Disclaimer: I don't know the details of what happened in the sexual assault cases involving Ben Roethlisberger, I'm only commenting on what was discussed on Talk of the Nation by Bob Dvorchak.
Late last week I was listening to NPR as I've been prone to do lately. On Talk of the Nation, Neal Conan was talking to Bob Dvorchak about the recent 6 game suspension of Ben Roethlisberger.
For those of you who do not keep up with sports (like me) Ben (who I will refer to as Ben, since his last name is too damn long) has been formally accused of 2 sexual assault incidents and a third which was never legally pursued. In all cases, no formal charges were brought against Ben. However, despite this fact, the NFL found that there had been enough of an issue to suspend Ben for 6 games (4 for good behavior.) Of course sports goons without a care for women, cried out how this was ridiculous, while sensible people commended the punishment and the NFL.
I'd like to jump on this last bandwagon and mention that this has given me a smidgen of respect for the NFL and it's commissioner, Roger Goodell, who made the decision. Regardless of if no formal charges have been brought forward, there is a clear issue here and the NFL would be remiss not to address it.
Anyway, back to Talk of the Nation and Bob Dvorchak. Dvorchak is a sports writer in Pittsburgh and so he was included in the discussion on Talk of the Nation about this decision. That day, I had heard other people covering the story, but from different angles, as none of them were sports people. One discussion was about how if Ben had been black the punishment would have been harsher, and I found that to be a fair assessment.
I tuned in late to the discussion with Dvorchak, so I didn't catch how he felt about the actual suspension, but his participation in the discussion was EXTREMELY problematic and since no one called him on it on air, I will do it now. And I am paraphrasing because I was driving and didn't write down his exact words, but I took some notes the minute I got home because I was so infuriated. Specifically, I take issue with two points he made.
1) The sexual assault allegations fall into a gray area and are more of a case of he said/she said than an actual rape because the alleged victim was too inebriated at the time of the incident to make a statement about what happened.
Saying shit like this is a huge fucking problem and perpetuates our rape apologist society. Let me make this crystal clear: IF SOMEONE IS TOO INEBRIATED TO MAKE A STATEMENT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN A BATHROOM WITH SOMEONE AND WE KNOW SOMETHING SEXUAL HAPPENED, THEN THEY WERE TOO INEBRIATED TO GIVE CONSENT.
And no consent = RAPE!
It's not rocket science. It's extremely problematic that this concept is so hard for people to understand and is consistently used as an excuse for rape and victim blaming. I'm not talking about when two people get intoxicated and hook up. I'm talking about when one party is inebriated beyond control of their body and voice and they are taken advantage of. It's the same principal that a child is not capable of giving consent and why statutory rape laws exist. Someone who is extremely intoxicated is not capable of consent.
2) Dvorchak also claimed that Ben could basically get away with despicable behavior and still play in the NFL because a talent as big as him can't be passed up. (If the Steelers drop him, another team will pick him up.) The sad thing is that there is truth to what Dvorchak is saying here. However, Dvorchak as a sports reporter occupies a special place in society where he could critique this idea and call for sports fans to hold their "heroes" accountable for their behavior, instead of reinforcing the idea that sports rapists hold a get out of jail free pass.
Guess what? I'm sure Ben is a super-de-duper athlete. And he's among the elite in his sport. But there ARE other people as good as him who DON'T RAPE WOMEN.
We have got to stop holding sports players above the rest of society. Would you keep going to your dentist if you heard he had been named in three sexual assault cases? PROBABLY NOT! Even if he was the best damn dentist you'd ever been to!
We've also got to stop victim blaming and giving excuses for rape and sexual assault. It's as simple as that. We've got to promote the Yes Mean Yes mentality. And we've got to call people on their shit when they clearly don't understand what consent is. Bob Dvorchak doesn't fully understand consent, and he's writing columns and speaking on the radio, so I can safely assume he represents what a lot of people think...and that's so scary.