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Tuesday, February 4, 2014


There's a sadness that you can feel when reading details and comments about the Brendan Gibbons rape scandal. At some point in the story, you begin to think about what that experience was like for the other student-athlete at Michigan, the one who was assaulted in the middle of the night. Whatever happens with this situation in the future will not change what she went through in her real life.

But a considerable percentage of UM supporters want to wash this case away on the grounds that it has not (yet) yielded a criminal court conviction. The "reasoning" of these folks is that it's not "rape" unless the court says it was "rape". This same reasoning assumes that the only actual crime committed by Al Capone was tax evasion.

This line of reasoning says that Richard Nixon did no wrong since he was not convicted, even though he resigned the most prominent position in our country to apparently avoid prosecution. This viewpoint says that William Calley did not commit murder until a military tribunal said he did. Bernie Madoff was not doing anything illegal until he was caught and convicted. The New York City Police were not corrupt until the Warren Commission said they were. And so on.

There is "guilty", and then there is the legal standard for "guilty". People can be guilty in ways other than the most strict legal definition. It was the University of Michigan that determined through their quasi-legal judicial process that Gibbons was "guilty", and it punished him with expulsion. That's the most severe penalty that such a university process could render in any case.

So we are left with the age-old question of why didn't the victim press charges in 2009/2010. This is a question we can't answer. If the victim ever wants to tell us, we'll be interested in hearing the reasons, but we have no right to chase her down and hound her to explain. We may never know her exact perspective.

To help us understand why a woman may not want to move this type of case forward, MSUSpartan76 has offered some explanations.


Why Rape Victims May Choose to Not Press Charges

Studies show that between 1 in 6 and 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during their lifetimes. Of those reported, between 1 in 3 and 1 in 6 go to trial. Of those litigated, 18% result in conviction.
  • Women are often not believed. Cases can be contaminated with "rape myths" and stereotypes.
  • The legal system all too often downgrades or drops the charges through plea bargaining so the offender never has to admit committing the heinous crime.
  • Women are often subjected to brutal cross examination practices by their own lawyers to prepare them for what they will face in court. This often causes the women to drop charges.
  • The questions asked of the victim are often personally intrusive, making them feel further violated, a situation reserchers call "secondary victimization."
  • In the past (and it still happens), police expressed doubt in the women's stories, were unsupportive and even threated to charge the women with crimes for not cooperating.
Women must face intense public scrutiny in the court. This leads to public humiation, excessive pity, unwanted attention from thrill seekers, and a feeling they are viewed as somehow guilty ("they asked for it"). Women are often ostracized, rejected, or even spurned by friends, family, and co-workers for having gone through with a trial. The emotional trauma of the trial and the negative consequences often take years or decades to overcome.

In addition, a first offender can get off with probation and a fine. Jail time is not mandatory.

So, would you put yourself through that knowing that the probability of getting justice was less than 5%? Would you put yourself through that knowing that your assailant could come back at you to "punish" you? Would you put yourself through that to add to your trauma, which will take years to overcome without the added burden of the public trial and its consequences?

That the young woman chose to keep her privacy does not construe innocence to her assailant. It merely shows she understands the whole process is stacked against her.


Many of us were already familiar with the situations described above by MSUSpartan76. If nothing else, perhaps more people can get an understanding of the problem by learning about this case. To say that Gibbons is "innocent" on the grounds that he has not been declared "guilty" by a criminal court is inaccurate. His own university determined he was "guilty". He received no penalty until he couldn't play football any longer at the University of Michigan.

Michigan supporters are conveniently forgetting the thousands of times they have claimed moral superiority for their school, their athletes and coaches, and their sports teams. This case may be somewhat routine on many college campuses, but that's among the rank-and-file of young Americans. UM claims to be "better" than the rest, but this case, once again, proves otherwise.

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  1. I thought this was interesting (if that's the word). From Douglas Smith, the Washtenaw Watchdog, on an MLive board:

    Douglas Smith at Washtenaw Watchdogs

    He actually had already graduated but in order to maintain his eligibility for football, he had to be an enrolled student, so he was enrolled in the graduate school of social work. Who knows if he would have continued to pursue a graduate degree after the football season was over. He will keep his bachelors degree.

    Back to me (Mr. Old Glories)... Repeat: The timing of the expulsion (subsequent to the "investigation") was such that Gibbons was able to not only continue to play, but to also earn a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Michigan. The tangible, official consequence to Gibbons would appear that he is unable to continue to pursue his graduate degree. Poor kid, huh?

  2. For your reading pleasure . . .

  3. Thanks Andy D. Still looking for the athletic department connection in this article.

  4. Nice deflection Andy. Why not read the police report? The prosecutor for that case was a UofM graduate. The woman had accused rape in three separate incidents. All cases were thrown out. She had no injuries. The victim in the Gibbons case had bruising and vaginal tearing, which is often seen after rape. This is documented in the police report and hospital records. The Gibbons victim was also threatened by another member of the UofM football team. This is also seen in the police report.
    I don't understand your need to deflect this toward MSU. It seems a lot of UofM fans are doing this on multiple websites.
    Why not stand up to your university and demand answers? A student athlete was assaulted physically and mentally. Very few people at the UofM asked questions. Everyone stayed silent. The university showed that they absolutely did not care about the victim. They cared about the two football players that were accused of breaking the law. That is all they cared about and yet you slappies continue to point fingers away from where this all began.


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