The C is for Crank

Bad Call: Why Overton Should be Benched

By Erica C. Barnett March 10, 2011

I know, I know: Frat-boy posturing is the Seattle Weekly's/ New Times' bread and butter. Still, I'm gonna take the bait: In a blog post that far surpasses Weekly food writer Jason Sheehan's tediously offensive brand of casual misogyny, the paper's Keegan Hamilton argues that 23-year-old UW basketball star Venoy Overton, accused of giving alcohol to two 16-year-old girls and raping one of them, shouldn't have been temporarily suspended and barred from paying in tonight's Pac-10 championship game against WSU.

His five arguments will be familiar to anyone who's read any story in the last, oh, 100 years about one of the many, many sports stars who end up getting charged with rape.

First: It's not like people should be surprised that Overton, 23, would give booze to two teenage girls seven years his junior. I mean, adult men do that all the time, amirite? And whatever is common is, by definition, no big deal. Moreover, the fact that the victims waited two months to name Overton publicly means they obviously weren't traumatized, and are lying, attention-hungry bitches who are out to get him. Like everyone who ever accuses a prominent, powerful man of rape, they know it's totally gonna play out in their favor (see: Assange, Julian).

I wish I didn't have to explain why those arguments are asinine. Overton is an adult. The two girls are, well, girls. And women who accuse powerful men of rape almost inevitably see their lives torn apart and their names dragged through the mud; in exchange, their odds of "winning" in court (inasmuch as "winning" equals having a rape claim vindicated, as opposed to not being raped in the first place) are slim to none.

Moving on: "Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Also, the accuser told police that "she never once said 'no' or 'stop'" while Overton allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him.

To the first claim: There's plenty of precedent---both in sports and in many other professions---for temporary suspension after a person is accused of a crime, whether or not he or she is ultimately convicted. Schools do it, police departments do it, the Catholic Church does it---hell, sports teams do it for allegations as minor (and victimless) as alleged violations of team rules. I don't see any reason an alleged rapist should be given special treatment, even if he is the star of the team.

And to the second: Rape is not defined by whether a victim "fought back," or whether she "said no." It isn't about what the victim did or didn't do. Rape, fundamentally, is defined by lack of consent. Consent, in turn, is "defined according to the quality and quantity of assent, not the quality and quantity of dissent."

Still confused? Here are some examples of lack of consent: A person who is drunk to the point of incapacitation can't consent. A person who's reluctant to go along with sex, but does so, without enthusiastically and affirmatively saying "yes," is not consenting. Wearing a short skirt, or makeup, or being friendly toward a guy prior to a rape, is not consent.

Third: "Overton has already been disciplined." But-but-but: This 23-year-old, grown man was "demoted from the starting lineup" and "disciplined" by his parents! Which, obviously, is exactly what the criminal-justice system does when any average person is accused of rape. We have a judicial process in this country, and---flawed as it is, especially when it comes to rape accusations---it's much better than letting parents and coaches adjudicate with the equivalent of "go to your room."

Fourth: "What's the Big Deal? Admittedly, the 23-year-old Overton has no business hooking up with two 16-year-old girls. It shouldn't matter if it was consensual, anyone with a half a conscience knows that's just wrong."

Uh, no, it actually does "matter if it was consensual." (See above.) Nonconsensual sex is not "hooking up" (even "hooking up" you happen to find icky because of the age difference)---it's rape. And the "big deal," if he raped the girl, is that his crime will haunt her for the rest of her life---with psychological repercussions far worse than having to miss a single basketball game

Hamilton may think plying a minor with alcohol and raping her is, as he puts it, "roughly equivalent [to] misdemeanor marijuana possession," but---thankfully for rape victims, who already find it hard enough to be taken seriously---the law doesn't. Rape is a felony, and buying alcohol for minors is a gross misdemeanor.

Fifth, the real reason this type of editorial appears every single time a woman accuses a powerful sports star of rape: "The Team Needs Him. ... If the Huskies lose, they will probably be left out of the NCAA tournament. That impacts far more people than just Overton. His teammates will suffer. And the University, which gains money and prestige by appearing in the Big Dance, will also suffer."

Would that we lived in a world where schools would suffer more for absolving accused rapists than for failing to win a championship game.

And finally: Will no one think of the poor accused rapist?

"After four years of giving his all for the program, he deserves the chance to suit up one last time, even if he made several extremely questionable decisions one night in January that tarnished his legacy."

What decisions, exactly, are "questionable" here? Overton's (alleged) decision to buy booze for two girls and rape one of them while she was drunk? Because if so, we're asking the wrong questions.
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