03/07/2012 11:28 am ET Updated May 07, 2012

Perrish Cox Verdict the Result of Victim Blame, Sexism and Status

While America collectively gasped at the degrading comments by Rush Limbaugh, then tuned in to watch the play-by-play of pundits assessing what he really meant and why he said it, a much more egregious travesty was taking place in Douglas County, Colorado.

No one paid attention and no outcry was heard when an alleged rape victim of former Denver Bronco Perrish Cox was herself put on trial, denigrated and maligned by a defense attorney and sports agent whose staked his only defense on painting the alleged victim as a "party girl."

"Let's just call this what it is. These were a couple of party girls," Steinberg said in his closing argument. "What did (the alleged victim) herself do?"
In a rebuttal, prosecutor Bob Chappell told the jury: "You just heard why, the reason women are reluctant to report rape."

This was not the proverbial, "he said/she said," that is often used as an easy out for district attorneys offices too reluctant to expend political capital on prosecuting a sports star. This case was solid.

The alleged victim went out with a girlfriend who happened to be dating Cox at the time. They drank, but shortly into the evening the alleged victim was too drunk for the limited amount of alcohol she had consumed. and She believed she was drugged, along with Cox's girlfriend. One thing not up for debate in that courtroom was that the victim was under the influence of something. She was incapacitated. In legal terms, "unable to consent."

But the six-male and six-female jury didn't pay attention to that major legal issue. Nor did they pay attention to the fact that the alleged victim said when she woke up she felt as if something was wrong. Then there's Demaryius Thomas' testimony of watching Cox carry her onto his bed and say, "She's ready," when she was passed out. And, oddly enough, Thomas apparently did not pay attention in "bystander intervention training" to stop the alleged rape, or, and this is most likely the case, he couldn't go against his teammate. There is a code, and he had to uphold it.

So the alleged victim continued to confront Cox and Thomas about the events of that night. Both denied doing anything to her and neither one would tell her what really happened, until a pregnancy test came back positive -- with Perrish Cox's DNA.

The jurors ignored the evidence against Perrish Cox and his lack of credibility, instead choosing to focus on the defense attorney's degradation of the alleged victim. In the arrest affidavit, it's troubling that no one reported these statements:

"She said she was worried about filing a police report because she saw how the media tormented the victim in the Kobe Bryant case. She feels that society has the mentality that because of an athlete's social status he wouldn't have to force someone to have sex with him. She said all of the athletes have the money to get big lawyers and they pay their way out of it (wait for it -- could this come out in the civil trial?). She said she doesn't want to be harassed in the media."

Isn't that exactly what happened in this case? The jurors judged her actions, not those of her alleged rapist. The jurors judged her credibility and not the blown credibility of a man who lied through the entire process, to the point of even alleging that she may have jumped on him when he was passed out! The jurors then judged the inaction of a woman who was passed out, instead of the intentional action of a lucid man.

Note to jurors: Reasonable doubt does not include the hypotheses of absurdity. No, a space alien with Cox's DNA could not have impregnated her from the mother ship. Nor could the random DNA of an individual be so tainted as to create a perfect match for a specific former Denver Bronco football player who happened to be with her at a specific time of conception. Nor can consent be telepathic.

I once spoke to a group of athletes at a metro Denver area high school about sexual assault and rape. During question time, one of the boys asked, "If we're at a party and the girl is drunk, what else am I supposed to do with her?" As if the only option is rape. How did our society get to this place? How did we shirk our responsibility to one another? My response was, "You make sure she is safe the entire night and you make sure she gets home. Otherwise, it's on you."

How is it that personal responsibility only falls to the victim of a heinous sexual assault and not to those who decide to prey on her incapacitated state?

That is a question to ask the men in Perrish Cox's apartment that night. That's a question to ask the twelve jurors who found Cox not guilty with overwhelming DNA evidence and witness statements, including that of Cox's own teammate. That's a question to ask the NCAA, the NFL and individual franchises like the Denver Broncos. It's a question to ask every single person who protects assailants from accountability because they have a talent that makes a lot of money. And, it's a question to ask the fans that support them because they play for the home team.

It's true -- while we debate the hurtful words of a radio talk show host, we tolerate even worse deeds, done to those who were unable to resist the act, and hobbled in their quest for justice by the same hurtful attitudes. Ask yourself: which is the bigger crime?