Big Ben and the Emerging Pattern
I’m not a jury. Innocent until proven guilty is a rule for the finder of fact. I am a member of the public, and I write for a blog, and I call ’em like I see ’em. The way I see it, anyone who went out of a limb defending Roethlisberger is either nervous about that cracking noise, or has thrown in full-on with the pro-rape lobby. (There is one. I’ll get back to that.)
Back when Jaclyn wrote about the first public accusation that Roethlisberger raped a woman, there was a whole lot of dismissal and denial. Now, anyone reading the news knows that there is a second complainant. And, careful readers know that there is an allegation by a third woman, but she has refused to speak to police about it.
Forbes has some coverage. Here’s what is circulating so far: Roethlisberger went out with an entourage to a sports bar in Milledgeville, Georgia. He met and took photos with many people, including a local police officer and many college students. One of the college students that he met and took a bright, smiling, celeb photo with was a twenty year old woman, at the bar with some of her sorority sisters. What she says:
[Trigger warning for the material below the jump, which describes the rape.]
In a statement to police on March 5, the young woman said Roethlisberger encouraged her and her friends to do numerous shots. Then one of his bodyguards escorted her into a hallway at the Capital City nightclub, sat her on a stool and left. She said Roethlisberger walked down the hallway and exposed himself.
“I told him it wasn’t OK, no, we don’t need to do this and I proceeded to get up and try to leave,” she said, according to the police documents. “I went to the first door I saw, which happened to be a bathroom.”
According to her statement, Roethlisberger then followed her into the bathroom and shut the door.
“I still said no, this is not OK, and he then had sex with me,” she wrote. “He said it was OK. He then left without saying anything.”
I’ve bolded passages because these things stand out as matching the modus operandi of the undetected serial rapists studied by Professor David Lisak, whose findings on rape I call the Predator Theory. Lisak describes how they operate:
In the course of 20 years of interviewing these undetected rapists, in both research and forensic settings, it has been possible for me to distill some of the common characteristics of the modus operandi of these sex offenders. These undetected rapists:
• are extremely adept at identifying “likely” victims, and testing prospective victims’ boundaries;
• plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically;
• use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence; they exhibit strong impulse
control and use only as much violence as is needed to terrify and coerce their victims into submission;
• use psychological weapons – power, control, manipulation, and threats – backed up by physical force, and almost never resort to weapons such as knives or guns;
• use alcohol deliberately to render victims more vulnerable to attack, or completely unconscious.
Roethlisberger, being a celebrity, has a steady stream of people try to meet him. Some of them will be young women. If he goes out to bars and meets the locals, it is easy to meet young women in an environment where encouraging them to drink passes without notice. Then he can assess which ones will harder and easier targets.
(Note that this should not be confused with behavior necessary for him to get consenting partners. If that’s what he wanted, he could simply put a sign-up sheet on a facebook fan page. He’s a star NFL quarterback. He doesn’t have time for all the willing partners he can find.)
Her friend described the bodyguards’ suspicious behavior:
Ann Marie Lubatti told police she approached one of Roethlisberger’s two bodyguards and said, “This isn’t right. My friend is back there with Ben. She needs to come back right now.”
She said the bodyguard wouldn’t look her in the eye and said he didn’t know what she was talking about.
That reminds me of the guy who blocked the bottom of the stairs in the D.C. case I recently wrote about:
“So I go to the steps,” Sade testified in a deposition. “I move [the barricade],” she said. “I’m walking up the steps, and Tito like just comes behind me. He grabs my arm…and he literally like brings me back down the steps.…And I’m like get off me, what are you talking about?” The three girls gathered around Tito and told them they were just looking for their friend; Tito explained that he’d been hired to keep people from reaching the second floor…
After five minutes of yelling, the girls insisted that Tito go up the stairs to look for her himself. Tito testified that he climbed the stairs, saw an empty bathroom and some locked bedroom doors—but no Hannah—and reoccupied his post at the foot of the stairs. When he returned, “he was sweating,” Kerston testified. “I remember him taking off his hat and rubbing, like wiping his forehead and he was just like shaking his head.…Just sitting there, sweating.” In her deposition, Sade testified, “Tito looked nervous, like he knew that something was going on that shouldn’t have been going on,” she said. “I know Tito knew her before this, so maybe his conscience was getting to him or something.…
I said above that careful readers know about the third accuser:
The documents also show that after the college student’s accusations surfaced, a 16-year-old in a youth law enforcement program run by the Milledgeville police told authorities he had been told about incidents involving Roethlisberger and a friend’s sister. The 16-year-old told police the woman’s brother told him that Roethlisberger twice made unwanted sexual advances.
Authorities repeatedly tried to interview the woman, who is in her early 20s, but she declined. A message seeking comment was left Friday with Roethlisberger’s lawyer, Ed Garland.
Gee, I wonder why she wouldn’t want to talk about it. Maybe because Roethlisberger’s bodyguard who allegedly dragged the young student down the hall to a private room when she was drunk, Anthony Barravecchio, is a former DEA agent and current cop in a Pittsburgh suburb. Maybe because the other bodyguard there at the time was Pennsylvania state cop Ed Joyner. Maybe because the only cop who took statements in the Georgia incident had taken a picture with Big Ben earlier that day, and then made derogatory statements about the accuser where Roethlisberger’s entourage could hear him, while still investigating. By the way, nice policework, Sergeant Blash:
On Friday, Milledgeville Police Chief Woodrow Blue confirmed that Sgt. Jerry Blash, the officer who took the first report from Roethlisberger’s accuser, resigned from the force Wednesday, a day before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released the case documents.
The documents show Blash acknowledged to investigators that he made derogatory statements about Roethlisberger’s accuser to other officers and that some in Roethlisberger’s party may have overheard him. He was the only officer to interview Roethlisberger, with whom he had posed for pictures earlier in the night. Calls to a number listed for him rang unanswered Thursday evening and Friday.
(Because the cops always immediately and openly take the side of the accused in, say, liquor store robberies, right?)
Or maybe the third woman was afraid of the death threats, or of having the back-Ben-no-matter-what brigade get her name and photo and make death threats, as has happened to the first accuser. I’m not linking to the photos, or the defaced photos; and that she had the courage not to withdraw her complaint in the face of death threats is remarkable.
So what about that first accuser? Well, if Ben Roethlisberger were one of those serial rapists that Lisak has studied, we could expect him to be good at selecting victims and creating situations so that he could get away with a rape. He would leverage his celebrity, and find someone who was really eager to meet him, who maybe was a longtime fan or told her friends she had a crush on him or whatever, so that if she ever said anything he could say it was consensual and she wanted him; or that she was a crazy stalker, or some other story that throws doubt on her credibility. Since he’s a star, places like Harrah’s would help him hush it up. The cops that travel with him and cover for him could help smooth things over if the police ever became involved. And if any accuser stuck to her guns, the fans could be counted on to try to intimidate her, and Ben could disown and disclaim their actions even as they helped him get the accusers to refuse to cooperate with the police.
The Georgia case will not be criminal. The police work is hopelessly botched and I doubt the accuser has any confidence in the process. But how many times does the public have to hear the same story before reaching a conclusion about the character of the man?
So about that pro-rape lobby. Recently I wrote a comment on Amanda Hess’s Washington Citypaper blog — I’m a big fan of hers, as she combines huge reporter chops with most excellent snark — that she elevated to the text of a post:
What is clear from this thread and others is that there is a very real pro-rape lobby. They talk the language of disbelieving, but when push comes to shove . . . these trolls really do understand that women get raped when they are most vulnerable—but they are in favor of it. Whether they are actually men who hate women, or are women who hate other women, we can’t know. There are a number of possible motives for these sentiments. But they’re not really in denial—that’s a facade they drop when pressed. In fact, they’re just pro-rape. They think it ought to be open-season for predators on certain women in certain circumstances.
As the number of accusations mounts, and the accusations themselves look like classic engineered acquaintance rape situations — pick victims with little recourse and/or use alcohol, test boundaries, physically isolate, deny — there may be some people stupid enough not to see it. But mostly those who choose not to see it are those who don’t want to see the problem because they’re in favor of the problem. They think that any woman who wanders too close to Big Ben is a very bad girl and deserves something of his stuck up something of hers whether she wants it or not. The serial rapists themselves may be a small percentage, but the number of people who are basically their fan club is large enough to allow them to operate with impunity for a good long time.
Finally, Roger Goodell should really think about affirmative consent as a model for appropriate behavior. The league already exercises a lot of authority in players’ private conduct, and is willing to punish players for embarrassing the league even if they are not found guilty of any crime. As long as that’s true, the NFL can impose a stricter standard of sexual conduct, and can and should tell players that they have a personal responsibility to ensure the consent of any sex partner.