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The Pitsburgh Steelers’ star quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, has been accused of sexual assault. Again.

Very few details are yet known about the case. We just know that Roethlisberger and some buddies were partying at a club outside of Atlanta Thursday night, and were seen "mingling" with a particular group of women, and the next day, a woman from that group told local police that Roethlisberger had sexually assaulted her.

This column isn’t about whether or not he "did it." (Though I tend to believe people who claim they’re victims of sexual assault as a default position, both because so much of the culture doesn’t, and because rates of false reporting are around 5-7%, which means, statistically speaking, it’s at least 93% likely that an accuser is telling the truth.)

This column is about the illogical and dangerous defense his camp is already mounting against the allegations. Quoth his agent, Ryan Tollner, "Obviously, given the prior accusation against Ben, we are skeptical of motive, but we will continue to cooperate with everyone involved.”


Let’s break this stunning leap of logic down. What Tollner seems to be saying is that this new allegation was inspired by the previous one? That somehow, the woman accusing Roethlisberger in Georgia looked at the awesome time the woman from Lake Tahoe (who previously accused Roethlisberger) is having, and thought, wow. This is a golden opportunity to make some cash and have fun doing it?

Given how badly the Lake Tahoe accuser has been treated, and how unlikely it looks that she’ll win her case or see a dime of Roethlisberger’s (or anyone’s) money, that would be an astonishing conclusion indeed. Further, though I haven’t done the math on this, I think if you took as a set the number of men in the U.S. that are as rich and famous as Roethlisberger, and divided it by the number of said men who’ve ever been formally accused of sexual assault, you’d come out with a pretty small percentage. And the odds would get even worse if you only counted those who’ve been accused multiple times. 

On the other hand, know what is, statistically speaking, pretty likely? That a guy who’s a rapist will rape more than once. And this gets to the crux of why Tollner’s argument in defense of Roethlisberger is not only preposterous – it’s dangerous. By reinforcing the utter falsehood that women are prone to lie about sexual assault, it gives cover to less-famous rapists, who will now be even more successful in using that same tired line (or similar ones) against their victims, allowing them to escape punishment and rape again and again.

Roethlisberger may or may not privately believe he’s a rapist, but it seems like women he interacts with sure have that impression. Regardless of what happens in court, if he were in any way a decent human being he’d spend less time suggesting they’re golddigging opportunists who just can’t wait to take on a rich and powerful sports hero in court and in the media, and more time examining what about his own behavior is inspiring these accusations in the first place.

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