Jameis Winston (left) was accused of rape by Erica Kinsman (right) who came forward for the first time in the documentary, The Hunting Ground. (Photos: Getty Images / Facebook)
“Rape is a vicious crime,” said Florida State University quarterback and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in a statement last month, “The only thing as vicious as rape is falsely accusing someone of rape.”
Winston, who led the Florida State Seminoles to secure the BCS Championship this year against Auburn, is revered as a prodigy of the sport. He has also been accused of rape by an FSU classmate, Erica Kinsman, who publicly came forward for the first time in the new documentary The Hunting Ground, shown for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend.
Watch the trailer for The Hunting Ground, below:
While Winston maintains that he is innocent, and a controversial investigation by Florida State cleared him of any violations of the school’s code of conduct last month, Kinsman insists otherwise.
According to Kinsman, in December 2012, while a pre-med student at FSU, she met a man at a Tallahassee bar when he helped her to get away from another man’s unwanted attention. This seemingly helpful man then bought her a shot — and after drinking it, she quickly became disoriented.
Soon enough, she recalls, she was in a taxi with the man, and then was being vaginally raped inside of an apartment. She recalls the man’s roommate entering the room during the rape, while she verbally begged her attacker to stop, and telling him, “Stop — What are you doing?”
Kinsman then claims that her attacker the took her into the apartment’s bathroom, locked the door from the inside, pinned her head to the floor, and continued to rape her. Afterwards, he said to her, “You can leave now.” He offered to give her a ride somewhere; afraid to tell him her home address, she directed him to a busy intersection. He drove her there on a scooter, dropped her off, and left. Kinsman then immediately reported the rape and an examination with a rape kit was performed at a local hospital in Tallahassee. At the time, she did not know the identity of her alleged attacker.
Even though the semen collected from the rape kit provided a match with Winston’s DNA, he was never charged with rape by the state of Florida. Winston went on to be the youngest Heisman recipient ever and lead FSU to a national title in the year following the Kinsman’s alleged attack.
After Winston was cleared of wrongdoing by the university in December, Kinsman’s attorney said, “There are certainly glaring bases for appeal, but at some point we have to recognize that Florida State is never going to hold Jameis Winston responsible.”
An investigation done by the New York Times last spring concluded that, “there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.” One particularly glaring misstep by Tallahassee police was that they waited two weeks to interview Mr. Winston after Kinsman identified him and failed to collect a DNA sample from him.
When contacted by the New York Times, an attorney advising Winston and his family said, “We don’t need an investigation, thorough or otherwise, to know that Jameis did not sexually assault this young lady.”
The Hunting Ground bills itself as a “startling exposé of sexual assault on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families,” following “survivors as they pursue their education while fighting for justice — despite harsh retaliation, harassment and pushback at every level.” In the film, Kinsman says she was called “a slut, a whore” by her peers at FSU, all the while seeing the same community heap continually mounting praise on Winston for his accomplishments on the football field. Winston has recently left FSU to be eligible for the 2015 NFL draft.
Kinsman, meanwhile, is continuing to pursue a Title IX lawsuit against the university. According Know Your IX, grassroots support and activist organization for campus rape survivors, while a Title IX lawsuit gives victims “more control in contrast to a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education,” such a lawsuit has a difficult burden-of-proof standard, forcing “the victim…to show that the school had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment and deliberately ignored it.” Furthermore, if a court finds a victim’s Title IX suit “frivolous,” the victim may have to then pay for the university’s legal fees, a huge financial burden in addition to covering their own costs to file suit.
A 2000 report by the National Institute of Justice found that “the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between 20 and 25 percent” over the course of a college career. Furthermore, only about one-third of universities are in compliance with the Clery Act, which requires higher education institutions to report on-campus crimes, including sexual assault, to federal officials.
Perhaps because campuses often fail to take action to protect victims and prosecute assailants, one-third of rape victims consider suicide and 13 percent of rape victims attempt suicide.
According to Deadspin, “between 2% and 8% of reported rapes are found to be false, but only about 40% of rapes are reported,” meaning that “for every false accusation of rape, there are up to 100 actual rapes that take place.” In other words, a rape survivor is much more likely to consider taking her own life than to falsely accuse someone of rape, and a film like The Hunting Ground urges that attention be paid to these kinds of statistics.
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