Dear Minnesota Football Players: Stop Perpetuating Rape Culture

Future victims now have to contend with the possibility that an entire community will turn against them.
01/04/2017 12:42 pm ET Updated Jan 04, 2017

It’s time for the University of Minnesota football team to shut up and stop perpetuating rape culture.

Coach Tracy Claeys was fired this week, following his support of a proposed boycott of the Holiday Bowl by his team late last year. The players had threatened to skip the Bowl unless 10 of their teammates – who were suspended pending an investigation into an alleged sexual assault – were reinstated.

The incident involved one woman and as many as five men in a campus-area apartment, according to a confidential report by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) that was leaked by local media. The accused players, who are scheduled to take part in appeal hearings later in January, say the sex was consensual.

Although the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office reviewed the case twice and declined to press criminal charges, it decried what it called “deplorable behavior.”

Following the announcement of the proposed boycott by the football team, Claeys had tweeted: “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!” (The players later backed down and played in the Bowl game.)

By taking sides, the players are suggesting the accuser is at fault ― a stigma that is at the heart of rape culture.

The University football players ― still unhappy with the ongoing investigation and now with the termination of Coach Claeys ― have taken to Twitter to denounce the school, administration, and what they call the lack of due process.

The football players have no business being involved in this at all. They clearly don’t comprehend the horrific damage caused by their ignorant tantrums.

By taking sides, the players are suggesting the accuser is at fault ― a stigma that is at the heart of rape culture. Blaming the victim is characteristic behavior in assault cases. It’s so common in our culture, in fact, that survivors typically blame themselves, thinking they somehow provoked their attack by what they wore, what they drank or where they went. This is one reason that only 334 of every 1000 rape cases are reported to the police, according to RAINN.org, a national anti-sexual assault organization. Of those 334 cases reported, only 64 lead to arrests by police. Of those 64, only 13 are referred to prosecutors. Of those 13 cases, only six rapists will be incarcerated.

In short, less than 1 percent of those accused end up in jail.

Survivors who don’t think they deserve justice don’t come forward.

The football players’ proposed boycott represented intimidation and blackmail – essentially an effort to turn every University of Minnesota football fan against the accuser. In doing so, they created yet another example of what happens to women who come forward with sexual assault allegations. Future victims now have to contend with the possibility that an entire community will turn against them. Survivors already ask, “how did I let this happen to me?” The behavior of the football team is just another example of why it is so difficult to prosecute rapists. Survivors who don’t think they deserve justice don’t come forward.

I urge the football team to think about their mothers, their sisters, their aunts and girlfriends -– and take a position against rape culture. Respect the formal and carefully considered university process that is designed to protect everyone involved in assault cases. It’s time to shut up.

Anne Hilker is the Coordinator of the Panhellenic Council’s Greeks Against Sexual Violence a the University of Minnesota.

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