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OT: Deshaun Watson's Accusers Speak Out

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Zenzibar
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OT: Deshaun Watson's Accusers Speak Out 

Post#1 » by Zenzibar » Wed Apr 7, 2021 2:34 pm

Why Deshaun Watson's accusers may have turned to civil courts instead of police in sex assault cases

Lawyers Tony Buzbee and Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey discuss their lawsuits against Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson at a press conference Friday, March 19, 2021, in Houston.S

The 22 women suing Deshaun Watson for allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing them have been criticized for not first taking their allegations to police.

But experts say a civil suit is often a sexual assault victim’s best shot at justice.

“In a civil case, you can expect a broader range of accountability,” said Elizabeth Boyce, general counsel and director of policy and advocacy for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. “You might settle before trial, and that might include a public acknowledgment and apology.”

Most of the women who have filed lawsuits against Watson over the past two weeks are massage therapists who allege that the 25-year-old quarterback harassed or assaulted them during sessions in 2020 and 2021 in Houston, Arizona, California and Georgia.

In the suits, they say Watson was completely naked and aggressive in directing them to perform sexual acts during the session — and in some cases, they say he physically forced them. Several of the massage therapists said Watson used his status as an NFL player to threaten their business, and others noted being physically intimidated by his height and weight.

Watson has denied the allegations. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, has repeatedly criticized Tony Buzbee, who is representing the women, for failing to file criminal complaints against Watson. Buzbee has said he plans to take all evidence of the assaults to an agency other than the Houston Police Department because Hardin’s son, Thomas, is a commander in the department’s special operations division.

Attorney Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, an associate at the Buzbee Law Firm, reads the plaintiffs civil lawsuits against Watson.

Attorney Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, an associate at the Buzbee Law Firm, reads the plaintiffs civil lawsuits against Watson.
Yi-Chin Lee, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
On Friday, Houston police announced that they were investigating one criminal complaint against Watson. It is not yet clear if the complainant is one of the 22 suing the football player.

“I would respectfully suggest that Mr. Buzbee’s failure to go to law enforcement does not result from some baseless fear that HPD will not fairly investigate,” Hardin wrote in a news release Thursday. “Instead, it is from the knowledge that his parade of anonymous allegations could not survive the rigorous inquiry of trained investigators or the need to attest to the truth of the allegations under oath.”

But experts said there are myriad reasons why a victim would choose to file a case in civil court instead of a criminal complaint — including compensation to pay for any emotional and medical care needed after an assault.

“Victims of sexual assault had something stolen from them,” said Noblet Davidson, founder and clinical director of enCOURAGE Trauma Center in Houston. “They need to be compensated. If you get in a car accident, you get compensated.”

Fear of harassment

The fear of being outed, for example, can deter a victim from filing a police report, Boyce said — especially when the alleged perpetrator is famous.

“Confidentiality and privacy is always at the heart of these cases,” Boyce said. “Honestly, it’s a fear of any victim of sexual assault that this is going to result in some sort of public condemnation or harassment.”

The nation has seen it play out over and over again, Boyce said.

When California professor Christine Blasey Ford testified before Congress, alleging that now-Supreme court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school, she received death threats. She and her family had to move multiple times and had to pay for a private security detail.

Texas’ public records law requires law enforcement agencies to redact identifying information about sex abuse victims — including their name — from reports released to the public.

Additionally, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office shields victims’ names by using only their initials in court documents, said office spokesman Dane Schiller.

“Our prosecutors take protecting identities very seriously,” Schiller said in an email.

The fear, however, is still there, Boyce said.

Hardin has publicly chastised Watson’s accusers for not disclosing their names in the litigation. He said Friday he looks forward to learning the identity of the woman who went to Houston police.

“We welcome this long overdue development,” Hardin said. “Now we will learn the identity of at least one accuser.”

For some victims, taking their assault to police can seem hopeless.

Not only are they retraumatized each time they have to describe their assault, Boyce said, but it can also seem as if they are not in control of the outcomes.

“In criminal cases, the state doesn’t represent the victims, they represent the state and they control every aspect of the case,” Boyce said. “And so often (the cases) are refused for prosecution for a variety of reasons — if they think they can’t win or they think there’s too much political pressure.”

The criminal investigation process also is intrusive and time-consuming, with court hearings, follow-ups with police and medical appointments, said Olivia Rivers, executive director of the Houston-area advocacy nonprofit The Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Officers may show up at the victim’s house or workplace. Family and friends — whom the victim may not want to tell about the assault — may be interviewed to corroborate the report.

“A sexual assault exam can take hours,” she said. “How do you explain to your family why you were at a hospital for that long? Or how do you explain to your employer why you had to miss so much work for court?”

Additionally, the burden of proof also is lower in a civil court than in a criminal prosecution. Civilly, the victims have to show only a preponderance of evidence, but in criminal cases, authorities have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the assault happened.

Therefore, it can be easier for victims to get some form of justice in a civil court, whether it be a public apology or a monetary award for pain and suffering — especially when there isn’t enough physical evidence to criminally convict a perpetrator.

“Sexual violence ... isn’t taken seriously by society,” Rivers said. “This is about having their voices heard.”

Sometimes, victims might seek both criminal prosecution and civil damages.

‘A tired trope’

As more and more lawsuits piled onto Watson this past week, Hardin came out with a statement that many victim advocates say they saw coming.

“Opposing counsel’s continued statements that these cases aren’t about money do not square with the facts in at least two of these cases,” Hardin wrote.

It infuriated Boyce, she said.

“It’s a tired trope,” Boyce said. “It is ridiculous to assume that someone who is seeking their civil, legal remedy in a court of law is motivated simply by money. The kind of toll this has, money can’t come close to compensating for.”

In the case of Watson’s accusers, their alleged assaults occurred while actively doing their job, Boyce said. They may no longer feel safe being massage therapists, she added, and might want to change professions.

But that takes money and, often, more education.

The women accusing Watson of assault say in court documents that the abuse led them to have panic attacks, anxiety and depression and has also caused them to seek counseling and psychiatric services.

Therapy for this kind of trauma can stretch on for years, experts say, and cost thousands of dollars.

Texas has a Crime Victims’ Compensation Program, and sexual assault victims are eligible to receive money to cover crime-related costs, including medical and mental health care costs.

The crime must be reported to an appropriate law enforcement agency “within a reasonable period of time” and the victim must cooperate with the law enforcement investigation, according to the attorney general’s office. The victim must apply for compensation within three years of the date of the crime, with some exceptions.

But Davidson said the program has been difficult to navigate for some of her clients. And the cap on compensation is $50,000.

“It can take years” to move on from this, Davidson said. “That’s what’s so unfortunate. Something that happens in a millisecond can take years to get a handle on.”
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Re: OT: Deshaun Watson's Accusers Speak Out 

Post#2 » by HarthorneWingo » Wed Apr 7, 2021 7:31 pm

I haven't followed any of this tbh but do any of the allegations involve forcible sexual acts, stalking, groping, intimidation, etc., because from the little I read it seemed like he was asking for them to do things and offering them money or he was on the massage table squirming to get his penis to have contact with the masseuse, I guess. I dunno. I can't believe I'm even sitting here trying to parse this crap out. lol

But it is looking like a money grab. I can see why the plaintiffs would use this strategy. They can get their day in court, have control over what information they can get from Watson in discovery, prosecute him and get money from him.

If they just go with the criminal investigation, they're shut out of the process and, of course, they won't see any money out of it.
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