Bill Cosby and Jameis Winston: A Sad Lesson in Rape Culture


Victims of sexual assault do not matter and no set of circumstances can change that in our current climate. The public’s first inclination is to make everything go away, not seek justice for the accuser and the accused. The accuser had it coming or the accused is guilty before, or without, their day in court. That’s also where we stand with the allegations against comedic legend Bill Cosby and Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston, divergent points in the same woods. Both will avoid a trial for the allegations of sexual assault levied against them, but only Cosby is having his reputation sullied forever.

Cosby’s alleged crimes occurred between 1965 and 2004 with 20 women publicly having come forward as of December 1, 2014. The common thread between most accusations is that Cosby would convince the women to meet him alone where he would offer a drink that rendered them unconscious. We do know that Cosby was aware, and spoke fondly, of “Spanish Fly,” a drug often laced in drinks to render women unconscious so they men could take advantage of them.


When Cosby’s accusers were asked why they did not report the incidents to police, the majority claimed that no one believed them and law enforcement would not pursue the case. Many of the accusations are decades old and none of the accusers have presented direct evidence against Cosby so far. Two women did file police reports within days of the alleged incidents in 2000 by Lachele Covington and 2004 by Andrea Constand. No charges were filed in either instance although Cosby settled a civil suit filed by Constand for an undisclosed amount. It is also worth mentioning that many publications ran stories that detailed the same allegations years before the scandal went viral after Hannibal Buress spoke about them during his standup act. This is not new information.

We have no definitive evidence that shows Cosby sexually assaulted anyone. No matter how smart we think we are, our opinions amount to no more than inferences. This hasn’t stopped businesses and Cosby’s alma mater from cutting all ties. No one would listen to the accusers then and no one will listen to him now.

Jameis Winston’s situation has more moving parts and improprieties that lie with the criminal justice system clearly not taking sexual assault seriously, and a university in Florida State that is actively delaying all potential punishments for Winston so that he can win football games. This in no way means that Winston is guilty of the crime of which he’s been accused, but it is a fact that he was intentionally protected by decision makers. Fox Sports conducted a thorough, damning investigation after learning in December 2013 that no charges would be filed against Winston stemming from the rape allegation. The blatant disregard for the law is jaw dropping.

Both city and university police were involved in updating Florida State administrators on the case and helping formulate the school’s public relations response in the first days after the explosive story became public. The following excerpt is courtesy of Fox Sports’ report.

Both of those police officials were involved in updating Florida State administrators on the case and helping formulate the school’s public relations response in the first days after the explosive story became public.

These new revelations come as Florida State is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation into its handling of the rape allegation against Winston in December 2012. After his DNA was matched to genetic material found on the woman’s underwear, his attorney asserted publicly that they’d had a consensual sexual encounter. Investigators from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights are looking at whether the university’s administrators complied with the requirements of the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX.

Among the things that federal investigators can examine is the conduct of school administrators once they learn of an alleged sexual assault. Title IX requires that colleges and universities receiving federal money conduct prompt investigations into allegations of sexual assault against students if they know about them — or should know about them.

In this case, the woman who alleged she was raped made her initial report to the university’s police department within hours of the incident. The university police then turned the case over to the Tallahassee Police Department after determining the incident occurred off-campus. School administrators, by their own admission, did not attempt to interview Winston until January 2014 and contend the woman was uncooperative up until August 2014 — something her attorneys vehemently dispute.

Winston, whose attorneys have repeatedly maintained is innocent of any wrongdoing, separately faces a university investigation into his conduct, which is being carried out under Title IX. Although that investigation cannot result in criminal charges, he could be accused of violating the school’s student code of conduct. If he were to be convicted of a serious violation of the Florida State conduct code, such as sexual misconduct, the penalty could be as severe as expulsion.

For a quick recap:

  • Police at the city and university level helped Florida State University craft a narrative that fit their agendas before the prosecutor was made aware of the allegations against Winston.
  • On December 7, 2012, the accuser reported the alleged rape to police hours after the incident occurred. Not detailed in that excerpt is that the accuser wasn’t able to identify Winston until January 2013. Winston wasn’t interviewed by school administrators about the event in question until January 2014, 13 months after the police report was filed.
  • Florida State University failed to comply with Title IX. In an open letter to the school community posted on October 10,2014, the school admitted as much. The consequence of that failure has yet to be determined.
  • Winston will be facing up to four student code of conduction violations in a university conduct hearing that was delayed three times before being set for December 2, 2014. In related news, any ruling handed down won’t take effective until January, after the national championship game which Florida State could participate in, and can be appealed to delay his punishment further. Winston is expected to declare for the NFL Draft after this college football season is complete.

Winston was not indicted for any criminal charges of sexual misconduct. Here’s Florida State attorney Willie Meggs announcing the news.


No one took the investigation seriously, not even the prosecutor. What more could the accuser do? She filed a police report mere hours after the alleged rape and has not changed her story. When asked how victims of rape viewed the Winston case, Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, told Yahoo Sports, “After seeing how this has been handled and seeing her dragged through the mud, they just can’t imagine coming forward now.”

Two high-profile cases between Cosby and Winston, zero legal ramifications. No justice can be found when victims do not matter. That’s when everyone just becomes a talking head opining simply to protect their own point of view. We can broach the complications of Cosby and Winston’s allegations and wring important lessons from that dialogue without resorting to unfounded conjecture.

In the case of Cosby, is it fair to judge Cosby’s cavalier attitude towards the use of date rape drugs? Yes, but not without keeping in mind a lot of people of his generation shared that sentiment. Cosby did not perform his “Spanish Fly” in a private space. The audience laughed at his joke in 1969 and it hadn’t lost its flair in 1991.

Justifiably, we should be allowed to feel confusion, disappointment, anger, and a host of other emotions on the chart of despondency.

Yet it seems crazy that we would condemn America’s dad on decades-old accusations of sexual assault without evidence, and be so willing to look the other way for an award-winning college football player with direct evidence against his case. In both sets of cases, the legal process has being largely ignored which hurts everyone. If properly vetted, false accusers and guilty rapists will be brought to justice alike. Unfortunately, lackadaisical investigations are commonplace when it comes to crimes of sexual misconduct.

The same was true in New Orleans from 2011 to 2013 for the 1,111 “sex crime calls” in which “nothing at all was done.” Inspector General Ed Quatervaux told CNN, “There’s so many cases where the documentation suggests nothing was done.” A study by the National Research Council in November 2013 found that 80 percent of sexual assaults are unreported to police. According to a column for The Economist, the number of untested rape kits is embarrassing—11,300 in Detroit, 12,000 in Memphis, 20,000 in Texas—which led them to a logical conclusion, “Such delays betray victims. Most rapists are never caught.” Famous or not. Similarly, innocent men and women who are accused of rape can never properly clear their names when investigations are not handled in a fair, timely manner.

When victims don’t matter neither does the truth. Without seeking justice for the accused and the accuser alike, we end up just being talking heads justifying the slander someone’s reputation because we are ashamed for not taking the allegations seriously in the first place. Or we just look the other way and wait until it’s too late to do anything about it.


About Author

Aaron Lanton graduated from the University of Tennessee in May 2012. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his fiance, cat and roommate where they bake cookies and reminisce on how cheap rent was in the South.

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