February 5, 2023

Kinsman-FSU settlement: not enough


This archived article was written by: Rodrigo Leon

When Erica Kinsman’s life was shattered by Florida State University and the Tallahassee Police Department, she was forced to move out of her hometown, transfer from her dream school and endure harassment from many communities. This happened when Kinsman filed a report that alleged that FSU star quarterback Jameis Winston assaulted her.
FSU found Winston innocent after a rather grudging investigation carried out by FSU. Kinsman claimed that her rights, ensured under Title IX, were violated. On Jan. 25, 2016, the Title IX suit was settled. The settlement reached was a $950,000 payout to Kinsman. Now this might seem impressive until you take into consideration what she lost.
When Kinsman first brought up the allegations against Winston, the school buried them and refused to investigate saying she didn’t have a case, was asking for it and was likely at fault. This got worse as she continued to push the case, finally making it public.
The moment the media heard the allegations, they accused her of wanting attention and trying to slander the all-star quarterback, never once considering she might be telling the truth.
It didn’t end there, the FSU campus and the city of Tallahassee both lashed out against her, insulting her, harassing her and threatening to kill and rape her. This harassment only got worse as people around the nation started tuning into the allegations. This level of harassment forced Kinsman to transfer schools away from her school in the middle of her educational career. Then she was forced to leave her hometown of Tallahassee altogether, along with a one-year trial, to reach this settlement.
Aside from all these obvious aggressions Kinsman faced, there is a subversive side that is just as dangerous. The fact is that Kinsman was systemically dehumanized. Her life didn’t mean as much as Winston’s or the money he made for FSU. She was deemed less valuable than the games that Winston played. She was constantly subject to the objectification of her body as something others could control and dictate. This was caused by constant threats of rape and murder, these people are not only perpetuating rape culture, they are claiming they have the right to hold dominance over her body.
These hardships that Kinsman faced is only capped by the settlement she reached. Not only is FSU still maintaining innocence, saying they handled the investigations correctly, but adding a useless tidbit of information in their public statement claiming that Kinsman only gets $250,000 and her lawyers get the rest (Kinsman’s attorneys have said these allegations aren’t true). These comments were meant to harass Kinsman one more time.
Now think about what she has lost and can you really quantify that? She cannot safely return to Tallahassee and thus can’t visit her parents. She will hear hateful comments about the allegations for the rest of her life. She will have to continue knowing that her rapist is not only out there but being showered in praise. She will live with the nightmares and flashbacks. She will never be the same person that enrolled in FSU fall 2012. Is $950,000 the worth of someone’s life?

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