A Victim’s Perspective on Jameis Winston and FSU

Nov 15, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) gestures to the crowd as the Florida State Seminoles beat the Miami Hurricanes 30-26 at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports David Manning USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been on the road for Outkick almost every weekend this season and have watched multiple Florida State games, but it wasn’t until the Seminoles faced Miami on November 15th that Jameis Winston and his issues made me think of my story.

Winston sauntered off the field and shushed a section of Miami fans on his way to the locker room at the end of the game. That did it. I sat in a restaurant in Athens, Georgia wanting to throw up.

Maybe it’s because I wondered if that’s what he, like the person who assaulted me six years ago, did to his victim before, during and after the incident. I couldn’t help but think of him as the bad guy in a movie, waiting for him to wink at me as if to say, “Yes, I did it, but I’ll never tell.”  I wondered if he feels he can tell everyone to shush and continue to get away with the things he has allegedly done.

And why shouldn’t he feel this way? The Tallahassee police department, his friends, his lawyer, his family, his teammates, and his coaches have let him get away with one thing after another. Teflon.

Why am I telling you this, what does it have to do with Florida State, and how is college football involved? Because I was sexually assaulted and what is happening at Florida State University is making a mockery out of victims — and future victims — of sexual assault.

This is not an article to gain sympathy for myself, or to leave any inkling of the idea that I wallow in self-pity. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I was born with the ability to handle highly emotional situations with blunt rationalization and move forward quickly.  I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s probably not healthy, but it works for me.

Previous sexual assault cases make you cringe when you hear about them, and as time goes on you forget and if he’s found culpable the player is either suspended, dismissed, or fined if he is in the pros. This case lingers and the details continue to worsen. Surprisingly, when these cases happen, I don’t often think of my own. Maybe it’s because the only people who know about my incident are the perpetrator, who had been a friend of mine for years, and my best friend. My parents didn’t know until I decided they should hear about it from me and not read it on the internet since they check Outkick more than I do.

After my sexual assault — I was able to fight off my attacker, but the trauma was still incredibly intense — my grades went down the drain, I went out a lot more, and I was always irritable. I didn’t seriously date for two years because I couldn’t trust anyone. Could I have benefited from talking to a professional? Probably. Do I believe that I was his only victim? No, I don’t. I believe he knew exactly what he was doing, because he’d done it before. Sometimes I feel guilty that there may have been more victims after me and wonder if that’s my fault. But this horrible thing happened to me, and I did what was best for me at the time. I would handle it the same way today, almost six years later. Every case and every victim is different, and it is her decision how she wants to handle it.

Do I have daddy issues? Or was I “asking for it?” As some of the #FSUtwitter mentions have accused the alleged victim. Couldn’t be further from the truth. I come from a home with two of the most supportive and loving parents a child could want. But here’s where FSU supporters get it wrong: it doesn’t matter anyway. Sexual assault is never okay. The victim is never to blame in any way.

So what makes the Winston case different from the hundreds of other sexual assault, battery, rape, or domestic violence cases that have plagued college football and the NFL? This is different because to my knowledge there has not been such a flagrant disregard for the judicial system and an alleged victim, a fan base so insistent on worshipping an alleged perpetrator(s), and a cover-up so readily apparent in the college football world.

During his time at FSU, Jameis Winston has had six — count them, six, major incidents:

First there was the BB gun incident where he racked up $4,000 worth of property damage, then there were the rape accusations, then he stole a soda from a Burger King and crab legs from Publix. His next attempt to ruin FSU’s PR department came when he yelled, “f**k her right in the pu**y,” while standing on a table in a dining hall, and most recently an autograph investigation.

Any other player who had not led their team to a National Championship and won a Heisman trophy would’ve been long gone. Yet, Jameis is still on the field, shushing one fan base at a time, while those around him make a mockery of themselves by defending him. He shows absolutely zero signs of remorse, for anything.

How little remorse has he shown? When he was suspended for the game against Clemson — of course not for the pending rape case but for his dining hall table incident — he came out in full uniform as if nothing was the matter. Just a new level of delusion. Even his teammates and coaches shot him confused glances.

How did we get to this point, where FSU treats a sexual assault charge less seriously than a player alleged to be signing autographs for money?

Let’s start at the top with Jimbo Fisher. The head coach in college football is supposed to set an example and teach these young men right and wrong. Do they always do this? No, but a valiant effort should be made. Is this easy? No, and I realize many of the young men who play college football don’t come from white picket fence homes.

I used to think Jimbo Fisher was a class act guy. That’s now laughable. A small part of me died inside when Fisher’s son wore a Winston jersey on super hero day… hero being the key word in that sentence. Aside from Fisher looking like a buffoon by constantly defending Jameis and his actions, there have been other players. Most recently Karlos Williams, who was being investigated for a domestic violence incident. 

It took his pregnant girlfriend posting pictures of her bruises on Facebook for someone to take her seriously. Yes, you read that right, she had to put pictures up on social media. Fisher took no action, allowing his star running back to practice without restriction. Funny how that works when you help a team win. Such fortunate treatment. Fisher went on a post-game press conference to blame ESPN for the coverage of FSU’s off-field issues. Yes, the worldwide leader in sports, which paid FSU close to $20 million last year to televise its games, is responsible for one of his players allegedly beating a pregnant woman. Brilliant.

It would be truly impressive, if it wasn’t so sickening, that he was able to see pictures of his player’s beaten and bruised eight-months-pregnant girlfriend, and then plain as day proclaim Williams’ innocence. Would the severity of these allegations hit home if he had a daughter? Maybe. Fisher is not the only one in Tallahassee hiding things though.

Enter Willie Meggs, Leon County State Attorney. Some of you may know Meggs as the one laughing when he announced that Jameis Winston would not be charged with rape. The entire situation was, clearly, a laughing matter. Every time I think back to my assault, laughter is the last thing that comes to my mind, and I’m sure other victims will agree.

Dan Wetzel from Yahoo wrote an incredible account of the victim, the facts, and the events that unfolded, which I’ve read no less than 15 times. You can read it here. There’s no doubt this girl believes she was raped and every action she’s undertaken since that night provides further evidence of the fact. A tiny, tiny minority of women ever make up a sexual assault. And that number dwindles to almost zero when you include the dehumanizing experience of a rape kit. From the moment she left the apartment that night, the girl has told one consistent story — that she was raped.  

The Tallahassee Police Department continues to protect FSU football players. The New York Times reported two FSU players were involved in a hit-and-run that was reduced to two traffic tickets. Both cars in the incident were totaled. The players (P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby) fled the scene and were never given a breathalyzer upon returning to it. Did they play against Boston College this past weekend without ever facing any discipline? Of course.

The entire athletic department, administrative board, and the Tallahassee Police Department have created a monster that devoured a sexual assault victim on social media: the FSU fan base’s conduct has been shameful and reprehensible.

I used to think people were smarter and would be able to eliminate their fandom when it comes to considering the action or inaction of players, coaches, and officers of the law, but no, if you win football games you pay no price — FSU fans want to build shrines to antiheroes. What kind of example is this for these fans’ children who worship these players? As long as you’re really good at football, it’s okay to steal, allegedly rape a girl, beat pregnant women, drunkenly crash your car and flee the scene of an accident.

You would think after all the evidence supporting these accusations, some fan with a moral conscience would be pleading for Fisher to take action or for FSU to send the message that an entire school doesn’t exist just for football, that some things matter more than gridiron talent. That someone would call for an investigation into the police department or for the administration to overrule the athletic department. It’s mind-blowing to me each week when I think the fans or university can’t sink any lower, but then they do.  

So what’s the bottom line? FSU will continue to play these players, the Tallahassee PD will continue to protect them, and the FSU administration will continue to allow them to attend school and push back disciplinary committee meetings for up to two years. Anything to win. With each snap that Winston takes and hands off to the likes of Karlos Williams, or every pass cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby defend, there’s an alleged rape of a young girl, pictures of assault and battery to a woman and her unborn child, a teenager driving home from work who had his first car totaled by a driver who fled the scene, and a head coach and program that not only allow this behavior but condone it. And all so Florida State can try for a second consecutive national championship. The real MVP of the Florida State Seminoles isn’t Jameis Winston, it’s his criminal defense attorney.

Yes, Jameis Winston shushed the crowd after his team won against Miami and I still can’t get the image out of my mind. My fear is that the Tallahassee police department’s shameful lack of investigation of an alleged sexual assault and Florida State’s indifference to the pursuit of the truth will shush the next generation of sexual assault victims.

It’s why, after so many years of silence, I’m stepping out of the shadows.

I won’t be silenced any longer.   

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