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Having been born and raised in Pittsburgh- I know a thing or two about the Steelers. I’ll spare you all the details of why I think they are the greatest team that has ever lived, why Pittsburgh trumps every other sports town, and what the Steelers mean to the city. I also know a fair amount about violence; particularly against women, the statistics of those who report crimes involving sexual assault, and the aftermath they endure.
You can likely imagine how disheartening it was to find these two things intertwined when I read the headline “Roethlisberger accused of sexual assault.” Ben Roethlisberger being the young quarterback that led the Steelers to their Super Bowl victory this year, the second of his career.
The alleged victim of the incident, Andrea McNulty, is a casino host for Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe. Her lawsuit claims she was asked by Roethlisberger to his room to fix his television. Once there, he refused to let her leave and sexually assaulted her. There are many more details, but I’ll just stick to the basics here.
The incident happened nearly a year ago but the civil lawsuit was only filed this week, at which point starts the comments…horrible comments about this woman’s character; “She knew what she was going up there for.” “She’s only looking for a payday.” She’s just some cheap casino worker.” “She was asking for it”…to skim the surface.
Worse I find, are the comments that state Roethlisberger must be innocent because McNulty waited an entire year before she brought on the lawsuit or because he’s famous and can therefore have anyone he wants. Of course he wouldn’t have to resort to rape!
Perhaps being in a position to know more about violence than the average person has jaded me? Perhaps I assume that most people know rape is more about power and control than sex.
And why did she wait a year? The lawsuit claims McNulty told the Director of Security at Harrah’s, but it was brushed aside. Even more horrifying is her claim that he told her she was “over- reacting” and that “most girls would feel lucky to have sex with someone like Ben.” He allegedly continued by saying the hotel president, a friend and fan of Roethlisberger’s, would “love her even more if he knew about this.” McNulty claims she was afraid to come forward because no one would believe her, that Harrah’s would side with Roethlisberger and that she would be fired. This does not seem out of the ordinary to me, as approximately 60% of victims of sexual assault don’t ever report it. If they do, it can often take time to build up to that.
Imagine what it would do to your spirit if after building that courage and coming forward you were immediately vilified; that no one believed you, that you are blamed for the crime against you. I know it’s awful to say, but in a situation like this – I almost hope she is lying.
Otherwise, there is a young woman who was attacked at her place of employment and then humiliated by those tasked with her security. She then spent a year living silently with her assault, all the while the country cheered for and glorified the man that assaulted her. When she came forward she endured countless personal attacks on her character, mental status and intentions.
Those injustices are almost too hard to take. Perhaps it is easier to convince ourselves that she is lying or that she is at fault.
I don’t know the truth, but I do know that placing blame and name calling won’t bring anyone closer to finding it. I know that the number of women who have been assaulted since this incident took place is staggering. I know that many of them will site this case and others like it as reasons why they will remain silent. I know we need to be responsible and mindful of our accusations, as they affect more than just one.
If Roethlisberger is guilty this young woman will have endured more than anyone should have to, and it will be a blow to Steelers fans across the country. If not, he deserves justice and I hope he will find a way to free himself of the speculation that will follow him after such an accusation.
It’s fitting that this incident has been so public because of the association with the Steelers, whose logo represents iron, coal and limestone- the raw materials of which steel is made. Attempting to bend or break it would be quite a fight….