A Survivor’s Perspective on the Gopher Football Players

Trigger warning: Rape

A quick rundown of what happened:

  • In September, ten+ University of Minnesota football players raped a drunk girl at a party.
  • The survivor said what might have started as consensual developed into sexual assault: She was no longer consenting, and she didn’t feel safe leaving or capable of it.
  • She reported it to police, but the case was dropped because there wasn’t enough evidence for it to stand up in court.
  • She then reported it to the university, so now the players are indefinitely suspended.
  • The entire team vowed to boycott all football activities until the suspensions are lifted. They did this because they didn’t feel that due process was followed and they felt they weren’t informed well enough about what was going on. Doing so would violate FERPA (a privacy law).
  • Two days later, after the players and the U’s president discussed the matter, the players ended the boycott.
  • The U’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action recommended expulsion for some players and suspension for others.
  • No charges will be filed with police.
  • The football coach has been fired. He had expressed support for the players when they boycotted team activities.

 

I was following this story from the very beginning. It hit close to home — quite literally — because I go to the University of Minnesota and I’m a survivor of sexual assault.

Of course I’m no legal expert, but I’m going to give my two cents anyway. That’s what blogs are for, right? Anyway, I believe that both the police and the university should find these men guilty. There is video footage of them with her and she was drunk. Legally, a person cannot consent while intoxicated. Therefore it was rape.

Furthermore, the U has an affirmative consent policy. This means that if someone is accused of sexual assault, they must prove that they obtained verbal consent, instead of the survivor having to prove that they didn’t consent.

Perhaps the reason that the police and the U seem to be coming to different conclusions about whether or not the players are guilty is the standard of evidence they use. For the police, it must be “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, Universities use a lower standard which is essentially “more likely than not.”

By the U’s standards and by the standards of the law, she was raped.

It’s disappointing that the police won’t file charges against the players, but the U still has a chance to do the right thing. Not finding the players guilty would send a message that the U thinks that rape is OK, especially for football players. It also would say that money (and mediocre football) matters more than the safety of women. People won’t send their daughters to the U if they’re not found guilty. This is becoming national news, so they’d better play their cards right.

The president, at least, seems to have a promising stance. During the boycotts, he said “One of my jobs as President is to put our institutional values at the forefront of all we do and ensure our actions are aligned with those values. This principle is far more important than any football game and the University community as a whole, and it is more important than any single athletic team.”

In the meantime, as we wait for the University to make its decision, I hope the survivor finds the support that she needs and that she feels safe. And eventually, may she find justice and healing.

 

Thanks for reading this post. You can find my backstory here.

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