Last week, Serena Williams made headlines with a new Rolling Stone profile, and not in the way she intended, when she commented on the Steubenville rape case. “I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people,” Williams told the magazine. “She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember?” Williams said in the profile. “It could have been much worse. She’s lucky.”
The comments were deeply disappointing and hypocritical coming from Williams, who runs a foundation that is supposed to help and support victims of violent crimes. And her original apology, in which she defended her credentials fighting for women’s rights and apologized for “what was written” and what she “supposedly said,” trying to deflect blame rather than accept responsibility, wasn’t much better. But Williams apologized again in a statement on her web site Monday. Unlike her first statement, Williams finally got her expression of regret right:
“I am deeply sorry for my insensitive and misinformed comments. It was not my intention to cause the victim and her family any additional pain. But I did, and I am sorry. I am grateful to them for the opportunity to personally apologize, and I am humbled by their strength, grace, and forgiveness.
“I also want to extend an apology to the millions of sexual assault victims in America whose pain could have been compounded by my inappropriate remarks. Rape and all forms of sexual assault are completely unacceptable, no matter the circumstances. Sexual assault perpetrated against women and men is never acceptable and *never* the fault of the victim.”
That sort of apology the first time around — or better yet, these comments when she originally saw the Steubenville case in the news — would have sent a strong message to victims of sexual assault that they weren’t to blame and that they could come forward, as the Steubenville victim did, without shame. That’s an important message to hear from a prominent female athlete like Williams, who added at her pre-Wimbledon press conference that she has spoken to the Steubenville victim and that they “came to a wonderful understanding, and we’re constantly in contact.” If that’s the case, hopefully owning her words will help Williams salvage at least some good from comments she never should have made in the first place.