Three months ago, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the potential mishandling of sexual assaults at the University of Montana at Missoula. The college, in conjunction with local police, was fingered by the DOJ for not following proper procedures with over 80 sexual assaults — at least two of which included the University of Montana Grizzlies football team. The underlying theory was that the school was perhaps treating its athletes with kid gloves when a sexual assault accusation arose.
Yesterday, a promising advancement was made: the Missoula County District Attorney’s office announced it was charging University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson (pictured above), 20, with rape.
According to the affadavit as described in an article on MontanaGrizzlies.com, a student identified as “Jane Doe” accused Johnson of raping her on February 4. “Doe” said Johnson text messaged her asking to hang out and she drove to pick him up because he had been drinking. The two were watching a movie together and started kissing when he aggressively began pushing for sex; the affadavit states, “She was afraid he would hit her if she resisted further.” “Doe” said she told him “no” repeatedly; Johnson allegedly told her “I will make you,” held her down, and raped her.
After the alleged rape, “Doe” text messaged her roommate the following message:
“OMG … I think I might have just gotten raped … he kept pushing and pushing and I said no but he wouldn’t listen … I just want to cry … OMG what do I do.”
“Jane Doe” drove Johnson home that night. The next morning, she went to the University of Montana’s Student Assault Resource Center and then to a medical center for an examination. She has been undergoing counseling for anxiety and depression following the incident.
Johnson has been suspended indefinitely from the football team, where he played starting quarterback, but is still enrolled in school. He will begin his junior year next month.
In a statement released by Johnson’s attorney, he appears to cast doubt on “Jane Doe” by insinuating that she may not be trustworthy because — despite her text message to her roommate and her visit to the Student Assault Resource Center and a medical center — she did not report the alleged rape immediately. It reads:
“Jordan and his family are surprised and saddened by the county’s decision to levy a criminal charge now, given that the encounter between Jordan and the complainant occurred in early February and the police have been aware of the allegation since she filed a report six weeks later.”
Johnson’s charge, the felony of sexual intercourse without consent, carries a minimum of two years to life in prison. He is the second player on the team to be charged with sexual assault: Beau Donaldson, another player for the Grizzlies, was suspended from the team for allegedly raping a woman. He pleaded not guilty in January.
I welcome the news that University of Montana and its local authorities are handling the matter with due seriousness. However, this is only the first step. If Johnson and Donaldson are found guilty, we still have to see how both the university and the county punish him. As a series of investigative reports by NPR and the Center For Public Integrity found in 2010, even when a male student is found guilty of sexual assault on campus, the punishment applied against him is often gentle. Also, it is usually the woman who brought the complaint — his victim — who leaves the college. The subtext in many of these news reports about the Missoula investigation (although not explicitly stated by the DOJ, of course) is that players from school sports teams accused of sexual assault are given a slap on the wrist.
The jury is still out on what will happen with Johnson and Donaldson. I’ll be watching as Johnson appears in court on August 14.