In a now viral CNN column, Roxanne Jones, founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and a former vice president at ESPN, opined that it is a “must-do” in today’s society for young, heterosexual men to require potential partners to text “yes” before engaging in any sexual activity.
Read an excerpt from Jones’ controversial op-ed below:
Never have sex with a girl unless she’s sent you a text that proves the sexual relationship is consensual beforehand. And it’s a good idea to even follow up any sexual encounter with a tasteful text message saying how you both enjoyed being with one another — even if you never plan on hooking up again.
Crazy, I know, but I’ve actually been encouraging my son and his friends to use sexting — minus the lewd photos — to protect themselves from being wrongly accused of rape. Because just as damning text messages and Facebook posts helped convict the high-schoolers in Steubenville of rape, technology can also be used to prove innocence.
How to protect yourself from false rape allegations is a constant conversation among professional athletes. I’ve covered many rape cases over my career, including those of Kobe Bryant, the Duke lacrosse team, and many others that never made the headlines. Sports agents and athletes have tried everything from openly or secretly recording their sexual encounters, which is illegal in some states, to asking all women they have sex with to sign a pre-consent form. And though the public may scoff at stories of athletes who frequent strip clubs or solicit prostitutes, many athletes say they do this to avoid unwarranted sex assault charges.
In a follow-up interview on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, Jones shared some disturbing statistics:
“There are 97,000 cases of sexual assaults between kids between 18 and 24 where drinking was involved… The FBI says 8 percent of all rape allegations are false.
“Eight percent of 100,000 is [8,000],” she continued, “and it is a smaller number compared, but if one of those [8,000] boys, and even the girls, if that’s your child, then you’re concerned. That’s [8,000] children between 18 and 24.”
Absolutely, as a mother of three sons, I’m very concerned. I want my boys to be cautious and aware when they eventually navigate through the sexual landmine that is young adulthood. I want them to know that they are just as valued as young women and that I will defend them against any false allegations that may come their way.
There’s only one problem: those statistics are false—or at the very least, unverifiable.
First things first: Until January 1, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ definition of rape was extremely limited in scope.
Read more from FBI.gov below:
The old definition was “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Many agencies interpreted this definition as excluding a long list of sex offenses that are
criminal in most jurisdictions, such as offenses involving oral or anal penetration, penetration with objects, and rapes of males.
The new Summary definition of Rape is: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Further, in the FBI’s Crime Index Report, which is where the widely-repeated 8 percent myth stems from, the key word is “unfounded.” I’ll say that again: the key word is “unfounded,” not “false.”
As with all other Crime Index offenses, complaints of forcible rape made to law enforcement agencies are sometimes found to be false or baseless. In such cases, law enforcement agencies “unfound” the offenses and exclude them from crime counts. The “unfounded” rate, or percentage of complaints determined through investigation to be false, is higher for forcible rape than for any other Index crime. Eight percent of forcible rape complaints in 1996 were “unfounded.”
What is the difference?
A comprehensive report titled, “Violence Against Women,” which analyzed 10 years of reported rape cases, explains below:
Examples of factors that do not, by themselves, mean that a case is a false allegation include:
• A case in which the victim decides not to cooperate with investigators. Victims make such decisions for many reasons (Jordan, 2004; Lea et al., 2003 ).
• A case in which investigators decide that there is insufficient evidence to proceed toward a prosecution. Rape cases, particularly nonstranger cases, are very difficult to investigate and prosecute, and many investigations are aborted because of these difficulties and because of the perception that successful prosecution is unlikely (Clark & Lewis, 1977; Frazier & Haney, 1996; Frohmann, 1991; Spohn, Beichner, & Davis-Frenzel, 2001).
• A case in which the victim appears to make inconsistent statements, or even lies about certain aspects of the incident. Traumatized individuals tend to recall events in a fragmented fashion, which makes apparent inconsistencies likely (Halligan, Michael, Clark, & Ehlers, 2003); victims may well try to hide certain facts, for example, use of an illegal drug or a particularly humiliating act they suffered—out of fear that they will be treated with suspicion or simply because of the intense shame they experience (Jordan, 2004).
• A case in which a victim makes a delayed report of the incident or in which a victim was extremely intoxicated. Delayed reporting is extremely common in rape cases (National Victim Center and the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992), and there is evidence that intoxicated individuals are at increased risk of being targeted by sexual predators (Abbey, Zawackia, Buck, Clinton, & McAuslan, 2004; Macy, Nurius, & Norris, 2007; Ullman, 2003).
Any of the circumstances listed above can be present in a case that is ultimately determined to be a false allegation, but the presence of any of these circumstances does not by itself mean that a case can be so classified.
The term “unfounded” is commonly defined as “lacking a sound base, groundless, unwarranted.” It is synonymous with another term often used by law enforcement in child abuse cases: “unsubstantiated.” Both terms are used to code and administratively clear sexual assault cases that are often mislabeled as “false allegations.”. . . Police departments routinely administratively clear a number of reports of sexual assault, perhaps mistakenly, in one combined category of “unfounded OR false.” Because of these varying definitions of “unfounded” among reporting agencies and the UCR, law enforcement professionals may have similar misunderstandings and inaccurately place false and unfounded reports in the same category.
Even more alarming, sixty percent of sexual assaults are unreported, with only 3 out of 100 rapists serving any time in jail. So not only is the 8 percent false allegation rate not accurate among reported cases, it further distorts a frightening picture already obscured by a cisgendered, hetero-patriarchal society that shames, blames and silences #FastTailGirls. And Jones, perhaps unwittingly, is perpetuating rape culture and misogyny through both the false premise upon which her argument is built and her problematic solution to a phantom issue.
While that may not be her intention, that is exactly what occurs when one rails against “stupid girls” who get drunk and accuse innocent men of rape as if it’s a wide-spread epidemic. That kind of disingenuous rhetoric is common for professional athletes who take pride in leaving sexual conquests in different area codes. So while it is not surprising that the “text yes for sex” argument comes from a former ESPN executive, it is no less disappointing.
In a world where capitalism and sexism collide, male professional and collegiate athletes are cash cows who can’t afford to be arrested, especially not for something deemed inconsequential—like so-called false rape allegations. It distracts from the game; it worries investors and polarizes fan. It’s not good business. This is why no rape charges were filed against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston today.
“To be clear, the victim did not consent, this was a rape,” said Patricia Carroll, attorney for the victim, amidst accusations that her client was lying about her sexual encounter with the expected Heisman winner.
That statement, coupled with Winston’s DNA found on the woman, was nothing when compared to Winston’s word. In fact, she was allegedly warned by law enforcement not to pursue charges against him in the first place, according to her family:
We requested assistance from an attorney friend to interact with law enforcement on the victim’s behalf. When the attorney contacted Detective (Scott) Angulo immediately after Winston was identified, Detective Angulo told the attorney that Tallahassee was a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable…
It was never the intent of the victim or the family for this to become public. The victim was trying to move on with her life which has now been turned upside down once again. We have not been the source of any information prior to this release; there was no benefit in that.
Within hours of the announcement that charges would not be filed against Winston, the sports world took a collective sigh of relief and Heisman talk kicked into full gear. Not one more thought has been spared for the “stupid girl” who got drunk and dared to believe that she still had rights—dared to believe that her humanity mattered more than a trophy. Dared to believe that someone, anyone would believe that she was telling the truth.
But rape culture tells us that she’s a liar. Rape culture tells us that she shouldn’t have been drinking if she didn’t want to have sex. Rape culture tells us that she placed herself in that position, so she can’t blame the judicial systems for having doubts about her character. Rape culture tells us that she wanted it—and she didn’t even have to text yes.
While it may sound clever in theory, no text message can ensure that a woman is a willing participant at the moment of penetration. A text message is neither a consent form nor evidence of a contractual obligation. Texting “yes” for sex does not secure protection; it grants permission. And if I had a daughter, I would caution her to stay far away from the man who asks her to do it.
In a country where 1 in 6 women will be victims of rape, the last thing a potential predator needs is a permission slip.
Follow Kirsten West Savali on Twitter at @KWestSavali.
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