Saturday, December 08, 2007

U Of Colorado Settle Sex Assault Lawsuit For $2.85 Million

That there was a settlement at all is good news since a lower court had thrown the lawsuit out before it was reinstated by a higher court. Lawsuits like this are needed since crimes like the ones committed at University of Colorado events often escape prosecution even when there is overwhelming evidence that the crime happened.

I'm sure that the prosecutor decided that despite the evidence of gang rape there wasn't a guarantee of a conviction of any football players involved. With multiple offenders it would be likely that everyone would counter undeniable evidence with the claim that someone else did it. The not-me defense. In instances where finger pointing wouldn't be credible, they would likely use the, "she was there willingly, that means we should be able to act as if she consented."

Some people will view this settlement as being too generous. That would be a serious mistake.

From Colorado Confidential:

[...] former head football coach Gary Barnett managed to secure a settlement of his wrongful discharge claims larger than the one paid to the two women combined, despite the fact that the 10th Circuit spent four pages of its opinion in the case describing in detail evidence of Barnett's extensive culpability in creating a climate hostile to women at the University of Colorado.

The man who created situations where gang rape was not only possible, not only likely but where it was reported in different years and who did nothing substantial in response to these crimes committed at his events got treated better than the women raped in an environment this man created and maintained so new recruits would have "a good time." That tells us a lot about the true values of the university and it contradicts their official statement.

From the 10th Circuit court ruling reinstating this lawsuit:

In sum, the evidence before the district court would support findings that by the time of the assaults on Plaintiffs, (1) Coach Barnett, whose rank in the CU hierarchy was comparable to that of a police chief in a municipal government, had general knowledge of the serious risk of sexual harassment and assault during college-football recruiting efforts; (2) Barnett knew that such assaults had indeed occurred during CU recruiting visits; (3) Barnett nevertheless maintained an unsupervised player-host program to show high-school recruits "a good time"; and (4) Barnett knew, both because of incidents reported to him and because of his own unsupportive attitude, that there had been no change in atmosphere since 1997 (when the prior assault occurred) that would make such misconduct less likely in 2001.

This shows that the man knew there were crimes being committed at events he created and he choose to do nothing about those crimes except to let them continue with his implicit support. The man likely would give lip service to being against rape, but his actions show that he didn't care whether his students or his recruits committed rape as long as they had "a good time."

When people ask what makes people rape, many times the answer they don't want to accept is that rape is often looked at as a normal part of boys and men having "a good time" and in gang rape that "good time" is often a bonding experience.

Those who deny a larger systematic support for rape will often fall back on "personal responsibility" in order to avoid assigning responsibility for creating or supporting an environment where rape is allowed or welcomed. This "personal responsibility" philosophy is proven to be a lie whenever anyone talks about the victim's personal responsibility.

Once one non-rapist is given any responsibility for rape then all non-rapists must be given responsibility for their actions which had any connection whatsoever to the rape. This would include all those who say some victims were asking for it.

If during these events women had been shot would anyone accept these events as simply being part of showing recruits "a good time"? Yet many people do just that when the crime is rape.

We don't blame the 6-year-old girl at the Minneapolis Golf Club wading pool who had her intestines sucked out because of a faulty wading pool drain cover. Hopefully, that would remain true if she had been 16 rather than 6. We certainly wouldn't excuse those who refused to fix that known hazard before another child was critically injured. We would never hear people say, "If you don't want your intestines sucked out, don't go near the pool drain."

When it comes to shootings and dangerous mechanisms, we understand that lecturing people about potential danger while leaving that danger in place is not effective prevention. When there is a dangerous situation, it is negligent when a person does nothing to correct that situation before someone else gets hurt.

This is true of rape. Denying this fact doesn't change reality, it only puts more people in danger.

Update (12/11): Thanks to a post by Jeff Fecke over at Shakesville about this settlement, I'm getting a clearer picture of just how hostile of an environment UC was for women if they found themselves anywhere near the football team members or staff.

One of the first stories I followed as a young, impressionable blogger was the University of Colorado recruiting scandal. For those who have forgotten, that particular scandal involved the use of strippers and "sex parties" to convince blue-chip recruits to sign on in Boulder, which were arranged with a knowing wink from then-coach Gary Barnett. When the scandal exploded, the singular former female member of Barnett's team, kicker Katie Hnida, came forward to report that she had been raped by a teammate; Barnett, being all about the class, responded to her allegation by telling journalists that she wasn't a particularly good kicker.

"It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful. You know what guys do? They respect your ability. You can be 90 years old, but if you can go out and play, they'll respect you," Barnett said. He did not mention whether they'd rape you were 90 years old and couldn't. "Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it. She couldn't kick the ball through the uprights."

By focusing on Hnida's talent instead of her allegation of rape, Coach Barnett as good as admitted that the rape happened and that the victim deserved it because of her sports ability. Nice man.

Imagine if the Minneapolis Golf Club had responded to the injury to a 6 year old girl by disparaging her wading ability. Would anyone consider that spokesperson anything short of psychopathic?

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