The former Florida State administrator in charge of the university’s Victim Advocate Office until this past August testified that over nine years, around 40 football players were accused of intimate partner violence or sexual assault, according to court testimony released Wednesday.
Earlier this summer the administrator, Melissa Ashton, gave a deposition related to the Title IX lawsuit Erica Kinsman has filed against Florida State. Kinsman, the woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her, alleges that the school didn’t properly investigate her accusations as legally required.
The New York Times filed public record requests for both Ashton and head coach Jimbo Fisher’s deposition transcripts, but the school sought to deny them. In October a judge ruled the university had to turn them over, according to AP. The university finally did so today, handing over heavily redacted transcripts to the Times and AP, totally coincidentally late on the day before Thanksgiving.
According to the Times and AP accounts of Ashton’s testimony, she didn’t believe the university was taking accusations of rape, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence seriously enough, at one point saying “I think we could do a better job.” She also specifically singled out how poorly accusations against football players were handled, via AP:
Ashton, who was also assistant dean of students, said football players receive special treatment at the school, and that most of the estimated 20 rape victims she encountered during the past decade declined to press student conduct charges.
“The majority of survivors chose not to go through a process, a lot of times based on fear,” Ashton said, adding later that victims had “a fear of retaliation, seeing what has happened in other cases and not wanting that to be them.”
In 2014 Florida State reported nine cases of sexual battery (the Times notes this is the same as rape in Florida) to the federal government, according to Ashton. But she testified that over that same time period 113 students reported being sexually battered. Florida State was not required to report most of the other 104 cases of sexual battery because they occurred off-campus, thus exempting them from the Clery Act’s requirement to report all incidents of sexual misconduct.
Last year the Times thoroughly reported on a number of alleged crimes committed by Florida State football team members, which were then swept under the rug by Tallahassee police and the Florida State athletic department. Fox Sports has also reported on how the university specifically obstructed the investigation into Kinsman’s allegations against Jameis Winston. Ashton’s testimony further paints the picture of how Florida State fails to hold its football players accountable, and fails to protect its students.
The alleged rape of Kinsman occured in December 2012, but it wasn’t until December 2013 that state attorney Willie Meggs announced that Winston wouldn’t be charged, bemoaning how poor of a job the Tallahassee cops investigating the case had done. In November 2014 a Florida State disciplinary hearing was held to see if Winston violated the student-conduct code. The next month the retired Florida Supreme Court justice hearing the case found “that the evidence before me is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof,” and cleared Winston of any violation.
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