Dear Ben Roethlisberger
One of the sensationalistic stories to hit the internet lately is the story of Ben Roethlisberger, the professional football player who plays quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This guy looks like he has an IQ of 35 and that if he got into an accident with an eighteen wheeler he’d come out okay but the cab of the semi-truck would have to go in for some body work. Nevertheless, he is a successful professional football player of some renown, so I bet that no neck or not, he could willingly get some woman to have sex with him. The problem, if the media can be believed, is that he prefers for his women to be unwilling.
Twice now, once in July of last year, and once in March of this year, women have come forward to make allegations of sexual assault against Ben Roethlisberger. In each case there has been no criminal case filed. With the first accusation, the woman retained an attorney and is pursuing her case in civil court, seeking damages for pain and suffering and the coverage of her psychiatric care. In the second case, the district attorney made a statement that he didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute but made it clear, nonetheless, that he didn’t think much of Ben Roethlisberger.
There’s been more press coverage on the second accusation than that of the first. The incident played out in Milledgeville, Georgia, in a series of bars where Ben was partying with his entourage, including a bodyguard who was an off-duty cop, and a group of young female college students. In the last bar they went to that evening Ben invited his accuser and her friends to partake of some shots. Both Ben and the girls were very drunk.
Later, Ben’s accuser got separated from the group by Ben’s bodyguard and placed on a stool in a room where she was left alone until Ben walked in with his penis exposed. According to her version of events she moved away from him and told him no. He kept coming. She ran into a ladies room, and he followed her. Ben’s bodyguard locked the door to the room, barring her escape, and then she remembers that Ben had sex with her, despite her having told him, “No, this is not okay.”
He walked away, telling her that it was okay. The door was opened, and the young woman was reunited with her friends, who had been looking for her but had been barred entrance by – you guessed it—the bodyguard. When they found their friend she had a head injury that she couldn’t explain, and, of course, she remembered having sex against her will. The girls were so alarmed that they left the club and went to report the incident to police. A police car was parked outside the club, and this is where they went to tell their story.
The police officer asked the girl if she had been raped, and she said no. That’s curious. Rape has such an ugly connotation. We don’t like the word, do we? I bet you could actually measure a physiological response to that word, in much the same way that a “lie detector” measures stress levels. When he asked if the girl had had sex with Ben and whether or not she had told him no, she remembered that she had told him no, and he had had sex with her anyway. What else is rape? We wouldn’t have enough time to get into it on this blog post but whatever else rape is, being forced to submit to sex after making it clear that you are not consenting to have sex, has got to be at least one acceptable definition of the word.
To be sure, there are women who make false claims of rape. Sometimes they even make these claims against financially successful men in order to extort money from them. I’m even willing to concede that this could be a fairly common occurrence among professional athletes. If Ben Roethlisberger only had one accusation of sexual assault against him and it were that first woman who came forward to file a civil suit but no criminal case, then I’d be inclined to give the man the benefit of the doubt.
However, we have a man who’s now been accused of sexual assault twice in the span of eight months. I thought Michael Jackson was probably guilty of molesting little boys after his first accusation, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until his second accuser came forward. Then, I didn’t need any court of law to convict him in my mind. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Any prudent man with half a brain, in Jackson’s or Roethlisberger’s situations, would take precautions to avoid even the hint of impropriety. After the first accusation you would stop putting yourself in harm’s way for such accusations to be made, unless you were actually guilty of what they say you did and the compulsion to repeat the act outweighed any cautious instincts you have. In Jackson’s case, his judgment would have been clouded by prescription drugs and Jesus juice. In Roethlisberger’s, his critical thinking skills would seem to be impaired by alcohol.
I’ll be the first person to admit it. I have very little compassion for anyone who commits a sexual assault of any kind, against a man, woman, child or animal. Doesn’t matter. I think it’s a heinous crime, and when I hear that men who are convicted of rape and child molestation are frequently violated in prisons, my initial reaction is to cheer at what seems to be a punishment that finally fits the crime. Against my very nature, I’m going to try to find some compassion for Ben Roethlisberger. I’m going to try to put myself in his shoes for a bit.
Dear Ben Roethlisberger,
I hear that you are, like me, a Christian. I’ve read how you’ve said in interviews that you believe that when you get out on that football field that you are playing for Jesus. But are you living for Jesus?
Is the life you’re living lately an effective witness? Do you want your legacy to be that of a drunk and a rapist, or would you rather be known as a great football player? More importantly, would you rather be known as a great football player or a follower of Jesus? Which is more important to you?
I understand that you’re in a little hot water. A couple of women have accused you of sexually assaulting them. I wasn’t there, and I didn’t see what happened. Only two people, in each case, know what happened. You aren’t facing criminal charges in either case. I guess you were somehow blessed there.
You have been convicted in the court of public opinion, which can be just as damning. Think of O.J.
I don’t know if your judgment was affected by your drinking with each of these women and you just took things a little too far or if you truly get off on hurting women. Maybe your perception is that each of these women wanted it. Maybe you don’t think no means no. Maybe you know that some women like it rough. Maybe you’ve been told no before when it really meant yes. Maybe.
How do you justify your behavior in these instances? Because I’m pretty sure that you do rationalize it. Do you, perhaps, feel that you are entitled to the poontang? You’ve earned it by virtue of your status.
Maybe you just can’t imagine a world in which any woman doesn’t want you. After all, why wouldn’t they? You’re a nice looking guy who makes a lot of money. You’re famous. You’re at the top of your game. What kind of woman would turn you down?
Ben, I got news for you that you need to hear. A lot of women would turn you down, believe it or not. For one, a virtuous woman would turn you down because a virtuous woman would want to be in an intimate, committed relationship with you.
If you truly love the Lord like you claim, then how about cleaning up your act and stopping the partying and the whore mongering? You aren’t likely to find a loving wife whose priorities are straight by pub crawling.
Get right with God. Get rid of these bodyguards you have. They aren’t doing you any favors, and you don’t need a bodyguard, anyway. For God’s sake, look at you.
Go to church. I know you might find that difficult at first. You’ll cause a commotion, and people will swarm and flock around you and ask for your autograph. You’ll be a distraction to the service or the Bible study or the Sunday school lesson. All that is true. But eventually, if you keep coming back, all that will die down. You’ll be able to participate same as everyone else. One day, even, you may find that you are able to open up to people and be in relationship with them and become a part of a community. I can’t imagine how lonely it must be to be you right now. But you don’t have to stay that way.
If you go to church, you’ll be able to worship God, and in doing so you’ll be acknowledging that there is something greater than yourself. You’ll have opportunities to serve others, and in doing that you’ll gain empathy.
You need empathy. Whether you realize it or not, you hurt those women who have accused you of assaulting them. You hurt them deeply. I think it’s possible that you didn’t mean to hurt them. In the case of the second woman who accused you of rape a rape kit was administered but a district attorney said that not enough evidence was found to prosecute you. That would lead me to surmise that you didn’t come. Was it because you were too drunk? Or was it because you realized somewhere along the way that your partner wasn’t into it? It’s telling that you told the young woman that it was okay as you walked away, as if saying it would make it so. Were you trying to convince yourself?
You need to repent, Ben, and repenting means not just asking for forgiveness and making remunerations but also turning your life around. You need to literally turn about face and walk your life in a different direction. God can make this right again if you ask for His help.
Apologize to these women. Pay them a settlement so they can get the counseling they need. You can afford it. Then do what you need to do so this tragedy will never happen again. Do the right thing. Don’t do it because people want you to do it. Don’t do it because you have to do it. Don’t do it just to be right. Don’t do it because you want to do it. Do the right thing because it’s what the Lord wants you to do. Do it because He loved you first by dying to save you from your sins, and in response to that love you love Him back and want to please Him. Then maybe your legacy can still be that of a follower of Christ.