Monday, January 07, 2019

2018 Sports--Year of the Asshats

Sorry for the long layoff on this blog. 2018 was an extraordinarily busy year for me, with the release of 11 new fiction titles (oh my Harlequin--how hard it's going to be to say goodbye to you next month when your series is done! Until then, you can take a look at Dominic on his first book cover just for fun), two non-fiction titles, multiple ghost writing projects, and editing. I couldn't do a lot of sports blogging like I usually do on this blog, or write many columns for the Orange & White Report. Both of those circumstances will be changing in 2019, which is currently a "light" year for me with five fiction titles and two more non-fiction projects in the works. 

But that doesn't keep me from paying attention to what's going on. 

2018 was a tough year in sports. Aside from the continuing inactivity in sexual assault and abuses in programs like Baylor and Michigan State (the conviction and indictment of Larry Nasser, the physician/rapist in East Lansing was a brief high point for the judicial system and an ongoing disaster for the NCAA), other egregious nightmares were exposed. The death of 19-year old University of Maryland football player, Jordan McNair, was directly attributed to abusive coaching practices under former HFC DJ Durkin. What was great to see was that Maryland actually investigated the program; what was absolutely unbelievable was that they reinstated Durkin as head coach. The fan and backlash was so virulent that they fired him the day after they put him back in charge of the team.

Another tone-deaf administration undone by the anger of an educated fan base. 

Then, just twenty minutes up the road from where I'm writing this in the middle of the night, Urban Meyer's long-predicted and oft-expected end-of-the-road scandal reared its ugly head like a 17-year cicada. The former wife of OSU assistant Zach Smith revealed that not only did her husband abuse her physically and mentally, but that Meyer knew about the abuse for a decade and  had still retained Smith on his staff, giving him annual raises and promotions. That coaching relationship between Meyer and Smith had its roots in the dog-dirty Florida football program that generated the likes of murderer Aaron Hernandez. During his occupation of the Swamp, Meyer saw thirty-one of his players get arrested between 2005 and 2010. You'd think he would have taken away something constructive from the fiasco that accompanied his exit from Florida.

You'd think he would have learned that the quickest way to destroy a coach's legacy is to look the other way at criminal activity. 

But no. Zach Smith proved to be the rocks on which Urban Meyer's ship foundered, and while the embattled coach backslid into the same "health issues" smokescreen he'd used to exit Gainesville, stepping down at the end of the 2018-19 season with his reputation once more in tatters. 

And then, of course, new information was brought to light regarding the former head football coach at Tennessee, Butch Jones, in a book that has my name on the front cover. During the course of the months co-author Tom Mattingly and I devoted to research and dozens of interviews, we unearthed a slew of nasty stories about the abusive atmosphere Jones created--the abuse of players, the withholding of transcripts so players couldn't transfer, the reason for the staggering number of injuries the Vols suffered every year, the micromanagement that turned into a totalitarian regime, and the interference in medical protocols that resulted in players having untreated injuries once their playing days on Rocky Top were done.

In all these cases, a common denominator existed that tie the universities together. 2018 was the year of the fan, and make no mistake--that's not always a compliment. 

Anytime you've got someone in the media that breaks a big story, there's going to be a lot of backlash. As a writer, you try to prepare for that. I certainly tried to steel myself before Empowered was released, and I know that an experienced journalist like Brett McMurphy (who broke the Zach Smith case) almost certainly did as well. But in the sports world, there's really no way to prepare yourself for the ignorant fan or the belligerent fan or the stupid enough to call Paul Finebaum's nationally syndicated show and brag about poisoning the famous oaks at Toomer's Corner because Auburn beat Alabama that year Harvey Updike sort of fan. 

Image result for surrender cobra
Surrender cobras...usually the first reaction of an asshat
fan when the game doesn't go their way.
2018 was a year in which the asshat fan thrived. 

Now sure--the asshat fan is just the leading edge of a fringe element in all sporting fandoms. Usually, we all believe the asshat fan is at that OTHER school or rooting for that OTHER divisional team. It's much more difficult to accept that your university is just as guilty of asshat fans as every other university is. And nowhere does the asshat fan thrive more than in big-money NCAA sports. 

When McMurphy broke the Zach Smith case, the response of Ohio State fans was immediate and extremely defensive. Fans howled at the media, especially McMurphy. 

They also howled at Smith's victim for a decade, his ex-wife Courtney Smith. As their anger increased so did the asshattedness, until much of what you saw on social media consisted of fairly serious threats against her--a woman who'd endured a decade of abuse from her spouse and with small children to raise. But many Ohio State fans were more concerned about the threat of losing their national championship winning coach. As Chris Thompson put it in his article for Deadspin: 

Probably no one in this story especially needs a rally of support on the OSU campus, and certainly not the guy collecting payments on a $6.4 million annual salary to sit at home and not do a job, while his employer tries to figure out whether he was apathetic about one of his assistants abusing and terrorizing someone. But sports fandom—all fandom, for that matter—is a fucking disease, and so here we are: some 250 deeply wacko Buckeyes fans gathered angrily outside Ohio Stadium Monday afternoon to chant and sing and wave signs in support of Meyer.
Bolding mine.

Sports fandom is a fucking disease. Sounds kind of harsh, doesn't it? But isn't it also an accurate diagnosis of the cray-cray that infests every fan base, from Little League to the NFL? I mean--take a look at the definition: 


  1. a person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing.
    "football fans"


Abbreviation of fanatic. Might be something to keep in mind moving forward. All I know as the mother of a young woman who, like Courtney Smith, is enmeshed in the horror of an abusive marriage to a man more than twice her size and weight compels me to state unequivocally that there are no circumstances or situations where it's justifiable for one marriage partner to beat, choke, slam, slap, claw, or strangle their spouse.

Zero. None.

Image result for urban meyer protest
These men represent the worst of the bad. They not only supported an enabler of domestic abuse, but they hijacked a hashtag for victims of sexual abuse and tried to blame two entities for the scandal that had nothing to do with it: Paul Finebaum and ESPN. 
I'm sure that among the two hundred and fifty Urban Meyer fans who protested outside Ohio Stadium, a few probably agreed with the statement I just made. But those same fans were saying something completely different when they started their protest (a very amateurish copy of what happens when Vol Nation decides to take a stand on something, by the way). They were declaring to the world that domestic violence was less important to them than winning football games. They knew that Urban Meyer was the key to getting back into the College Football Payoffs--oops. Sorry. I meant PLAYOFFS of course--and they were unwilling to sacrifice him . So they sacrificed Courtney Smith, her children, and her safety instead.

This has nothing to do with our ex-wide receiver coach, or the accusations against him, with his ex-wife. I don’t want to talk about that! I don’t condone what he’s accused of, I don’t condone any of that stuff! This is not why I’m here. That’s not why I drove twelve hours and you guys are standing out in 95-degree heat—to talk about what he did or didn’t do.

That's what the organizer of the rally--tragically self-identifying as "Tennessee Jeff"--had to say in his opening statement. 

Sigh. Tennessee can't thank you enough, "Jeff".

Of course that's not what he wanted to talk about because he knew, way down deep in his two sizes-too-small heart that he was basically opening up an abuse victim to the worst kinds of online attention. He and the rest of the "protesters" stood around and talked and sang (Yes, I saw them. I was waiting for them to bust out "We Will Overcome" just to make their make-believe persecution delusions complete.) and talked some more, holding signs that were so gobsmackingly inane and devoid of awareness that even a certifiable cynic like me was stunned.

Yes, Virginia. There is a species of sub-human that is so ridiculously oblivious to how they make themselves and their university look. What? You want more of the surrender cobras? Okay. Here's one of my favorites. 

Image result for surrender cobra Georgia Tennessee 2016
Of course this is the Tennessee-Georgia game from 2016. These UGA fans are watching the celebration after the Josh Dobbs to Jauan Jennings "Dobbnail Boot"Hail Mary reception  to win the game.

Naturally, Ohio State fans were terrified that without Urban Meyer, Ohio State would implode and the 2018-19 season--when they had legitimate playoff hopes--would end up as a disaster. I wasn't terrified about that. In fact, I was kind of hoping they were right. (I'm married to one of them, by the way, and it's hard to gloat too much about Urban screwing up yet again when one of them is snoring on the other side of the bed.) And while the season didn't implode per se, the disaster that struck the Buckeyes when they were blown out by Pursue enabled me to gloat just a little. 

I can't wait for Urban's health issues to miraculously resolve in time for him to head to another coaching destination so he can screw up their school in five years or so because that would get his scurvy carcass out of the state where I live. 

See? See how easy it is to devolve into asshattery? While fans from any other university wouldn't consider what I just wrote as asshat enough to be worthy of the asshat fan designation, folks who love Ohio State certainly would. We all are just as protective of our school's reputation as we are proud of their prowess on the field. To any other school, Tennessee's five and seven season in 2018-19 shouldn't create any kind of positive outlook for the program's future. But Vols fans do have something to be proud of: two of those five wins were against ranked SEC opponents, both of whom went to bowl games and both of whom won their bowls--Auburn, dominating the hapless Purdue (who beat OSU by twenty and ruined their playoff dreams) and Kentucky, beating heavily favored Penn State in the Citrus Bowl. 

So, yes. Every fan base has its asshats. But then you have the schools who habitually sit atop the football or men's basketball pyramid, and their asshattery assumes a virulent, shrill nastiness of manner that makes them universally loathed. You know who I'm talking about. Is there a school more arrogant about its men's basketball team than Kentucky? Duke, maybe. North Carolina, perhaps. UCLA has made a serious run at total asshattery, using methods that John Wooden would have never permitted. But in football, just take a moment to consider these asshattery candidates: Alabama. Oklahoma. Clemson. Notre Dame. 

Four teams that made it into the CFB Playoffs this year. 

I have a wide-ranging circle of friends within the comforting circle of football fandom. All of my Bama friends go out of their way to avoid being asshats, which is rather difficult considering the unquestioned mastery Nick Saban maintains over his program. When Alabama has a team that sports pundits are defining as the "best college football team ever" it's impossible for Tide fans not to talk themselves up. Here in a couple of hours, 98% of the Crimson Tide lovers online will be getting up and getting ready for work, maybe dropping an excited Tweet or two about the game tonight. 

But here we are...four in the morning on the day of the College Football Playoffs National Championship Game, and there's a faction online right this moment basically Tweeting nonsense just so they can type the following: #RollTide. They're also hunting for cyber-prey: basically people who hate Alabama that they can gang up on.

Yesterday, a lot of people were discussing my book with me, particularly the reported abuses Butch Jones had employed upon his team, staff, and assistants. The chapter where I go into that topic is the longest in the book. Tennessee's Hidden Nightmare: Player Injuries and Mistreatment. 

That chapter includes this young man's story. Watch Mykelle McDaniel tell what happened to him in his own words and then let me know how that story makes you feel.

Butch Jones turned a football program into a totalitarian regime. I interviewed multiple players and staff members, three of whom went on the record. Between those three players, the entire spread of Jones' tenure in Knoxville was covered, and the escalating severity of his abuses was never addressed by the university because there wasn't consistent leadership or oversight. 

There's not much difference between Jones and Maryland's DJ Durkin. Butch Jones spent the 2018-19 season as an "intern" at Alabama--an incredibly bizarre job title for a guy who'd been a head coach in the SEC just a year earlier. Saban recently brought the disgraced Maryland head coach, DJ Durkin, to Tuscaloosa as well. So I made the comment that all Saban needed was one more predatory coach and he'd have the classless trifecta. In pops a Bama fan, so rabid to defend Saint Saban that he accused me of making up these stories in order to exploit the Tennessee fan base and promote my book. 

This guy was supposed to be my friend.

Needless to say, I took exception to what he said so I verbally eviscerated him and kicked him to the curb, muting him when I was done. I'm not too proud to confess that I used language I almost never employ when talking online. But yeah...I cussed that you-know-what up one side and down the other. But , you ask? Because he cast aspersions on my work, publicly accusing me of making up sh*t so I could exploit the still-nervous Tennessee fan base and make money off them. Not exactly the approach a friend should take. Never mind the interviews online that corroborated the stories I'd published. Never mind the fact that we interviewed former players and staff, parents, journalists, physicians, donors and fans. 

Nope. I "invented" those stories as exploitative promotion tactics so I can make a fortune In and of itself, the idea that any author makes money off a book like this one is kind of ludicrous. Yes, we had an Amazon #1 Bestseller in both Football and the History of Sports genres. But we didn't start cashing six-figure checks. Believe me.

Fast forward twenty-four hours. Dude is still at it, cyber-stalking me to YouTube, where a video about my book and the exposure of Butch Jones's treatment of his teams had been posted by the world's favorite LSU fan, TJ LSU Dad. Bama fan proceeded to leave a comment on the video, saying that I was a "hag" and a Finebaum "wannabe" blah blah blah. 

LSU Dad doesn't go in for fake moral outrage, and as a LSU fan he doesn't have a dog in the fight. His reaction to my book and Mykelle McDaniel's filmed interview with me was exactly what I hoped a neutral party's reaction would be.

Yeah, this bushy-tailed squirrelly lover of the Crimson Tide is a bona fide pin-headed nincompoop for thinking that calling me a "hag" was going to hurt my feelings. You me any CFB fan should be proud of their programs and their coaches--not just for the wins each season on the field, but also the wins off the field.  When the Vols run through the T each home game every season, I feel so much pride for our team and school that sometimes I tear up, especially if I'm on a rare trip back to Neyland.

Tonight, the University of Alabama will take the field for the national championship against Clemson, and right in their midst will be Butch Jones, the Bama "intern" who single-handedly destroyed the careers and futures of dozens of Tennessee players. That's nothing to be proud of. That's nothing to brag about. As a matter of fact, Butch Jones representing the University of Alabama in any capacity is just as egregious as Urban Meyer knowingly enabling a wife-beater throughout his career. Think about it--what does it say about Nick Saban when he's the guy who brought Jones on as a $35,000 per year staff member--carefully keeping Jones's salary well below the figure where he'd lose the $9 million of his buyout from Tennessee?

And what does it say that he's also poised to bring Durkin onto his staff as well?

No one was louder about Urban Meyer and the Zach Smith scandal than the asshats among Alabama fans. Their moral outrage when Meyer was only benched for three games was vociferous as they clutched their pearls in sheer horror. How hypocritical my latest cyber-stalker's behavior is now! 

You can't scream about Zach Smith and ignore Butch Jones on your own sideline.

I know what you're thinking, cyber-stalker. You're thinking that if roles were reversed, I would have accused you of making up bullshit for the money too. You're thinking that I would have responded worse than you did, cyber-stalking you as well., I wouldn't have. 

Right now, UT is conducting a search for its new Offensive Coordinator. Several of the names that were brought up were names I found unacceptable for one reason or another. But one name in particular--Kendal Briles--had me writing this a couple of weeks ago in a column:

So as fans and supporters, we have to look at the story that Tennessee is considering Kendal Briles as its new offensive coordinator and make our own determination of what we think and how this news makes us feel--not just about UT but about ourselves. Make no mistake--bringing Briles to Rocky Top will once again expose the university and the fans to the ridicule and scorn of the national media and other fan bases. Deservedly, I might add. That move would make the idea of Tennessee "morality" into a national joke.

I was horrified, however, at how many of my fellow Tennessee fans were 100% behind the Briles hire at OC. Remember when I said that every fan base has its asshats? The University of Tennessee is no exception. We have idiots who suck up to recruits--basically "writing love letters" to them, as one of my friends sarcastically said about the worst such offender--and then, when the kid and his parents choose to sign with a different school, these grown-ass men (for the most part) suddenly nuke the recruit's social media feeds, screeching like crazy old ladies who shoot kids with BB guns if they set one toe too close to their pansies in the flower bed. 

Every member of Vol Twitter knows exactly which asshat I'm talking about. *waves to Sab*

We also, apparently, have fans for whom winning is more important than reputation or history or brand, and in places like Baylor winning is MUCH more important than the psychological, emotional, and physical health of those fifty-one rape victims or the thirty players that allegedly committed those rapes. Just like I said a minute ago: you can't revolt against the hiring of Greg Schiano on morality grounds and then welcome the architect of the "show 'em a good time" recruiting policy at Baylor, where recruits were taken to strip clubs, given alcohol, and allegedly provided with girls for sex. And just like when my cyber-stalker accused me of manufacturing the charges against Butch Jones--I discovered what had happened to dozens of Tennessee players by interviewing the victims just like the attorneys and Title IX enforcers and law enforcement discovered what was going on at Baylor by interviewing the victims. 

Of course, seeing as my cyber-stalker hasn't actually READ the book and the stories in question, anything he has to say is automatically null and void. Bashing a book's veracity just because you want the stories to be untrue is one step away from burning books, or banning them, or censoring them. 

2018. The year of the asshat fan has extended, sadly, into 2019. Here in about thirteen hours, the pageantry and hype of the last football game of the season will kick off and every football fan will be set up for four hours of the greatest sport ever existed (save for jai alai) and the subsequent drought once it's over. By this time tomorrow, every football fanatic in every fan base except for one (tonight's winner) will have their thoughts turned to next season. 

Tomorrow night, either the Clemson fans or the Alabama fans--whichever is victorious--will turn their attention to torturing every other school with gloats, boasts, brags, and for most of them a very real sense of joy at what their team has accomplished. Hidden in the depths of the winning fan base, however, are going to be the asshats whose online behavior cranks up in activity but plummets in class. They don't care that they're ruining the sport for everyone but themselves. They don't care that one day, their beloved coach is going to retire or go to the NFL or otherwise move on, and then their program will take a nosedive. That's the way that athletic success works. Winning programs move through history like a pendulum, and the bigger the swing into championship seasons, the greater the corresponding downfall of the program will be.  

As for my beady-eyed, bushy-tailed, acorn-hoarding cyber-stalker...

You may think I'm a hag. I don't look my best at times, but by God, I'm still walking despite being advised by my surgeon that I'll end up in a wheelchair within the next few years. I refuse to let my physical deterioration interfere with my professional goals, which are ambitious. So I defy anyone to come out of the last two decades I have--the automobile accident, the chronic pain, the agonizing repercussions of multiple major spinal surgeries--and have them looking like they could still win beauty pageants. At the end of the day, I don't give a damn if you and your Loser in 'Loosa buddy think I look like a hag. I'm a fifty-two year old grandmother of seven, and as long as my damn good-looking husband, who's worked his ass off since I was disabled just to keep our heads above water, is content then I could give two craps about what a man who's too much of a coward to use his real name or his photo in his profile.  

At least I don't brag if my name is mentioned on one page of Finebaum's last book. I sure as hell can brag that my name is on the spine of over forty books instead. 

At least I have the courage to squirrel out a story, even if that story damns my own school, and get the information out there because it's the right thing to do. 

At least I have the courage to use my own name on social media, and blog instead of hiding behind a ridiculous pseudonym like squirrel or chipmunk or raccoon. 

At least I have the courage to expose a squirrel's cache of wrongdoing, although more than one person warned me that if I got too close to the truth about one particular family I could be endangering myself. 

You can always tell if a person's really a rodent underneath their smiling facade, because anyone who cyber-stalks you as a result of your opinion--whether it's about football or politics or who gets to sit by the window on the plane--is nothing but a big fat rat. 

One of my other friends, Archie, had enough of the squirrelly way my cyber-stalker was acting yesterday afternoon. Keep in mind, this was twenty-four hours after the stream of abusive commentary began when I expressed my disappointment in Alabama for continuing its quest for a trifecta of low-class former coaches enrolled in Nick Saban's Reformatory. When he was done with the panorama of Bama non-gramma, Archie said this: 

You've made an ass of yourself trolling the past 24 hours chipmunk. I'll give you a few minutes to read this, then handle you accordingly.

I thought his remark was remarkably pithy. That's the downfall of every asshat fan. Eventually, you get called out by a total stranger for being an asshole. Not assHAT. AssHOLE. 

Sports are a huge part of our societal culture. Sports have been a form of entertainment since well before the first time two guys were thrown into an amphitheater with a couple of swords and told to fight for the amusement of ancient Rome. So maybe think of it this way as we move out of football season and into the heart of basketball season--

Don't ruin sports for everyone around you. Don't be the asshat who stands at the end of the bar, drunk as a lord, screaming curses at the big screen TV like the coaches or referees or players can hear you and ultimately launching your beer bottle at the TV if things don't go your way. Don't cyber-stalk someone who doesn't share your fandom for your school. 

Don't be that asshat fan. 

Because all too soon, football season's done and your basketball team is mediocre at best. 

Instead of being an asshat, try to do the right thing--and try to force the university you support to do the right thing also. Because this much I can guarantee you: having Butch Jones on your sideline tonight? That'll make people believe Nick Saban doesn't have one damn iota of common sense, as if the University of Alabama is condoning the abusive and predatory nature of Butch Jones. 

And karma, my erstwhile friend, is a total bitch. 

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Talking Frankly About Sexual Violence and College Athletes--Extended Cut

Let’s Talk Frankly About Sexual Assault and College Athletics

Anyone who follows my personal blog knows that I’ve done a series of articles over the past few years regarding college athletics and the absolute indifference big money sports programs have toward allegations of rape or sexual assault. Yes, this is a difficult topic to discuss. And yes, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to sexual assault, athletes, and the justice system. I’d imagine that quite a few people will get pretty darn mad after reading this column — either at me or the way the world works. But that’s okay by me. I’m not afraid of Twitter taunts if it brings us nearer to our ultimate goal and that’s to significantly address the sexual assault problem in this country. 

I knew there was one person whose insight I badly wanted to begin a conversation about rape and athletes. Brenda Tracy is an activist and sexual assault victim advocate who now travels the country meeting with college and high school programs to discuss this very issue with the players. Her story of being gang raped by members of the Oregon State football team in 1998 is hard to read, but I’d advise you to check it out. You may note some similarities between Brenda’s story and the stories of so many other people. Her input on this topic will be invaluable for everyone.

In recent years, it seems like every rape case you hear about any more deals with athletes as either the victims (Michigan State, USA gymnastics, Ohio State) or the perpetrators (Baylor, Minnesota, Florida State, Michigan State)and especially on the collegiate level. With big moneyed and storied programs like these having major conflagrations regarding sexual assault in the past few years, the time is long past when we, as a society, should have addressed this issue.

But in addition to these cases which have come to light, there was also the University of Tennessee case. These are the bare bones relevant facts of how the case unfurled:

In February of 2015, former UT football players AJ Johnson and Michael Williams were indicted for rape following a party the previous November during which some kind of sexual activity evidently occurred. Two days after the rape claim was filed with the Knoxville Police Department, Johnson and Williams were suspended from the team and never played another down of football for Tennessee. Almost four years passed before Johnson and Williams were brought to trial, where they were found not guilty of all charges by a jury comprised of seven women and four men. 

Now, three and a half years later in the “speedy” trial guaranteed to the defendants by the Constitution, Johnson and Williams have been acquitted. The jury deliberated for ninety minutes — minutes! — and came back with verdicts of not guilty on all counts when the defense didn’t call one single solitary witness to the stand. They didn’t need to. The defense told the court in closing arguments that the prosecution under Assistant District Attorney General Leslie Nassios had failed to prove the case against the former Tennessee football players. 

And they were right. The DA’s case was disastrous for everyone involved — alleged victims, alleged perpetrators, the District Attorney, and Nassios.

So stop and ask yourselves this: how is that possible? How in the name of Hades could the prosecution have proceeded with a fatally flawed case? And why would they go forward at all? 

The first knee-jerk answers I saw to this question over social media this weekend were pretty universal from within Vol Nation: the accusers lied. But that’s not necessarily so according to Brenda Tracy.
False reports make up 2–10% of reports. This also includes unfounded which just means it can’t be proven either way. making over 90% and probably 98% of all reports true. A common misconception that comes up when a not guilty verdict is handed down and/or the victims statements are inconsistent — people think this means the victim lied — which is absolutely untrue.
Research I’ve done independently corroborates Brenda’s assertion. In fact, the percentage of false sexual assault claims has landed very consistently between 2% and 10% since these records started to be kept in 1929 by the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report. Studies by major universities like Stanford, by advocacy groups like the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and independent psychological and clinical research like the study conducted by Lisak, Gardinier, Nicksa, & Cote for Sage Journals: Violence Against Women in 2010, Recent studies have the number averaging right about 6%. And there’s much more to the story — and the numbers — than just that. 

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center tells us that one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report being assaulted, while 63.3% of men at one university who self-reported acts qualifying as rape or attempted rape admitted to committing repeat rapes.

Since someone on Twitter decided to challenge me on source materials, let me roll out a quick list of stats and links to my sources for you. 90% of campus sexual assaults are committed by perpetrators that the survivor knows.
84% of female survivors report being sexually assaulted during their first four semesters on campus. The majority of undetected college rapists are likely serial perpetrators, committing an average of 6 rapes each. 13% of women report being stalked during their time in college. 80% of survivors of stalking know the person who victimized them. 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, technology-facilitated, verbal or other forms of controlling abuse. More than 57% of college students who report experiencing dating violence report experiencing it while in college. 

Y’all have fun clicking.

And let’s be real here — these are older numbers. More recent numbers are even more disturbing as they highlight a progressively worsening trend. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reported in 2015 that more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

NINETY PERCENT of victims DO NOT REPORT THEIR ASSAULT. The National Domestic Violence Hotline Law Enforcement Agency Report reported some reasons for this in 2015: Of those victims who have called the cops, 2 in 3 were afraid to call the police in the future. Only 1 in 5 victims actually felt safer after calling the police, and 1 in 3 victims felt less safe. Of victims who have called the cops, nearly half felt police discriminated against them. Of victims who have called the cops, 1 in 4 report being arrested or threatened with arrest.

And for the idiots who spent the weekend talking about “how many times alleged victims make false reports of sexual violence” ponder this False Allegations of Rape Study that provides analysis of ten years’ worth of reported rape cases at an American university for a moment:
Of the 136 cases of sexual assault 8 (5.9%) were coded as false reports, 61 (44.9%) did not proceed to any prosecution or disciplinary action, 48 (35.3%) were referred for prosecution or disciplinary action, and 19 (13.9%) contained insufficient information to be coded. It should be noted that in no case did the research team “override” the classification of a false report made by the police department. The eight cases that were described as false reports by the police investigators were also categorized that way by the coders.

So let’s dispel with a lot of these myths, shall we? As much as 90% of campus rapes are unreported by the victims. That number improves to around 60% in society at large. This isn’t an issue where only women are assaulted sexually, because men are being raped as well and the numbers of those assaults are growing fast. And even if you take the highest percentage of false allegations, at most you’re looking at 6%. Brenda Tracy is well aware of the spectrum of assaults beyond men raping women too:
Please note I’ve been speaking in terms of men and women, but let me be clear, Sexual violence does not discriminate. Anyone can be a victim. This is a human issue. These are crimes committed against humanity and the saddest part is its all preventable. Marginalized and vulnerable communities of people experience higher rates of assault.
After all this, I think we can all agree that the numbers not only don’t lie but are remarkably consistent. So now we need to decide logically if 94 legitimate rape victims should be ignored because of the 6 who lied about being assaulted?

Brenda Tracy nails this argument to the wall swiftly.
The take away from the research is to believe survivors. And let me add that false reports for rape are no higher than false reports for other crimes. People lie. We all know this, but we only care when it comes to sexual assault. If one person lied about getting robbed society would never say ‘now we can’t believe the other 99% of people who report being robbed because of that one report. 
That means that we, as part of the Tennessee community, need to determine why the DA’s office miscalculated a criminal case so badly that they dragged the proceedings on for almost four years? How could they have proceeded with these indictments for that long when they knew the alleged victims’ and witness testimony wasn’t going to match up with the allegations? 

Defense attorneys David Eldridge and Stephen Ross Johnson — in the face of the prosecution’s lack of forensic evidence, conflicting or changed testimony from the accuser and witnesses on the stand, and the fact that both accusers deleted their social media and texts and then ditched their cell phones within a day of each other a few weeks before Johnson and Williams were indicted — put forth the opinion that the prosecution of such a flawed case was the result of a conspiracy because the accused were Tennessee football players.

Last week, that seemed like hyperbole but today that’s kind of difficult to argue against, isn’t it?
But, perhaps we should argue with that conspiracy theory. I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories or flat earthers or tin foil hats anyway, so let’s do a little more shredding of this case. 

It was just a little over two years ago that the University of Tennessee settled the Title IX case alleging a “rape culture” for such things as the kinds of sound bytes used during game and the music played by the DJ. Because…you know…Lil Jon. That case included the two accusers in Johnson and Williams’s criminal case as plaintiffs. You can read the accusers’ allegations specifically in the Title IX lawsuit here, beginning on page 27.

What really struck me about Jane Doe IV’s statements included within the lawsuit at the time was a comment about “whose side they were on”, meaning the university. 

Side? Nothing could demonstrate the he said/she said nature of this case any more clearly than that statement. Now that comment seems really odd in the face of what Johnson and Williams endured and will always endure as the result of this case. 

The fact of the matter is that we will never know the full extent of what happened at the party, but we can be absolutely certain that what the women alleged in the Title IX lawsuit — for which they received significant financial remuneration from the university in 2016 — is not what they stated on the witness stand during the rape trial this week. And while the jury may not be aware of that fact, it evidently didn’t matter. The accusers destroyed the prosecution’s case all by themselves because what they’d originally alleged and what they admitted to under oath in court last week were two different things. Brenda Tracy offered this thought on the verdict:
If the Tennessee case is a legitimate case of a false report then the system worked and those men were exonerated. What more as a society can we ask for than for the system to work? Does that mean any one deserves to go through that? No. Of course not, but there is nothing perfect in this world. People lie and people hurt other people. That’s why we have systems in place to prevent innocent people from going to jail. The response to this case, if it is a true false report, should be ‘good, the system worked’ not ‘all victims lie and we should disbelieve all survivors’. If the system is failing then you fix it, you don’t punish all victims of rape because a small percentage of people lie. If innocent people are being jailed and prosecuted then you fix the system — you don’t ignore, shame, invalidate, and dismiss survivors of rape.
Bolding mine. 

In a society where allegations of sexual assault committed by athletes have become almost commonplace, what happened last week in Knoxville could be a massive blow to legitimate victims of rape and sexual assault. Now, whenever an athlete is accused of sexual misconduct, there’s a huge section of the athletic world that’s going to say, “She’s a liar, just like those women at Tennessee were” just like they used to say “she’s a liar, just like that woman with the Duke lacrosse team”.

And that’s not the case. 

See, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t accept that sexual assaults occurred at Baylor or Michigan State or Ohio State but fall back on the “she’s a liar” defense for players with teams you root for. The fact of the matter is that our society has an obligation to believe people who report being the victims of rape. For hundreds of years, the justice systems in this country and other nations have routinely used a ‘blame the victim’ defense strategy.

She/he was dressed provocatively. 
She/he was drunk. 
She/he wanted it. 
She/he is a slut. 
She/he enjoyed it. 

That legal strategy has only one real purpose: to keep real rapists out of jail. Instead of saying ‘I never touched her/him’ the perpetrator is saying ‘I never would have touched her if she hadn’t enticed me with her behavior. Yeah, I had sex with her but it was consensual because she is a slut.’
And it’s not like that ‘blame the victim’ mentality doesn’t go on anymore. It absolutely does, and Stanford swimmer Brock Turner’s case is a prime example. Turner found a girl passed out in a parking lot and — instead of calling 911 like a responsible citizen — decided a quickie was the right way to go. Regardless of whether you think he was guilty or not, he and his family (who coincidentally live where else but not-so-smart Ohio)launched a ‘blame the victim’ publicity and social media campaign in which they bemoaned the fact that Brock wouldn’t be able to eat steak on Fridays because of some stupid slut’s addiction to alcohol. 

Sexual outercourse? What in the heck is that? Apparently, it’s a form of sexual encounter that is comprised of “non-vaginal sex” or penetration of the vagina with anything but the penis. I guess in Turner’s world, non-consensual non-vaginal sex is somehow okay to do to a non-conscious person. Turner was presented as an all-American boy…an athlete whose father publicly reinforced the elitist entitlement Turner displayed with a letter on Facebook:
His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.
Boo hoo. 

Although sexual assaults happen on a daily basis at every college and university in the country, the only cases we hear about are the ones that are centered around college athletes. I asked Brenda Tracy why that is.
There is nothing bigger than sports in this country. When sexual assault happens, we don’t hear about the chess club President. We hear about the football player and the point guard. The athletes and those stories make the news. The stories we see in sports shape the attitudes and beliefs we have about victims and perpetrators — and its an ugly one mainly because society has decided that all athletes are heroes and we can’t believe our heroes would disappoint us in this way. It’s also a huge inconvenience for the sports fan. They don’t want a rape victim ruining their game. And if we believe that the athlete committed this crime then we would be obligated to do something. We would need to demand change and accountability, but it’s easier to blame the victim and place the onus on them so that we don’t have to do anything — and this way we can get back to cheering for our team and our sports hero.
Brenda’s remark is harsh, yes, but it’s also accurate. When I first heard about the allegations against AJ Johnson and Michael Williams, I got that sick feeling in my stomach…that oh no, not UT! Dangnabbit,there’s got to be something wrong with this story because this is the last thing Tennessee needs…

I wasn’t thinking about the victims or the athletes. I wasn’t thinking about the lives that had just been irrevocably changed, for good or ill. I was thinking about how that accusation was going to impact the football season, and how other fan bases would be dogging us online, and that just when I thought UT had reversed an ideology that made me ashamed of the athletic department in general a couple of guys got their drink on and ruined everything…

…or how some chick made a bad decision and decided to ruin the lives of two great athletes out of spite or greed. 

Yes, I went there. And so did you. Most of us in this current conversation moved on from that gut check fairly quickly. For me, the gut check came within the first hour. I was 100% okay with the university’s response to the indictments. Once the allegations went into the criminal system, UT absolutely made the right decision to suspend both players immediately — a lesson Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators need to learn, by the way. 

But there’s a sizable proportion of the fan base that did not move past that first reaction. A ‘blame the victim’ ideology is the fastest and cruelest knee-jerk response to any allegation made against the young men who wear Tennessee uniforms and represent every single person with a love for UT.

How different the Turner case ended up from the Johnson and Williamson case. There were eyewitnesses, other men who intervened and prevented Turner from doing even worse then kept him on the scene until the cops got there; the victim’s testimony never wavered; the physical trauma of Turner’s attempts at ‘sexual outercourse’ was documented properly. Turner was convicted and served 90 steakless days in jail. Johnson and Williamson were acquitted, and lost four years of their lives. If the accusers in the UT rape case did misrepresent what happened initially, we’ll never know for certain if that was intentional. We do know that Turner’s victim did not lie. So, it is fair for Turner’s victim to be disbelieved just because the women that accused Johnson and Williams were not believed by a jury? 

Of course not. 

There are currently 310 open Title IX investigations ongoing at US universities. That’s indicative of an epidemic, which is a problem we absolutely must address. Part of the price we pay for the enforcement of Title IX and the protection of victims of sexual assault has to be belief. We have to agree to believe without question any rape or assault allegation that arises. We owe that to the victims of sexual assault. We know the majority of rape cases are never reported. Why? 
Because of what Brock Turner’s accuser has had to face, including a relentless assault by the accuser and his family on her character and reputation.

If you’re looking at someone to be mad at regarding what happened to AJ Johnson and Michael Williams, the culprits are easy to find. 

Look at the court system, that dragged this case out for four years without resolution. 

Look at the DA’s office, who went ahead and prosecuted a case in which the material witnesses, the accusers, couldn’t keep their testimony consistent. \

Look at the attorneys who handled the Title IX lawsuit, for making sure their clients got paid despite the damage those false allegations wreaked upon AJ Johnson, Michael Williams, their futures, their prospects, and their families. 

These are the people at fault. These are the people to blame. 

For those of us who’ve watched this case from afar for four years, we need to come to a realistic understanding of the issues surrounding big time athletics. We can neither afford to disbelieve assault accusers nor rush to judgment and condemn the accused without due process. We have to understand that the university’s actions in this case are absolutely what needed to happen as well. UT’s immediate suspension of the players is precisely what the university had to do under the circumstances. Once the DA indicated that the players were being indicted for a crime, Tennessee had no other choice. 

But we also much hold the people who really profited from this fiasco responsible for their actions. I think there’s definitely reason to look at repercussions for multiple parties and especially those in the DA’s office. 

I would have to wonder as well what legal ramifications there might be for the accusers, who said one thing under oath during legal depositions in the Title IX suit and an entirely different thing under oath on the witness stand during the trial. If the difference is that extreme — which upon first glance it appears to be to a layman like myself — I would think there are avenues through the civil courts for Johnson and Williams to seek some kind of remuneration. 

So should there be legal and criminal ramifications for people who bring false charges of rape, domestic violence, and assault be? Well, lying under oath is perjury, which in the state of Tennessee is a Class A misdemeanor. That carries a jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days maximum and a fine up to $2500.


That doesn’t seem right, does it? Not when set against four years of two young men’s lives, months of backlash against UT for the Title IX suit, tens of thousands of dollars used to prosecute the case, and two shares of the $2.48 millions UT shelled out to the Jane Does of the lawsuit. Sure, Johnson and Williams can file a civil suit against their accusers, but that’s probably not going to accomplish a lot. Not really. Perjury during a trial is rarely prosecuted, so there isn’t much of a chance that the legal system would step in. At the end of the day, four young adults walked away from the courtroom on Friday and were freed from the trauma of a four-year court case. 

But they’ll never be free of the lingering aftereffects. Because of the DA’s’ ineptitude, the accusers will be forever thought of as liars and the accused as having ‘gotten off’ on all charges brought against them but…

The stigma of having been accused of rape is inescapable.

This story is tragic on multiple levels, but it’s also a cautionary tale. Young athletes need to demonstrate strong decision-making skills before they initiate a sexual encounter with anyone. Here’s a big hint — a party with lots of alcohol is probably not the right place for that kind of fun. For poor judgment, at least, AJ and Michael have to own up to their own responsibility. That one night of “fun” ruined almost everything for them. Young women need to make good decisions as well. The same advice I just gave the athletes works for them too — don’t have sex with a guy you don’t know at a party because you’ve been drinking. Just don’t. Save everyone involved the grief that follows.

Brenda Tracy is a person who understands, probably better than anyone in my acquaintance, of how to deal with the conversation that all of us need to be involved in. She travels the country, speaking to athletes in high school and college about sexual assault and its ramifications. Her #SetTheExpectation campaign educates young men and women all over the country, including downloadable pledges for athletes to commit to upholding — setting the expectations for the teams in simple terms. Athletes sign the pledge, acknowledging that if they break any of the commitments against sexual violence, they will be dismissed from the team. And their coaches sign the pledge as well, committing themselves to dismissing any athlete, no matter who, from the team if they violate that pledge. #SetTheExpectation does exactly that, and binds athletes and coaches alike to a code of behavior. 

As for the rest of us, we need to continue this conversation. We need to expand it, to develop it, to wowrk together assertively to change the trend toward sexual violence in our society. We need to teach our kids to make better decisions, athletes and non-athletes alike. And we need to make sure that no one is afraid to report sexual violence against them to authorities. 

That's our responsibility to the generations that follow us. Best get started, folks, because this is a Herculean task.