Via SAFER comes this stomach-turning story from the Seattle Times about the violent history of the University of Washington football team and the way that UW has worked to cover up their crimes for the sake of winning games. In 2000, the year that team won the Rose Bowl, a dozen of its players had been arrested or charged with a crime within the past year, and at least a dozen others had been arrested or charged with a crime during previous years that they were on the team. Those crimes include a robbery and shooting, domestic violence that ended in a broken nose, a broken arm and lacerated face by a player who had previously served jail time for choking his wife to unconsciousness, and sexual assault.
This article tells the story of a sexual assault, how the drugging and raping of a fellow student was covered up by everyone who could have possibly helped cover it up and dropped by prosecutors despite a victim that wanted to go forward, DNA evidence, an eye witness to part of the rape (he called the police) and several other witnesses willing to testify that the victim was either drunk or drugged out of her mind (trigger warning for the article and the rest of the post).
Because I don’t know what else to say but feel that I must say something, a summary of the unforgivable events:
The player in question, who I think we can quite confidently say raped this woman, has a criminal history a mile long. In fact, Stevens had a violent criminal history before being accepted to the school, including threatening referees, injuring fellow players, punching holes in walls and breaking a guy’s jaw by stomping on his face while he was unconscious. The school said that “[w]e don’t give up on a player because he makes one mistake.”
So it doesn’t come as a huge shock when he somehow managed to stay on the team and at the school after he drugged a woman and raped her against a building. The eye witness who saw them called the police after the woman looked at him, not with a plea for help but with an expression that indicated she was hardly conscious and had no idea what was going on (the police never found them). The woman woke up in her bed the next morning wondering where her underwear were and having no fucking clue what had happened. Her friends had helped her home later that night because she could hardly stand on her own. Stevens had the underwear, covered in dirt, and showed it off to his fraternity brothers. They were there when the victim called Stevens and asked what had happened, when Stevens lied to her, not even claiming that the sex was consensual but that nothing had happened at all (he has a history of lying about his crimes). When the victim eventually went to the hospital, it turned out that she had been raped both vaginally and anally, and had lacerations on her anus. She must have been either still drugged or in shock to the point that she hadn’t noticed (or eventually came out of it and that’s why she sought treatment). The semen they found in both body cavities matched Stevens’ DNA. During the investigation of the case, an email by Stevens was found where he apparently threatened a different woman with anal rape.
The case was dropped for “insufficient evidence.” The school board never took disciplinary action or apparently even did an investigation. The victim ended up leaving the school until Stevens graduated because she couldn’t handle seeing him walking free as a hero around the campus and because other students apparently resented her for talking about how the star football player had raped her. The university at one point accused her of “causing embarrassment” to the school and football team. And when she and three other women filed a civil lawsuit against UW and fraternity for covering up their rapes, the school — who knew the women’s identities already — tried to get the courts to make their names public.
None of this, of course, is a new phenomenon. This is hardly the first case of a rape survivor being denied justice despite eye witnesses because her rapist(s) was an athletic star. And it doesn’t just happen with schools; professional sports players regularly have their violent crimes covered up by the organizations they play for. Rape is just the easiest crime in our society to throw into doubt. But the difference between the NFL, etc. and UW, etc. is that the NFL doesn’t hold any direct responsibility towards the women their players rape, other than the basic decency we falsely assume comes along with being human. Universities, on the other hand, have a direct responsibility to keep their students safe, to do their best to prevent rape (the most common violent crime on campuses), and to do their best to make sure that victims who come forward see justice. Professional sports organizations who cover up rape violate our expectations of each other and violate the social contract that should hold our society together, stating that public safety should come before your personal financial gain. Universities who cover up rape do all of this, but also violate the trust of all of their female students and give men impunity to rape on their property and on their watch.
And when it comes to UW, none of this was a fluke or an isolated incident. It’s being written about now because the records were previously sealed and just recently obtained. I thank the Times and writers Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry for actually telling a story that probably would have otherwise stayed buried forever. This article is apparently only part one of a four part series. I can’t fucking wait to read the rest.