Charles Orlando isn’t going to mince words with the Florida State University quarterback who has been accused of sexual assault.
I’ve been following your college football career at Florida State University as quarterback for the Seminoles. You have an incredible arm, and your insight into a defense’s secondary is enviable. You’re a Heisman Trophy winner—the youngest ever, actually—and have been expected to be the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. You should be proud, as your accomplishments on the field have been amazing. And just think: All you had to do to achieve your goals was work hard, practice every day, stay focused on your prize and … sell your honor and humanity.
Just in case you’ve been hiding behind the FSU Athletic Department’s deafening silence—or your lawyer’s rhetoric—you were accused of sexual assault in December 2012. Your accuser was a student at FSU and, according to witness accounts, she allegedly met you at Potbelly’s—the campus bar—and headed back to your place with your roommate Chris Casher and friend Ronald Darby, both FSU football players, too. And then … well … things get murky there, don’t they? (Although Walt Bogdanich at The New York Times did an outstanding job earlier this year outing the colossal legal joke-of-an-investigation.)
It would be easy to take cheap shots at you for your alleged* actions … your sick, pathetic, cowardly alleged* actions that are devoid of any form of humanity or masculinity, and which may have stolen the smile and the future from a female FSU freshman. But as I consider the entirety of what has transpired, I can’t (and won’t) blame you solely for what allegedly* took place. Not because you aren’t a predator—which I’m of the opinion you are––even though you have not been convicted (or even charged, for that matter). Not because you need help—which, if the accusations are correct, you most assuredly do (and I mean real mental help, not the legal shield you hide behind nor the buried ostrich heads of the FSU Athletic Department). And not because you deserve forgiveness—which you don’t, as you are responsible for your actions. It is because you were assisted in your efforts.
You see, Mr. Winston, you might be an alleged* rapist, but the cowards in your immediate circle may actually be worse than you. These enablers, in my opinion—the police, the FSU Athletic Department, and your friends— bore witness (even admitting that they recorded the alleged* assault as it happened), and received damning information (perhaps even proof) of the acts that shattered the pride, mental integrity and physical security of a young woman. These people in your circle went home night after night for months with a clear conscience, apparently placated by the notion that they were keeping what mattered most (in their eyes) safe—the athletic department, the economic viability of the surrounding businesses that count on revenue from FSU students, and their own personal interests. You were surrounded by people who may have known what you were doing … and due to them suckling at the power teat, worried for their jobs, in complete denial, or (at the worst) completely indifferent about your activities, they not only accepted what you allegedly* did, they seemed to lower their heads in cowardice, offering their silent, willing approval. It looks like they embraced silence and feigned innocence so they didn’t upset the proverbial apple cart. They ensured their own well-being on the back of a woman potentially violated … and they did it without missing a night’s sleep, and without considering that they were sacrificing their very humanity.
The scariest thing to me, Mr. Winston, is that you are hardly alone in your actions. Not that you care, but according to the United States Department of Justice (in “The Sexual Victimization of College Women”) nearly 1 in 20 U.S. college women will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape. As such, it would seem that you are the tip of the iceberg in a subject that colleges and college towns would rather ignore, thus ensuring enrollment and revenue. No matter how many young women are violated and forced to look in the mirror knowing that someone entered and stayed inside their bodies without permission, the truth will seemingly be buried under an ever-growing pile of sports politics, pretension, alumni support, and denial.
The most fascinating thing is what I think you must believe about yourself. You probably think you have power. You’re under the assumption that because you can steal soda, shoplift seafood, destroy property, or scream misogynistic obscenities without the slightest consequence, that you are an important figure. Let me explain the truth: You’ve been afforded that power because of your talent. You don’t actually have power; the people who are making money off your talent have the power. They allow your transgressions to keep you on the field winning games. They don’t care about you; they care about your next win … and their next title. Perhaps you’ve already figured that out. Maybe you discovered how weak you actually are as a man and attempted to validate yourself by violating an innocent woman. Most studies say the same thing: Rapists don’t commit the act for sex … they rape for power, using sex as a weapon to inflict pain, violence and humiliation. In essence, you probably weren’t even into her … you may have been trying to validate yourself as a man.
Many of your fans and defenders have taken a hardline stance declaring your innocence, ignoring the fact that nearly 12 months passed since the allegation of rape initially came to light—and the evidence of video and witness memories were fading. In the absence of evidence, your supporters’ defense is simple: She didn’t say no and there’s no proof. According to your accuser, she did tell you to stop (as she stated in the official police report). But even if she didn’t, please allow me to educate you on something basic: Not saying “no” doesn’t mean an implied “yes”. This implied yes is indicative of a sickness in people who are accused of these kinds of acts; in our very culture, in fact. In some situations, begging for forgiveness later instead of asking for permission first denotes initiative and foresight. However, when it comes to sex, that’s never the case. If the allegations are true, you were an smug, egotist who felt that the world around you was yours—including a freshman’s body—and it seems you were given that permission by those around you … like-minded cowards who lie-in-wait and who look away from injustice so they can protect their own interests—a pure reflection of the selfie mentality that seems to run so rampant in today’s world.
I need you to know something: You and your allies haven’t just potentially ruined the life of your alleged* victim; you have lowered the bar on what the term “man” means. In your position, people will look to you for guidance and leadership. You are trusted. With these allegations, you and your silent cohorts seemingly betrayed everything that is good and decent about being a man. I am sickened and repulsed that I have to be put into the same gender category as you. However, as I am not now, nor will I ever be, like you—not even in the remotest sense of comparison and with the most metaphorical hyperbole—I will continue to take the high road and leave the insults and sarcastic, cutting blasts to the trolls of the Internet, as they now have unlimited fodder for discussion when it comes to the likes of you.
Mr. Winston, I consider you a Harbinger of Awareness for humanity. You have been a test of humanity’s willingness to release selfish wants on the backs of others and err on the side of decency … of what is universally right … of justice. This is a test that was failed by so many in your situation, but I’m hopeful those observing will see this for what it is: A wake up call that someone else may NOT take care of what is right … of what is just. It is up to those who know to do something.
There are great people in universities and in college sports departments, but your situation and the way it has been handled has people questioning everything at this point. Colleges and sports departments that enable and ignore crimes against others—with help from the outside world—are destined to become finishing schools for the male sociopath-in-training … the abuser … the man-without-scruples … the rapist. With men like this waiting for our daughters, I not only weep for women, but also for the perception women have of men in positions of leadership and power.
I would offer, Mr. Winston, that you are (perhaps unintentionally) leading the charge to show women of the world that they, their sexuality—and by extension their personal power—are negotiable and expendable. That poor treatment is what they should expect when money and influence are at stake. That men in power will do anything to keep it, and that women are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. You show it through your alleged* actions, complete disregard for common decency, lack of self-awareness, and absence of basic humanity and humility. But I see past the falsehoods. I see past your clownish persona. I see beyond what seems to be an orchestrated legal defense.
I see you for what you are. I see you as you should be seen: as nothing.
Charles J. Orlando
*I’m going to ensure that alleged follows my words. Wouldn’t want you (or anyone) to think that you actually faced a court of law where justice might prevail.
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