Posts Tagged ‘violence’

Manti Te’o’s hoax overshadowing legit deaths of women

January 17, 2013

An important read by one of my favorite writers/bloggers, Irin Carmon, this piece details how the Manti Te’o scandal has overshadowed the death of an actual Notre Dame student — a suicide reportedly tied to intimidation by football players regarding sexual assault allegations.

Media-wise, it’s similar to the recent murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend. Horrific as it was, the way it was spun by many sports outlets was even more horrific — what a terrible tragedy that this football player killed himself, rather than — what a terrible tragedy that this football player murdered his girlfriend and the mother of her child.

And all this Manti Te’o hoopla, mixed with Lance Armstrong nonsense, has likely overshadowed that the autopsy for the Belcher shooting came back a few days ago. His BAC was twice the legal limit, and he had actually been found by police hours earlier sleeping in his idle car. According to Missouri law, they could’ve booked him on driving under the influence. Instead, they let him “go inside a nearby apartment to sleep it off.”

The apartment he wanted to go to was his mistress’s, who he had been with the night before. Instead, he went to a different apartment, slept a few hours, returned home, fought with his girlfriend, and then shot her nine times. Nine.

It’s a terrible disservice to Kasandra Perkins and Lizzy Seeburg that their tragic deaths are overshadowed by a story like this, of an imaginary girlfriend — that they just didn’t have enough shock value to keep people’s attention.

But along the lines of Carmon’s piece — she states “no one should be surprised” by the oversight of Seeburg’s suicide — maybe the saddest part is that these deaths aren’t that shocking considering the circumstances. Football players from a violent game being aggressive and/or violent off the field isn’t much of a stretch. But for some reason, that doesn’t make us any better at predicting the aggressive behavior.

What else can we get better at predicting? Drunk people have poor judgment, so they shouldn’t be let off for drunk driving with just a warning. Offenders will likely offend again, so incidents shouldn’t be quickly dismissed for the sake of a sport. Let’s focus on these cracks in the system — which affect tons of people — instead of one guy’s catfish/ill-fated sob story.

Expecting a cheerleader to root for her rapist is repulsive

May 10, 2011

(Note: I changed the wording in a few sentences because as one reader pointed out, Rakheem Bolton is an alleged rapist — he was never convicted. Unchanged “rapist” references are meant to provide prospective from the cheerleader’s point of view, not to mislead readers into thinking Bolton was convicted of rape.)

That a 16-year-old cheerleader could be raped by a peer on the basketball team and then be dropped from the team because she refused to cheer for him during games is a repulsive example of how highly we value athletes — to the point where we’ll choose to forcefully and repeatedly traumatize a sexual assault victim rather than witness a microscopic lack of school spirit while someone shoots free throws.

To be clear, the cheerleader only refused to shout his name and cheer for him on the free throw line; she cheered otherwise. (Update: This is the cheer she refused to say: “Two, four, six, eight, ten! Go Rakheem. Put it in!” I mean, really? The school demanded she shout that to her rapist?) But now she’s stuck with the school’s legal fee bill: $45,000. All because she didn’t want to personally encourage the person she alleges raped her (he plead guilty to misdemeanor assault, so the rape charge was dropped and he was free to remain on the basketball team). But this case never should have gone to the courts — the school system should have just been more understanding.

One of the major reasons the school wasn’t sensitive is that people are so obsessed with sports that they’ll overlook anything so long as their athletes remain able to play in the game. There’s no denying that athletes constantly get preferential treatment — especially at the high school and college levels, where the schools are focused on their team winning and keeping public support high because the teams are significant moneymakers. Oftentimes for better players, even fans are willing to look the other way at or forget about indiscretions if it means victory for the team (on the professional level, think Kobe Bryant or Michael Vick).

But we shouldn’t overlook the correlation between male student-athletes and sexual assault — one study showed that there was a significantly larger proportion of male student-athletes in reports of violence against women; another showed that on-the-field aggression can follow athletes outside the sports arena and into their relationships with women. In 2003, USA Today found that in the 12 years prior, 164 athletes and former athletes had been accused of sexual assault. If we want to combat sexual assault, enabling athletes and punishing victims isn’t the path to follow.

The school officials wanted to punish her though, because (1) cheerleading so powerfully affects these athletes’ talent and ability, plus (2) her lack of enthusiasm at the sight of her rapist was somehow unreasonable. I don’t know if it was because, as the Independent article claimed, she cheered in a “sport-obsessed small town” in Texas that demanded school spirit, or because they were afraid if she didn’t cheer then people would start asking questions.  If the latter was their strategy, that didn’t go so well.

Does this guy really need her cheers to effectively make a basket? I doubt he gave a shit if she cheered for him at the free throw line. And, as my friend Nicole pointed out, forcing this cheerleader to scream her rapist’s name and cheer for him during games is assaulting her all over again. Should she be forced to quit if it makes her uncomfortable? Absolutely not. A sexual assault survivor shouldn’t have to change her life around to make her rapist feel better.

And let’s not forget: This girl is 16 years old. She is a child. She is a teenager and a student who should be protected by her teachers and school officials — instead, they are attacking her. Good to know she’ll use $45,000 that could’ve been a full four years at a public in-state college instead toward paying the legal fees for a school that demanded she cheer for someone who she alleges raped her or be kicked off the team — what a great message about the education system.

What’s the lesson here? We don’t want people asking questions or our athletes to feel unappreciated, so you better applaud whenever you see your rapist, because to us, school spirit is worth crushing your spirit.

Society’s stance on sexual violence makes me a bit sad

April 21, 2011

Tonight is the annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and rally at my alma mater, Ohio University. The march is the culmination of a week of events and activities meant to raise awareness about violence against women, and it typically is women-only, with men encouraged to support from the sidelines. Unfortunately though, I’ve had a pessimistic outlook on the fight against violence against women lately.

First, Charlie Sheen. Ugh. That people want to be “TeamSheen” and that Sheen has such a colorful, vast history of violence against women is extremely disheartening. His history involves gunshots, knives, death threats, and other forms of physical and verbal abuse. To this day he still threatens both his ex-wives publicly, and yet most people remain unfazed. I’ve heard he makes $200,000 per show — just five shows where he freely calls female audience members sluts and he’s banked $1,000,000. Is the price of seeing Sheen’s trainwreck in person worth the price of supporting an abuser?

Justin Bieber recently said Sheen was the most influential person in the world right now. This is scary for two reasons: (1) because young girls take Bieber’s word as the gospel, so if Bieber is saying Sheen is “winning” in a positive light then that’s worrisome because young girls might think Bieber is condoning that behavior and might then think it’s OK if guys treat them that way; and (2) because Bieber himself is a young teenage guy, being influenced by the douchebag that is Charlie Sheen, does he laugh off Sheen’s violence, too? Does he think it’s cool to act like Sheen?

That someone can have such a public, violent history of attacking women yet still get support from the general public is … ridiculous? Unbelievable? Depressing?

Second, at my alma mater this weekend, there were three sexual assaults reported. Of the alleged sexual assaults, one was at knifepoint in a church parking lot, one was in a fraternity house, and one was in an off-campus apartment complex. Police don’t think the sexual assaults are related, but it’s nonetheless terrible to hear of just one sexual assault, let along a string of three sexual assaults.

But I’m preparing to hear outcries that the two non-knife-related assaults are just cases of women getting too drunk and choosing to have sex, but then regretting it in the morning and calling it rape. Or that they were wearing clothing that showed a millimeter of skin so they were inviting it. Or that the women were drinking so this means it’s not really sexual assault. People don’t even need evidence that alcohol was involved — merely hearing that it was a Friday or Saturday night on a college campus is enough evidence for the court of public opinion to assume this scenario.

This goes with my third reason for disillusionment, courtesy of The New York Times. A police officer was accused of raping a woman that he was supposed to see get home safely after she had been drinking during the night, but the Times article doesn’t hesitate to illustrate for the reader why her story might not be credible:

Still, the prosecution’s case may rely heavily on the credibility of a woman who was admittedly drunk at the time she says she was sexually assaulted, and cannot recall large portions of the evening.

As Ms. Magazine points out, alcohol doesn’t make you hallucinate or create false memories. And the officer admitted to her on tape that he had sex with her that night. The line of consent here is crystal clear — the on-duty officer was perfectly sober and aware that (1) she was too drunk to consent and (2) his job was merely to make sure she got home safely, not to try to have sex with her.

I’m so sick of hearing “… but she was drinking …” as an excuse for sexual violence, because it implies that if women don’t want to be sexually assaulted, then they shouldn’t drink alcohol (blaming the victim instead of the assailant). OK, so what else should women to do avoid sexual assault? Not wear skirts? Not go outside? Not talk to anyone of the opposite sex ever again? It’s like if you weren’t attacked with a deadly weapon by a stranger in an alley, then the public doesn’t think your story holds water. About one-quarter of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a stranger — the vast majority are by non-strangers, yet we still are more skeptical when the suspect is a non-stranger. The statistics don’t lie, but we’re far too easily convinced that the victims do.

I’m not sure this ramble was very cohesive, but society’s attitude toward sexual violence frustrates me. Charlie Sheen made $2 million per episode on Two and a Half Men, $1 million per five shows on his current “tour,” and his violent nature toward women has never stopped his success. The line of consent between drunken people is blurry, but society still errs on the side of “she probably just regretted it in the morning” when it comes to women reporting sexual assaults.

But it’s not healthy to just dwell on the negatives, which is why the TBTN march and rally are so great. Women can gather together, march together, shout together, and really have a loud, collective voice that is otherwise often unheard. So if you’re at Ohio University’s main campus today (April 21), go to the Scripps amphitheater at 7:30 p.m. for a rally and then a march to raise awareness about sexual violence. We’ve got a long way to go to change the social stigma around sexual violence, but it’ll never change if we stay silent about it.

P.S. Check out this informative article about the stigma around reporting sexual assault, via The Post, Ohio University’s independently run student newspaper.

Charlie Sheen’s bosses should’ve stepped in sooner

March 1, 2011

After reading this insightful article about how Charlie Sheen’s public, violent behavior toward women didn’t get him fired but insulting his boss did, I began to wonder about the connection between work productivity and personal problems. Should employers or co-workers get involved in an employee’s personal problems? Sometimes, yes. In the spectrum of personal problems, the problems that can lead to the harm of that co-worker or someone else at the hands of that co-worker do merit intervention.

Sheen’s behavior is a perfect example. Initially, Sheen was still showing up to work on time — but in the midst of that, both Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller accused him of physical and verbal abuse, with Mueller claiming that Sheen put a knife to her throat. That didn’t happen on-set, but it speaks to Sheen’s violent character — someone who could seriously hurt another person, even one of his co-workers (he later allegedly threatened a hired escort, too). But, the violence and negative publicity financially was a win for the network, as ratings for Two and a Half Men went up as a result.

But, eventually, Sheen stopped being a “functioning” addict/abuser. Production was halted because of his absence from work, staff members weren’t getting paid, and the rest of this season’s shows and production schedule were canceled — only after Sheen publicly embarrassed his boss by insulting him. Too bad his boss didn’t see the violent way Sheen acted behind the scenes as equally embarrassing.

Are employers supposed to be watchdogs for any and all personal problems? Of course not. But if they (1) could lead to someone being hurt and/or (2) affect work performance, then an employer shouldn’t hesitate to step in. Some people think the NFL shouldn’t have suspended Ben Roethlisberger at the beginning of last season because the sexual assault allegations against him were dropped, but I didn’t mind — as the ones who pay him lots of money to play football every season, they wanted to send him a message that they weren’t going to tolerate behavior that would negatively affect his work performance. (And in my own wishful thinking, that behavior that would harm women wouldn’t be tolerated, either.)

And there is simple human decency. No one has the right to abuse anyone else — not even if they are married and in their home — and it’s irresponsible for all his bosses to know that several women have accused him of manic, violent episodes, and to then continue to write him checks for $2 million an episode because he shows up to work; in this case, they could have taken preventative actions to help ensure both his well-being and the well-being of the people around him. Instead, they chose to milk his violent outbursts and the attached publicity for all it was worth, until the people getting hurt were the bosses themselves.

Sheen, in an interview with TMZ, said that what someone does on the weekend isn’t the business of his or her employer, and said that if he were in charge of a “star,” he would do whatever made the star happy because Hollywood is a business and the star makes the money. Of course, that’s Sheen’s point of view — that because he brings in the ratings (more so when he makes headlines for attacking women or going on drug benders), people should cater to him. Unfortunately, his employers did that for way too long.

Media quips about Mel Gibson’s violent rants aren’t funny

August 12, 2010

The reaction to the sexist, racist, and disgusting things that were allegedly said (and recorded) by Mel Gibson to girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva has been … bizarre. As Lauretta said at Tiger Beatdown, people have been focusing on his racist remarks, despite the fact that (1) his racism is not new and (2) the sexist and violent remarks are much higher in quantity:

The above [see link for list of quotes from the tapes] is a fairly accurate survey of Gibson’s vitriol, and the above is not racist. It’s searing misogyny. The headlines focused on Gibson’s racial slurs because his 2006 drunken anti-Semitic speech was such a hit and because it’s oh-so-au courant to debunk “post-racial” theories. It also suggests that people are more agitated/swayed by racism than sexism.

This is troubling, and Lauretta explains why better than I can. But what is also troubling is the media — or at least one celebrity news outlet in particular — making jokes about the sexist, violent things Mel says in the tapes.

The Daily 10, a roundup of the top 10 celebrity news stories from day, is on E! and features a few hosts who have cheesy banter as segways between stories. Twice now, one of the hosts (two different hosts, on separate shows, both men, not sure if that makes a difference) have made a joke about the Mel Gibson tapes, both in reference to the following quote:

I deserve to be blown fast! Before the f*cking Jacuzzi! Ok, I’ll burn the goddamn house up, but blow me first! How dare you!??!

Like most of the things heard on the tapes, this is intense. Mel is threatening to burn the house down, but saying he would demand oral sex beforehand. This isn’t very funny to me. It’s violent and disturbing. Yet both the hosts made comments to the effect of, “Well, that’s nice that he’s asking her to blow him before he burns the house down.”

In fact, one of the hosts — who was a guest host, not a regular — made an even more disturbing comment than that (possibly about how that was the obvious order of things (oral sex –> burn house down), but it was a few weeks ago and I can’t remember it exactly, and eonline.com doesn’t have videos of the episodes of Daily 10), which actually made host Katt Sadler awkwardly speechless, obviously unsure of how to reply to the host’s adlib joking about the “servicing” of Mel before he burned their house down.

I don’t think I’m being too politically correct when I say that it’s really inappropriate for these TV hosts to use Mel Gibson’s violent comments as comedy material. Of course there’s no simple segway from Mel’s rants to some red carpet event, but poking fun at his comment(s) merely reduces the severity or the seriousness of it(them) — and we don’t need to be downplaying how dangerous these comments are.

Sidenote: No one poked fun at Chris Brown assaulting Rihanna — I doubt Daily 10 has had any hosts make funny quips about the night the assault happened or any of the details regarding it. So why is this different?

Is it because Rihanna is America’s sweetheart so we care more that she was assaulted? Is it because the image of her bruises was much more disturbing than the audio of Mel’s rants? Is it because Chris Brown had no history of lashing out, but Mel has for years been known as a racist and a sexist, so we somewhat think Oksana should’ve known what she was getting into? I’m a bit baffled.