Sports Fans Quick to Blame Accuser in Alleged Sexual Assault

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:10 am
The story came out late last week, but I hadn't gotten around to writing about it just yet. Starlin Castro, shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, is currently facing an investigation into an allegation of sexual assault. 

The incident allegedly occurred back in September, before the baseball season ended. It's not a story we haven't all heard a thousand times before: young professional athlete in bar meets girl, asks girl back to his place, girl grabs her friend, all head to the athlete's abode, and that's when things get kind of hazy. There's plenty of alcohol involved, of course, and plenty of questions about how consensual various nighttime activities may have been. 

It's not a new story, and it won't be the last time we hear it, either. It's sad to say, but true all the same. This sort of thing happens all the time. 

I don't really care much one way or the other about the accusations themselves, to be honest. That's not to say I don't care if a woman was raped or not; far from it. But accusations are just that: accusations. There will be an investigation, and hopefully we'll find out what happened, and then everyone can make up their minds. Speculation with just a bare scattering of facts in hand isn't really all that productive. 

But there's a lesson to be had here, and while I certainly don't usually go out of my way to shove social conscience down anyone's throats, I feel I have to do this. 

As a sportswriter covering various and sundry St. Louis teams, I frequent quite a few message board communities. I don't usually participate, but I do like hearing people's opinions on things. You read what fans have to say and you learn some things. The general mood of the fanbase, the viewpoint the majority is taking, things like that. Sometimes you come across an idea or point of view you hadn't really even considered up to that point. At the very least it's useful to take the temperature of the community. 

Anyway, one of the sites I frequent -- only as a reader, though -- is a Cardinal message board called Gateway Redbirds. Good site overall, with mostly intelligent discussion. The people who post there generally seem like reasonable, level-headed types. 

They had a thread over at GR on the accusations against Castro, and it wasn't a trainwreck or anything like that. Still, I'm going to link it here and I hope most of you will go and read it. Again, these are generally intelligent people who very rarely show too very ugly a side. 

Again, I think there's a lesson to be raised here. A woman accuses a ballplayer of assault, and it takes less than 10 posts on a message board before someone calls her a whore. Several posters assume she's just trying to cash in on having gone home with a celebrity. One poster questions the validity of the laws pertaining to giving consent in a compromised state. Another dismisses her as an angry booty call. Above all, the sentiment you hear so often in these cases is repeated ad nauseum. 

"Well, I mean, come on. Going to some dude's apartment at three in the morning, what did she think was going to happen?" 

This isn't to say the thread is particularly ugly, or that there aren't plenty of poster who do themselves proud. Several argue against the term whore, others call for everyone to hold off judgement until the facts are known. In short, there's plenty of positive stuff in there too. 

I'm not putting this here to call out anyone, least of all the posters on a random message board dedicated to a baseball team. But I want to point this out because it wasn't really terrible. It wasn't all that ugly. Not to the point of being just horrific and shocking, anyway. These are mostly reasonable people, not monsters. 

And the next time you hear something about the statistics for rape and assault, and how many incidents ultimately go unreported, I want you to remember how casually the victim was insulted, doubted, and tagged a whore. Perfectly reasonable people, and that's what you get. 

So if you were the victim of a crime, and you knew that if you were to report it, at least a fair number of perfectly reasonable people would blame you for being wronged and then call you names, would you report it? 

Alright, down off my soapbox and back to your regularly scheduled programming.