Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Footballers and Sexual Violence

Fair warning to our readers - this is a serious post, and it's fairly long-form. I won't be offended if you don't read it, but I think it's worth your time.

Micah Richards. Jonny Evans. Robin van Persie. Fredy Montero. Nate Jaqua. Eric Frimpong.

All footballers, all accused of rape or sexual assault, although only the last is in prison. In 2007, the last year for which data is available, there were 90,427 forcible rapes in the United States which translates to a rate of 30 per 100,000 people. Although there is some research which suggests that athletes are more predisposed to commit violent crimes, the truth is that we take far more notice when the accusation is made against a well-known footballer.

The problem isn't confined to football, of course, as amply demonstrated by Kobe Bryant and Jerramy Stevens among others, although it appears that footballers seem to enjoy "roasting" more than other athletes. However, the issue of sexual assault also appears to be more fraught with the potential for abuse by accusers when professional athletes are involved.

In a 2006 meta-analysis of numerous studies on false allegations of rape, Rumney found (PDF warning) that the rate of false allegations varied between 1.5% and 90% depending on the study. More importantly, the study found that the statistics for rape, both in confirmed and false allegations, are woefully inadequate for determining the true nature of the crime.

So we have a situation where: (1) during a trial for sexual assault the defense often uses the tactic of questioning the character/integrity of the victim; (2) the statistics for false allegations are essentially useless, leaving us with no idea of how prevalent the problem is; and (3) the subculture of the professional athlete ensures almost constant access to women who are willing to engage in a short-term sexual relationship. This leaves us with 2 incredibly poor outcomes. Either a professional athlete has taken advantage of his access and committed a rape, in which case the victim is likely to be dragged through the mud, or a woman (most likely) has made a false allegation of rape in an attempt to extort/get revenge upon a professional athlete.

For those who cast a skeptical eye on every allegation, the "jersey-chaser" mentality of certain women makes it easier to accept the trashing of their character during court proceedings. Time and time again it has been made abundantly clear that there are women willing to sleep with someone simply due to the fact that they are an athlete. The phenomenon probably begins in high school (hopefully at the very earliest), extends to college where it is rampant given the hypersexual nature of college students, and continues well into adulthood for a good proportion of women.

So when we hear about an allegation involving a footballer, our thoughts tend to turn to that group of women who are known for their efforts in sleeping with professional athletes. Even moreso than a serial wag (seriously, Danielle Lloyd, you look foolish) these women aim to meet footballers simply for the benefit of being able to say "yes, I shagged him." Knowing that these women exist, that they willingly submit to group sex or multiple sexual partners within the same night as long as all of the participants are professional footballers, it is difficult to distinguish a real allegation of rape as compared to the variety of motives that may lead to a false accusation (e.g. money/extortion, regret/second thoughts).

At the very least we would hope that the justice system would, in due time, lead to the correct outcome. Clearly, however, that is a utopian vision of the system which is far from the reality of backlogged dockets, high-profile (and typically rich) suspects, and the adversarial nature of sleazy defense attorneys and overzealous prosecutors.

Consider the stories of the following individuals, and ask yourself whether or not you could make an informed decision on their fate as a member of a jury (while my own feelings inevitably cloud the issue):

Dominic Jones (U. of Minnesota football (American) player) - In July of 2007 Jones was charged with rape after a 37-second video of him masturbating over an inebriated woman was discovered. Jones stated that he believed that the sex was consensual, and it was confirmed that the woman had engaged in sexual acts with 3 other individuals before Jones. He was eventually acquitted of rape, but convicted of 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct due to the fact that the inebriated woman was unable to consent to sexual contact with Jones. However, none of the other 3 individuals who had sex with the victim that same night were charged with any crimes. Jones served 1 year in the Hennepin County Workhouse, where he was released between 7:15AM and 6PM every day to work, and then spent every night in his cell. When asked about the situation, Jones responded:

"He is familiar with the term 'jersey chaser,' for women who offer themselves sexually to star athletes. 'But who is it really on?' he said. 'It's on us.'"

Today, a court upheld his original conviction on appeal, and he remains on 5 years probation (with a stayed prison sentence).

Jerramy Stevens (U. of Washington football (American) player) - In July of 2000 Stevens was arrested for rape during a warrant executed by Seattle detectives accompanied by a SWAT team (Stevens was 6'7 and 255 lbs). Despite substantial physical evidence and eyewitness testimony, including allegations by the victim that she had been drugged, the King County prosecutor's office declined to pursue the case amidst significant pressure from the U. of Washington athletics department, enraging the police department and local activists alike. Despite numerous run-ins with the law, most of which involved alcohol, Stevens has only spent a total of 12 days in jail and been suspended by the NFL for 2 games. He eventually settled a civil claim with his rape victim out of court for what is believed to be $300,000.

Robin van Persie (Arsenal) - In June of 2005 van Persie was accused of rape by a young woman in Holland while he was there for a World Cup qualifier. After being held for 14 days, he was released and allowed to return to England. Claiming that the sex was consensual, van Persie eventually had the case dismissed.

Eric Frimpong (UC Santa Barbara/Kansas City Wizards) - In February of 2007 Frimpong was arrested for rape just days after returning to Santa Barbara from a 10-day tryout with the Kansas City Wizards (a tryout based on his strong performance in leading the UCSB Gauchos to a national championship). He had met a female UCSB freshman a few nights earlier, invited her to a party where they played beer pong, and then walked down to the beach with her. Several hours later she checked herself into the hospital and told police officers that Frimpong had raped her. The next day police officers spotted Frimpong and asked him to come back to the station and answer some questions. He went voluntarily, despite not having been told anything about the allegations. He also willingly gave up the clothes he had been wearing the night before, again even before being told of the accusation. Despite an overwhelming lack of physical evidence (DNA was found on Frimpong's genitals, which he claimed was due to the fact that she had put her hand down his pants in spite of his protestations) implicating Frimpong, including the lack of any signs of sexual activity, the district attorney vigorously pursued the case with Frimpong as the only suspect. After being bailed out, he was sent back to jail when a second UCSB student claimed that Frimpong had sexually assaulted her a few weeks before the rape, a charge for which he was eventually acquitted. In January of 2008, after just 2 days of deliberation, an all-white jury convicted Frimpong of rape and he was sentenced to 6 years in prison. He currently resides in the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, not far from where his dreams of professional football were shattered.

Two American football players and two footballers accused of sexual assault or rape. Two who spent significant time in prison after convictions for sexual assault or rape, and two who had the charges dismissed. Three African-American, and one white. Three amateurs, and one professional (although the argument could certainly be made that U. of Washington football acted as a professional franchise under coach Neuheisel's tenure).

Dominic Jones was an African-American football (American) player from a school where football was considered unimportant. He admits to sexual assault and was sentenced to prison, although there are questions about whether others should have also been charged and about the state/character of the victim.

Jerramy Stevens was an African-American football (American) player from a school where football was considered all-important. Overwhelming physical evidence suggests that he probably committed rape, but the prosecutor's office, under pressure from the university, declined to press charges. There remain significant questions about Stevens' character, as his continued wanton attitude towards the law demonstrates that he has no regard for anyone other than himself.

Robin van Perise was a white footballer in a football-mad country, who had played for two of the world's biggest football clubs. There was virtually no evidence to suggest that he had committed rape, and the charges were dismissed. There were questions about the character of the victim (an exotic dancer in Holland), but there have never been any further questions regarding van Persie's subsequent behavior.

Eric Frimpong was an African-American footballer from a school that had just won a national championship, but in a country where most people would be hard-pressed to tell you when or where that championship had even taken place. There was virtually no evidence to suggest that he had committed rape, but the prosecutor's office pursued him as a suspect to the exclusion of all others and he was sentenced to six years in prison. There remain significant questions about the actions of the victim that night, but there had never been any concerns regarding Frimpong's behavior up until that point.

African-American? Strike 1.
Play for a school/club/country that doesn't care about your sport? Strike 2.
Evidence of guilt? Strike 3.

Dominic Jones? 3 strikes.
Jerramy Stevens? 2 strikes.
Eric Frimpong? 2 strikes.
Robin van Persie? 0 strikes.

So why is Eric Frimpong in prison? And if you are Micah Richards or Jonny Evans or Fredy Montero or Nate Jaqua, how do you respond the next time a cute girl in a club comes up to you and whispers in your ear:

"Do you want to have sex with me?"


Mike Georger said...

Jones got it right, it's on the athletes. They cannot be that stupid and reckless. Well, they CAN be that stupid and a lot of them are, but they shouldn't be. I've got some misogynistic tendencies (shocking) but I just can't feel sorry for these guys when they have to see this kind of shit coming. Sure we all have 'masturbated over an inebriated woman' every once and then, but for fuck's sake DON'T TAPE IT.

As revolting as this will sound ... Cristiano Ronaldo has the right idea: bang prostitutes. You know what you're getting from a prostitute, you don't know what you're getting from an innocent looking seventeen year old who somehow got her way into the club at four in the morning.

Amanda said...

More importantly, the study found that the statistics for rape, both in confirmed and false allegations, are woefully inadequate for determining the true nature of the crime.

Thanks for pointing this out. You're right that these sorts of situations are always problematic, especially when you add in race and these other factors you point out. I think the athletes have to take responsibility for their actions, not because all women are scheming to falsely accuse them of rape, but because that's just the smart thing to do. Clubs (and colleges) should also try to educate their players, for PR reasons if nothing else.

Mike Georger said...

"Clubs (and colleges) should also try to educate their players, for PR reasons if nothing else."


People knock sports teams that institute curfews and alcohol rules, but there are good reasons behind those sort of things.

Bigus Dickus said...

While famous, footballers are still 'men' and as we all know, from time to time, at some point or another, we think with our dicks!

In UK, there have been so many cases over the years including young Arsenal players, Spurs, United, even Bolton.

Nathaniel said...

Sure we all have 'masturbated over an inebriated woman' every once and then, but for fuck's sake DON'T TAPE IT.

/making a "note to self"

The Fan's Attic said...

I highly recommend the linked Frimpong story. A very good read.

Eladio said...

Agreed TFA. I believe that while race is a small issue to the Frimpong story, money and class is a bigger issue. Sounds like he got the worst defense attorney in the world, maybe all he could afford. Considering there was ZERO of his DNA on the victim, I'm shocked this case even made it to trial. Normally I will always give the victim the benefit of the doubt (the thinking being that why would someone put themselves in a situation where they would have to go public, and possibly have their name be trashed, unless they were telling the truth), but in this case, I can't believe her.

The Fan's Attic said...

I don't know, it sounded like Frimpong had some wealthy benefactors and plenty of fundraising was done.

Magnakai Haaskivi said...

Based on my experiences with attorneys lately, money doesn't always equal quality.

The ultimate in the "niche sport/sexual assault" genre is probably the Duke lacrosse team; without the university backing the team up and making everything go away, they were subjected to quite the malicious little prosecutor. Only the fact that they were white and (more importantly) wealthy saved them in that case.

EbullientFatalist said...

Its America - you don't get the justice you deserve, but rather the justice you can afford. I got a DUI in NC while underage, got lawyered up, wore a suit to court, and the judge made me pay $90 to the clerk of court. That was my punishment. Would Frimpong been given similar leniency under the same circumstances? Can't say for sure, but it's doubtful.

Quasimodo said...

"Only the fact that they were white and (more importantly) wealthy saved them in that case"

Flip side of that: if they hadn't been white and wealthy, they'd never have been prosecuted for that non-rape in the first place. (Durham earned the distinction of being "Scottsboro II" during that case.)

The NY Kid said...

Yeah, the Duke case provides an interesting point/counterpoint. The suspects were the prototypical rich white douchebags that people tend to automatically assume are guilty, but in the end it would seem that they were railroaded by a prosecutor with an ego for a complete non-event.

Caldwell said...

Just a minor criticism: I wouldn't call football unimportant at Minnesota. I'm sure that the stars of their football squad are easily recognized as such when they co-mingle with the rest of the student body, so in the university's niche of society the football players are indeed famous people.

Minnesota averaged 49,000 attendees per game in 2008, and in the 2008 NFL season 15 former Gophers saw the field. While they don't often take the spotlight ahead of the likes of Michigan or Texas, they are hardly small-time.