the person who has been assaulted or raped.  I stand in awe of what I am witnessing when it comes to these cases and trials as victims are attacked, raked over the coals, and made to be the “bad guys” as their attackers sit there and watch.  Isn’t that what happened when a Billings judge sentenced a guilty teacher to a little over a month in jail for raping one of his students . . . didn’t the judge make references to the fact that he thought the 14 year old looked and acted much older than her actual age . . . that this played a role in the teacher’s actions?  Unfortunately or fortunately, the 14 year old avoid this smear having committed suicide before the case ever came up for trial.  Was she a victim?  Yeah, I think so. Was “justice” served in this case?  No, and now the state of Montana is scrambling like crazy to fix the situation and sentence the teacher to a minimum of four years for the rape of this 14 year old . . . unfortunately, the girl will never know . . . she’s dead.
The accuser of Winston was put on trial before the investigation was even started . . . before it even got a shot at being tried in court. She was attacked, bullied, dragged through the mud, and warned . . . warned by one of the Tallahassee police officers that she might reconsider pressing for rape charges as “Tallahassee is a big football town” and the person she was accusing was the star player.  But, she pressed on despite the smear campaign against her.  The young woman reported the rape the night it happened. This means that she probably went through all of the steps . . . telling her story to the police (in her case, not once, but twice—once to the campus police who referred her to the Tallahassee police because the incident took place off-campus and she had to tell the story a second time) . . . going to the hospital to undergo a procedure using a “rape kit” and having to tell the story for a third time . . . in fact, she probably ended up telling the story of what happened more times than any of us could count.  And, each time she told the story, she had to relive the trauma of it all.  Physical evidence was found proving that Winston was the one who she said raped her.  She stuck by her story . . . even after Winston stated that it was consensual sex . . . she called it rape.

It became a big “he said/she said” debate.  He proclaimed innocence, she claimed rape.  Lines were drawn in the sand, sides were taken . . . and, in the end, some would say that it was a tie when it was all said and done.  I am not too sure about that.  In the end the young woman had to drop out of school because the scrutiny was too much for her.  Her reputation was dragged through the muck of public opinion, a reputation that will never leave her.  She has been traumatized over and over again with the nightmare of something that she did not want to happen.  She believes what happened to her will make others not want to report rape.  She was rightly termed the “victim” in this case.  I don’t think she felt like it was a tie . . . or anything close to a tie.  I think she would say that she got stomped . . . unfairly stomped in what she believed would be a “just” system and process.

Neither do I think that the individual she accused feels as if it were a tie.  He did not have to drop out of school, sit out a football game, give up his pursuit of a national championship, give up his pursuit of a Heisman trophy, or a future big-time paycheck in the National Football League.  His name was not dragged through the mud and muck . . . far from it.  Instead we witnessed the attack against the victim . . . the lame excuse that “boys will be boys” . . . and, that he has such a bright future ahead.  He lawyer stated that it would be difficult for him to clean up his reputation . . . who is he kidding!  I do not see Jameis Winston hiding from the public eyes.  I think he would tell all of us . . . he won.

In this whole mess, Jameis Winston is probably the only winner.  Everyone else lost.  The victim lost.  The public lost.  And, the biggest loser of all . . . “justice”.  Remember that Florida’s state attorney did not say that nothing happened . . . he just stated that in his opinion—according to what the state using as a measurement for such cases—that this case would have been too difficult to try and win.  In other words, something happened and it is up to everyone to form his or her own opinion.  I say that the matter should have been given its day in court . . . that “justice” be given an opportunity to settle things once and for all.  To level the playing field and see what happens.  That is all that anyone who plays a sport wants . . . a level playing field and an opportunity to play the game.  That is all that any of us wants . . . a level playing field to share our stories and allow the chips to fall where they may.  “Justice” did not get a fair deal . . . and, probably never will.

I think that is what upset me the most by Whitley’s opinion piece . . . he chickened out . . . he didn’t take a stand . . . he didn’t stand up for “justice”.   I don’t know if the story of victim is true or not . . . I don’t know whether or not Winston is telling the truth . . . but, I think that if both of them believe that they are telling the truth, let “justice” settle the issue.  But, I forget . . . opinions are opinions, not facts . . . at least that is my opinion.  In the court of opinion, no one wins.  I say, give “justice” a chance.  What we do in our society to victims of sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence is a bigger crime than the actual crime itself . . . we deny them their humanness . . . and, we deny them “justice”.

Was “justice” served?  You tell me.

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