University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel this week indefinitely suspended one of the team’s best players, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, after an off-campus incident that campus police were investigating. But now the investigation is complete, and there will be no charges filed against Green-Beckham.
Green-Beckham allegedly forced his way into the home of his girlfriend and two other women, both Missouri students, Sunday morning. After entering the apartment to look for his girlfriend, Green-Beckham “allegedly assaulted another occupant of the apartment after entering it by pushing her, causing her to fall down ‘at least 4 stairs striking the floor,'” according to the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune’s write-up of the incident report. Still, both of the women Green-Beckham may have assaulted declined to press charges, and one of the victims specifically cited her fear of “media and community backlash” in her decision, the Daily Tribune reports:
When police asked her why she did not want to press charges, she stated it was because “she was afraid of the media and community backlash since Green-Beckham is a football player for the University of Missouri and is possibly going to be in the NFL Draft soon.”
She also stated she “was afraid of being harassed and having her property damaged just because she was the victim” and that she “did not want to deal with the mental stress of the whole ordeal it was already making her physically sick to think about it.”
Because the alleged victims declined to press charges, police withdrew their warrant request for Green-Beckham’s arrest.
Apparently, the victim didn’t have to wait for charges for some of the backlash to begin. Daily Tribune beat writer David Morrison tweeted this afternoon that the report shows text messages from Green-Beckham’s girlfriend to the victim that were trying to convince the victim not to prosecute, even though the girlfriend said in another text Green-Beckham drug her from the apartment and hurt her too. “He will be kicked out of Mizzou and won’t qualify for the NFL Draft,” one of the text messages from the girlfriend to the victim read, according to Morrison. “The coaches talked to me and explained to me how serious this is.” The girlfriend told police that she had not talked to coaches but that Green-Beckham had relayed the message to her, and a Mizzou spokesperson told the Tribune that they did not contact Green-Beckham’s girlfriend after the incident. The wide receiver remains suspended indefinitely.
It’s no wonder, given that pressure and the other prominent assault charges filed against football players in recent years, that the victim wanted no part of charging a star football player with a crime. Women who accuse prominent athletes of assault — sexual or otherwise — become the focus of media and public scrutiny all too often. The victim in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, for instance, faced threats on social media and elsewhere after she accused multiple football players of sexual assault. A female student at Missouri’s Maryville High School became a target of her community after accusing a football player of rape: her house was burned down and cyber-bullying drove her to attempt suicide. The woman who accused Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of sexual assault last year was also the subject of victim-blaming and accusations that she had fabricated the story to bring down a star football player. Media and law enforcement questions about her sex life with other partners drove her attorney to say that the Winston case was ultimately “an investigation into a rape victim, not a rape suspect.” And those are only three of the many cases that exist.
Sometimes, pressure not to pursue charges and a cycle of victim-blaming ends in the absolute worst way for victims. Like in the case of Lizzy Seeberg, who killed herself after she accused a Notre Dame football player of rape even after facing pressure from players and friends who told her not to challenge the football program.
This is the choice we’ve given victims of assault. Women who feel that they were assaulted, sexually or otherwise, have to decide between enduring the brunt of public scrutiny that comes with seeking justice against their accusers…or letting them walk free. If she chooses the first, society won’t see her as the victim. Rather, it will rally around him, because it is his life, his place on the football team, his Heisman Trophy, his national title, his NFL future those charges will put at stake. Her life, and the effects an assault will have on it, are meaningless.