A few days ago, the LA Times published an interview with LA Dodgers’ star Mookie Betts. The main thrust of the story was Betts reflecting on his season and LA’s rapid exit from the playoffs. But the interview made news for another, more disturbing nugget that Betts dropped about former teammate Trevor Bauer, who is out of MLB entirely these days after he was accused of sexual assault by multiple women.
Bauer has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.
“My experience with Bauer is not anything remotely close to what everyone else’s experience is,” Betts said. “I love him. I think he’s an awesome guy. The personal things? I have no control. I have no say. Obviously, nothing ever came from it. He’s an awesome pitcher. He’s a great guy, somebody who wants to take the mound every fifth day. But, at the end of the day, I don’t make the decision. That’s a decision that’s not as simple as baseball.”
The truth about sexual assault
First, let’s talk facts. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. Of those 310 reports, only 50 will lead to an arrest. Only 28 of those cases will lead to a felony conviction, and only 25 perpetrators will do jail time. That means a sexual assault victim has a .025 chance that their rapist will do prison time. More than two-thirds of sexual assaults go unreported.
I would love to tell you that I am shocked and appalled by Betts’ comments about a man who has now been accused of sexual assault, with startlingly similar details, by four different women. A Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) nurse, who examined one of the women accusing Bauer, testified at a hearing for an order of protection that she was alarmed by the purple bruises the woman had on her genitals. “I had never seen that before,” the nurse recounted. “It was frankly alarming.” More than one woman alleges Bauer choked them to the point of unconsciousness during sex. The fourth woman accusing Bauer came forward in June of this year.
It’s difficult to know where to start addressing Betts’ comments on Bauer, but it’s worth pointing out that many American men reside in a world where a man can be accused of rape by four women and still be considered “a great guy,” as long as there is no conviction to point to. Then there’s the ol’ reliable “He was always great to me” defense. We hear this less and less from pro athletes these days when a teammate is accused, but there was a time when “we stand by our guy” was a common refrain from both teams and players. Of course, the flip side of that statement is “and I don’t believe the victim,” which too often felt tantamount to the entire organization telling the fans that the victim was lying.
But how would Betts know that Bauer is “a great guy?’ How would anyone know what a casual teammate is like outside the clubhouse and behind closed doors? Just because a guy is nice and fun in the locker room has little bearing on what type of a person he is when out of uniform, and many abusers and predators rely on their “nice guy” persona to evade suspicion.
In another lifetime, I was an attorney for domestic abuse victims and I can’t tell you how many times abusers lined up their coworkers, family members, pastors, and friends to tell the judge what a “great guy” the abuser was, even though there were graphic pictures of injuries to his victim. For the record, Ted Bundy never did anything to me, personally, but I have an extremely negative opinion of him based on how he treated other women.
I’ve spoken openly about my own sexual assault. I never reported it to the police because I didn’t think anyone would believe me and because I blamed myself for a much larger, stronger man holding me down and refusing to stop when I said “no.” I attribute that to spending my entire life hearing adults cast doubt on women who came forward and spoke about their own assaults. I was in high school during the Anita Hill hearings and I never forgot the way an intelligent, successful, dignified woman was treated by men in the United States Congress. There was never even a chance that I’d have reported my rape to the police. I desperately hope that young girls who hear Mookie Betts’ words know better than I did.
It’s disturbing and disheartening to see some of the dialogue around Bauer on social media, especially given how many women in media have been harassed and traumatized by Bauer stans for reporting on the allegations against him. The indignation by a group of men who see Bauer as an avatar for all the ways women wrong men (but know very little about the law or the legal system and how it works) has made any discussion about the allegations against him impossible. And Bauer has come out strongly against his alleged victims, even crowing about settling a defamation suit against one accuser as some kind of victory. According to his accusers’ lawyer, Jesse Kaplan, “In return for (the victim’s) dismissal of her counterclaim with prejudice, Mr. Bauer dismissed his claims against Lindsey Hill with prejudice.” No money exchanged hands. Both sides drop their cases against the other. That’s as close to a draw as you can get. Full disclosure: Bauer also sued Deadspin for defamation, but his case was dismissed by a federal judge.
All of Bauer’s railing against how unfair life has been to him is eaten up by his fans (including many young women), who spend an inordinate amount of time trolling anyone who dares to question Bauer’s innocence. They rely largely on texts Bauer has shared from his accusers, calling his alleged victims “liars” and worse. But most victims of sexual assault are not grabbed by a stranger in a parking garage. Only seven percent of sexual assaults are committed by strangers. Sixty percent of rapes are committed by acquaintances and 34 percent by family members. Most victims have a relationship with their assaulter and there is bound to be evidence of those interactions.
And not every victim defines sexual assault the same or comes to terms with having been assaulted immediately. It took me years to admit that I had been sexually assaulted and I had a very friendly and cordial conversation with my rapist the night after the assault. No amount of my smiling and laughing with him changed what he did to me — but it would have in the court of public opinion, and probably to law enforcement, too. Trauma responses are complex and not well-understood by laypeople and, too often, we judge a victim’s credibility by the “what I would have done” standard. Texts and conversations with a rapist after the fact are more common than people think and don’t negate an assault, even if they seem damning. Victims are not perfect, there is no script for how to act after being raped.
MLB fans should also know that the league had a team of investigators that looked into the allegations against Bauer before handing down the longest suspension in MLB history as a result of a violation of the league’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. That’s not a criminal proceeding, and Bauer certainly had a chance to make his case to investigators.
I don’t know Betts. I don’t know what his life experiences are or how much he knows about violence against women. What I do know is that he seems to have paid little attention to the allegations against Bauer, that millions of women saw his comments, and that many, many men will use them to justify their vitriolic defense of Bauer and antagonism of his victims. But I hope Betts reads this. And I hope he reflects on how his comments contribute to the rape culture our society has been saddled with and considers how his words come across to the one in six women and one in 33 men who will be the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline. National Sexual Assault Hotline. Free. Confidential. 24/7.
Original source here
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