At the end of last year, Rachael Denhollander the first Woman in publicly reporting that former US gymnastics doctor and Michigan State University Larry Nassar had abused her, said this about allowing gender violence: "Permitting normally does not look like someone who says, 'Oh, you are a rapist and the rape is fine, so let's continue to violate '… Acting seems deliberate indifference Extreme negligence seems to silence the victims It seems an immediate presumption of innocence towards the perpetrator. "
These are the words that have resonated in my mind over the past week as the news swirled about what Urban Meyer, the American Football Co At the Ohio State University, he knew and knew what he did. did not do multiple reports of domestic violence against longtime assistant coach Zach Smith.
Last month, Meyer fired his trainer of open receivers and recruiting coordinator, Zach Smith, after of news that Courtney Smith, Zach's ex-wife, had filed a civil protection order for domestic violence against her ex-husband, following an incident earlier this year that led to Zach Smith to be charged with a misdemeanor illegal entry.
This could have been a little story that only interested Buckeyes fans, except that this was not Smith's first brush with the law or to be reported for domestic violence, and this was not true. The first time Meyer knew.
In this long moment of Me Too, … we must focus on the enablers of abusive behavior.
Smith met Meyer most of his life, as Smith's grandfather, Earle Bruce was a former Head coach at Ohio State and Meyer's mentor. Smith also played with Meyer when Meyer trained at Bowling Green State University. In 2009, when Smith was a graduate assistant who worked for Meyer at the University of Florida, he was arrested for aggravated battery in a pregnant victim. The pregnant woman was his then wife Courtney. In 2012, Meyer hired Smith for his staff in the state of Ohio. In 2015, the police investigated Zach Smith on felony charges of domestic violence and criminal assault against Courtney Smith.
The day after all this news broke and Meyer fired Smith, Meyer, one of the highest paid and most winning coaches in the game, told reporters that he knew about the 2009 incident, that "what was reported was not really what happened", and that he and his wife had advised the Smiths to go to counseling. About the incident of 2015, he said initially, "there was nothing … I do not know who creates a story like that", but then that day he changed his story to say that he had only learned about the incident the day before.
Last week, the college football journalist who published this story, Brett McMurphy, published a article in which Courtney Smith said about the 2015 incident, "all the wives [coaches’] knew it, they all did it, everyone." Along with her words, McMurphy posted photos of her and text messages that she conveyed to him that says it documents not only what Zach Smith physically did to her, but evidence that Meyer's wife and others knew it.
In response to the public uproar and the clear possibility that Meyer had lied about what he knew, Ohio State placed him on administrative license paid and created a panel to investigate.
Then, Meyer issued a statement contradicting what he said in July, acknowledging that he did know about Smith's report in 2015 and affirming now that he "followed the proper reporting protocols and procedures." The third time is a charm when it comes to clarifying your story, I suppose.
For his part, Zach Smith denies everything (he was never tried or convicted, although in the last three years, Courtney Smith has received a restraining order and now an order of protection against him). It also says that Ohio State Sports Director Gene Smith knew about the 2015 incident and did nothing. According to The Columbus Dispatch "Smith's performance evaluations … do not mention the accusation or any action taken as a result."
If this feels like a story you've heard before, there's a good reason for that. This closely mirrors what happened last year with University of Colorado football except that the head coach, Mike MacIntyre, escaped without punishment despite not reporting the abusive behavior of his assistant coach. You may be thinking of similar qualifying stories from Penn State or Baylor or Texas A & M or Michigan State .
Or maybe you're thinking about one of the many stories that will come out of the state of Ohio in recent months. There are more than 100 alumni, including many former male fighters who have reported that team physician Richard Strauss sexually abused them while working in the state of Ohio. between 1979 and 1997. There is the diver who is suing the university because he was repeatedly abused a few years ago by a diving coach from the state of Ohio . There is the school recently closed Unit of Empowerment and Sexual Civility, the one in charge of helping the victims of sexual aggression that, on the other hand, discovered that it was mishandling the reports and harassing the students. There are ongoing federal investigations of Title IX at the university.
And within all these tales of abuse and misconduct, there are enablers. The best-known example is Jim Jordan, the Ohio congressman who wants to be the next Speaker of the House and who was assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State when Strauss was there. Multiple fighters have said that Jordan was one of those people they met and did nothing. Jordan has denied it.
Two fighters say retired wrestling coach of the state of Ohio, Russ Hellickson, has pressured them to recant, an enabler who helps a trainer. And over the weekend, Jordan's last qualification of a sexual predator happened on the Ohio stage when he embraced President Donald Trump.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Eszter Pryor the diver who is suing Ohio State He said: "If [the people who protect those reported for abuse] continues to hide the problem and protect themselves from bad publicity, they are as bad as the perpetrator."
We may never know what Meyer knew and when, or exactly why he made the decisions he chose (the same goes for Jordan or athletic director Gene Smith). But there seems to be a change underway if, even in the highest echelons of the most esteemed collegiate sport in our society, men may have to respond to help those around them.
People who do physical harm are not the only ones to blame for this cultural disease in progress. They are also those people that Denhollander mentioned: those who look the other way, who excuse the behavior or refuse to believe the possible behavior, who silence the victims. In this long moment of Me too, as we try to cure exactly what ails us in a country that has a problem with bullying and gender-based violence, we must focus on the enablers of abusive behavior.
Our ability to tolerate indifference, extreme negligence, silencing victims or the immediate presumption of innocence towards the perpetrator is diminishing. Finally . But not fast enough.
Jessica Luther is an independent journalist, author and co-author of the feminist sports podcast "Burn It All Down."