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Stop letting athlete rapists get off easy

Editorial cartoon by Jacob Bogdanoff

Editorial cartoon by Jacob Bogdanoff

On Dec. 7, 2012, a 20-year-old Florida State University student claimed she was raped by Jameis Winston, the school’s football star. When she told the police and school administration, they did nothing.

Winston is one of the poster boys for NCAA Division I football. He won the most prestigious collegiate football award, the Heisman Trophy, this year and led his team to the national championship, putting He in the realm of NCAA immortality. Winston is also a pitcher for his school’s baseball team.

After Winston’s accuser identified him, it took 13 days for Tallahassee police to even contact him. The lead investigator on the case, Scott Angulo, had done security for the Florida State football team booster club. In an “attempt” to interrogate Winston, Angulo called Winston to come in for an interview, but excused him from the interrogation because Winston had to go to baseball practice. An investigation cannot be handled worse than this. Winston’s roommate admits to videotaping the encounter on that December night, but later deleted it. If investigators were on this case sooner, they may have retrieved the video.

This is another case of a town trying to protect its football hero, adding Florida State to the slew of universities across the country that ignored the cries of women who are being sexually assaulted. Sixty-six days after the accuser called the police, Angulo closed the case without getting DNA samples or interviewing crucial eyewitnesses who were there that night. It took investigators 342 days after the accusation – and after the case started drawing national attention – for investigators to interview Winston’s roommate. They then obtained Winston’s DNA that matched the DNA that was on the victim’s clothing that night. Twenty-one days later, nearly a whole year since the victim accused Winston of sexually assaulting her, local prosecutor William Meggs decided that the Tallahassee Police Department had not gathered a sufficient amount of evidence to prosecute Winston.

Although Winston might be off the hook, Florida State and the police department are not and should not be. Angulo and the police department have received much criticism, including a New York Times investigative story that conducted more research than the police department.

Florida State must also keep a close eye on its Heisman winner. Before the sexual assault accusations became public, another woman sought counseling after a sexual encounter with Winston. She did not call it rape and she never said “no,” but it was of such a nature that she felt violated or felt that she needed to seek some type of counseling for her emotions about the experience. Winston obviously has a problem with his behavior, and the football team and Florida State need to address it before something else happens.

But Winston’s case is not an isolated incident. Universities across the country need to take note of the sexual assault accusations other similar cases at other schools to realize that they need to address the problems of sexual assault whenever it occurs, no matter who the accused are. Every accusation should be taken seriously to protect women in college, a place they go to for education, personal growth, and fun.

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