I have a poster of Derrick Rose hanging up in my room. It has held a place on my wall every day for the past four years, a gift from my mother after hearing me gush about my ongoing love for my Chicago MVP for way too long. What drew me to Rose was, of course, his immense skill, along with his quiet and reserved demeanor — it always seemed to me that he was filled with a kindness and humility that made his astounding on-court abilities all the more impressive.
But as the recent trial concerning Rose’s alleged rape continues on, I find myself being increasingly unsure about whether he deserves a place in my room, or world, at all.
The alleged event took place on an August night in 2013. The woman (who has for safety reasons been called Jane Doe) alleged that she went to Rose’s apartment for drinks, where she imbibed tequila with Rose and some of his friends. She says, though, that she felt out of control after drinking the liquor and alleged that she might have been drugged. She then went home, at which point she passed out. After that, she alleged, Rose and two of his friends entered her apartment and raped her.
The case has been messy and confusing for a myriad of reasons. First off, Rose and Doe were formerly involved in a sexual and romantic relationship, making them more familiar with one another and thus more able to exploit each other’s weaknesses and flaws to twist the truth. Furthermore, there were texts from Doe to Rose that were withheld from the documents presented by the prosecution that suggested that she may have had a desire to engage in sexual intercourse with Rose — an omission that the defense failed to argue was cause for a mistrial.
But while it is an issue that the prosecution withheld potentially important information, here’s the real problem: When Rose was asked if he could define “consent,” he replied, “No, can you tell me?”.
And if you don’t know either, here’s a little lesson: Receiving a sexual text from a woman at any time of day does not mean that she is consenting to sex later that night. A person, regardless of what they have said or indicated earlier, is allowed to say “no” to a partner at any point, and that partner should respect their wishes. Furthermore, the presence of alcohol in a situation indicates that a person is unable to consent in their right state of mind.
Rose’s answer, of course, is extremely troubling. Rose is a 28-year-old man and has somehow, throughout presumably countless sexual interactions, neglected to develop a grasp of the idea of consent. Perhaps the system failed to educate him, but what I suspect to be the case is that he believed he was above it all.
And there’s been no reason for him to think otherwise. Rape culture and sexual assault are grievously omnipresent in the world of collegiate and professional athletics. Despite the fact that men (I’m thinking of Brock Turner and Jameis Winston in particular) seem to continuously get away with these types of crimes, public outrage doesn’t always seem to match the crime — often thanks to their existence as high-caliber athletes. And in a disproportionate number of cases, the system and society err on the side of the athlete in order to save their “bright future” while casting the women by the wayside.
What’s worse is that many are quick to label women who file charges against athletes as “gold-diggers,” often because huge settlements are made between the two parties in order to avoid trial. This leads to the assertion that some rape allegations are blatantly false, which, while possible, is not very probable. Only two to eight percent of rape accusations are false, and even if you’re on the higher end of that number it’s still not a large enough phenomenon to use in a court case as defense.
So do I think Jane Doe is one of that two to eight percent? I can’t know for sure (certainly no one can besides the people in the situation) but I believe that she, in fact, is not. And I would argue that the fact that so many people use this miniscule statistic to excuse the behavior of athletes is truly criminal.
This time around, I wouldn’t be surprised if another athlete was proven innocent despite the surmounting evidence against him — a deeply sad reality about the value we place on the lives of successful athletes as opposed to all women. Rose’s lack of knowledge of consent is not just a problem of his own — it is emblematic of a system that allows male athletes to abuse their status at the expense of countless individuals.