The Indianapolis Colts are used to being tested. They are no strangers to adversity … what with head coach Chuck Pagano battling leukemia in 2012, and owner Jim Irsay being arrested and charged with DWI last year and then serving a six-week suspension.
But when the news broke yesterday about Colts linebacker Josh McNary being charged with rape, it was like something out of a B-movie on cable. And I have to shamefully admit that my first thoughts were these: not now, and whoa, the timing is suspicious. Right before we travel to Foxborough, Mass., to fight for the AFC Championship? Could the New England Patriots be behind this? Would they sink this low … and actually set a player up just to throw off our game? I was desperate.
And then I read the criminal complaint, and reality set in. Nope. Not a joke. The nightmare is real, but it isn’t for the National Football League, because if anyone has learned anything over the past year, immediate (and appropriate) action should and will be taken. And the nightmare isn’t for the Colts organization, because let’s remember … it’s a football team. Yes, we’re playing in an important game, but the key word here is … game.
No, the nightmare is for the victim, her friends and family, and the accused, Josh McNary.
We don’t know if he’s guilty. So for now, let’s set that aside until it plays out in the legal system. Let’s talk about the victim, who is already being called a gold digger … whore … stupid slut. Because we like to shame sexual assault victims, don’t we? It’s so much easier than looking in the face of the accused and what he represents.
Yes, it’s the same old story, just a different chapter. “She should have known better,” some are saying. “She was drunk and shouldn’t have ever gone with him to his apartment.”
Were bad choices made? Sure. I’ve made my share (and have been lucky enough to go unscathed). But it’s not about that. It’s about this idea that a woman somehow deserves violent, aggressive and inhumane treatment based on her behavior, appearance and level of inebriation.
When I went back to school as an adult to pursue my master’s degree in counseling, I took special interest in the area of sexual assault and domestic violence. One of my professors worked regularly with rape victims, in particular, and she said something one day that I’ll never forget:
A woman can be standing right here in this room in front of everyone, stark naked. She can wink, smile and flirt. She can get drunk and dance on the table. But unless she gives consent, no one in this room has the right to touch her. No one.
I get that. Most women get that. But many men don’t. So let’s think about it in different terms.
Say a man stands up in the middle of a bar late on a Saturday night, completely trashed and hardly able to speak. He grinds his hips to the beat of the music, licks his lips and slowly peels off his clothes. He’s having a good time, feeling sexy and loose … flirty. A woman seductively approaches and circles around him. She strokes his shoulder, and the man grins and kisses her … he thinks she’s beautiful.
But then he sees the knife she has in her other hand. He is stunned. He isn’t smiling anymore. He glances around … begins to back away, saying, “Wait. I think you have the wrong idea. This is a mistake. I need to go now.”
He bends down and reaches for his clothes, but the woman is strong and pushes him back. He stumbles and falls, mumbling, “No, no, no. Somebody help me!” And then without saying another word, the woman reaches down and cuts off his penis.
Devastating. Shocking. Horrific. Unspeakable.
And then everyone else in the room says, “He so deserved that! Look at him … he’s naked! He’s such a gold digger – probably trying to find someone to take care of him. Did you see what he was wearing? He was begging for it … such a slut. Somebody get me a drink.”
Both are tragic acts of violence. But our brains don’t receive them the same way, do they?
At the moment, Josh McNary is innocent. Lawyers are involved now, so time may or may not tell the truth. But the focus shouldn’t be on how the Colts will cope. They’ve dealt with worse, and again, I believe they’ll handle it in the right way.
No, there are much bigger problems here. They involve a young woman who was allegedly raped, and a professional football player who allegedly didn’t heed her protests. Don’t cry for the Colts … cry for those who say no, and nobody listens.
©2015 Michelle Freed