In a deposition this past summer, the woman charged with running the office that deals with victims of, among other things, sexual violence on the Florida State campus claimed that 20 women were sexually assaulted by members of the Seminole football team over the past nine years. The former director of FSU’s victim advocate program, Melissa Ashton, went on to claim that the accused football players received special treatment and that most of the alleged victims chose not to pursue student-conduct charges “a lot of times based on fear” of reprisals.
The June deposition is part of the ongoing lawsuit filed by Erica Kinsman, who had accused star quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in December of 2012. The first overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft was neither charged criminally nor found guilty in a student-conduct hearing.
The testimony of Ashton, who left her post in August of this year, was part of what was described as the release of heavily-redacted documents related to Kinsman’s lawsuit. It’s argued in the Title IX suit that FSU did not properly investigate Kinsman’s claims against Winston as required by federal law.
Speaking of others who said they had been sexually assaulted at the school over the past nine years by football players, Ashton said the majority “chose not to go through a process, a lot of times based on fear.” Ashton said victims had “a fear of retaliation, seeing what has happened in other cases and not wanting that to be them.”
But in her statements she said she was concerned that athletes get preferential treatment during investigations of misconduct, including access to an athletic department official who helps them get access to outside lawyers.
In addition to the unnamed football players allegedly involved in an estimated 20 sexual assaults the past decade, “Ashton stated that… ‘easily double‘ that number have been involved in interpersonal violence.”
FSU officials had sought to block the release of the depositions, but were ordered by the judge in the case to hand them over in a ruling this past October. The document release was prompted by a public records request from various news organizations, including the Associated Press.