The western Pennsylvania office of the Women’s Law Project, along with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, sent the following letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regarding the paper’s treatment of the sexual assault charges against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Post-Gazette did not print the letter, so we are reproducing it here in its entirety.
To the Editor:
First let’s state the obvious: neither we nor Gene Collier know what, if anything, happened in Nevada involving Ben Roethlisberger (“Steelers now have plenty to overcome”). It is reckless and unfair to try to guess based on untrue stereotypes about sexual assault.
Mr. Collier opines about the “highly problematic distance of some 371 days between the alleged rape and the formal filing of a civil lawsuit.” In fact, it is extremely common for sexual assault survivors to delay or avoid making a criminal complaint or taking legal action against their attackers. They may be too traumatized to deal with the assault, fear that no one will support them, or realize that they will be subjected to vicious public attacks on their character or motives.
Mr. Collier can’t believe that Mr. Roethlisberger could have assaulted the plaintiff because he’s “polite, practiced at the art of overarching humility,” and “young women are magnetized to him in clumps, so it doesn’t exactly follow that he would have to coerce one.” But rape is not about sex. It is about power and control. Highly successful and polite men can commit sexual assault.
Let’s not fall back on damaging and dangerous myths about sexual assault and make it even harder than it already is for sexual assault victims to come forward.
Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney, Women’s Law Project
Laura Randolph, Executive Director, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape