Crimes and Verdicts in Isla Vista

A mollie.jpgsearch for “Eric Frimpong” on the online social network website produces the following results: a blocked profile with no picture and limited information about Frimpong’s dual majors of applied mathematics and business economics, a club proclaiming that “Eric Frimpong is a Pimp and We Love Him!,” a group titled “Numero Uno Gauchos” and finally “The Eric Frimpong Legal Defence Fund.”

According to the Facebook site for the Eric Frimpong Legal Defence Fund, “Our friend Eric has been accused of something that he did not do. We know that these charges are not in Eric’s make-up […] Eric is a quality person that needs our love and support at this difficult time. Please also call your parents to see if they can help.” On the group’s wall, various people have posted messages proclaiming Frimpong’s innocence and decrying the woman who accused him of violently raping her on a beach by the 6500 block of D.P. on Feb. 17. One poster even called the 21 year-old soccer star’s accuser “soulless.”

Whether Frimpong is guilty of raping the supposedly “soulless” woman and the second woman who came forward on Feb. 23 with another sexual assault charge is not the issue. We, the public, do not know all the facts at this point. Nor do we even know how the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department went from the victim’s description of her attacker as being a “black male adult, average to short height, slender build with an ‘island accent’” named “Eric” to arresting the Ghanaian soccer player while he was playing ping pong on Saturday afternoon.

Even as a local journalist with access to all sorts of resources for information about the case, I’m not entirely sure who is right in this he-said/she-said scenario. And it doesn’t matter. It’s not up to me to decide. Whatever my personal opinions are on the case, they’re not important.

I do, however, think it’s important to take a second to think about the way in which people are talking about the whole incident. And boy, are people talking. Everyone from my landlord to my law & society professors have mentioned the alleged rape this past week, with opinions ranging on the subject. All I can discern is that there is a profound distrust of the alleged victim’s story. Granted, I’ve heard few people actually stoop to the sickening level of questioning her soul—or lack thereof—but I have heard quite a few people questioning her motives. Frimpong is a popular soccer superstar with a bright future ahead of him, why would he want or need to violently assault someone in order to get laid? Or so the conventional wisdom goes.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve watched more than enough CSI, Law & Order and Cold Case to know that looks, charm and popularity do not serve as a deterrent when it comes to violent crimes. I’m not saying Frimpong did or didn’t commit the crimes he is accused of; I’m just saying that the fact that he’s supposedly a nice guy with plenty of prospects that don’t require violent coercion to put out doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. Furthermore, whether Frimpong’s accusers were actually assaulted by him, they believe they were assaulted. They believe it, Cottage Hospital believes it and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department believes it.

My guess is the girls have probably suffered quite a bit. However you feel about Frimpong, there’s no reason to verbally attack those who have already been physically, mentally and emotionally assaulted. Supporting a friend and attacking a victim of assault are two totally different things, they don’t have to go hand-in-hand.

All in all, it your opinion about whether Frimpong is guilty doesn’t matter—at least not as far as I’m concerned. Like I said, it’s not my place to decide, nor do I have nearly enough evidence to make an educated guess. What’s important is handling this tough topic with the tact it deserves. It can’t be easy for Eric, but it can’t be easy for the alleged victim — or victims — either. No matter which side you’re on in this particular instance, it’s impossible to argue with the assertion that sexual assault is a terrible and painful reality for everyone involved. And, unfortunately, living in the I.V. bubble doesn’t mean we are immune to it. It’s an awful situation for everyone who is directly impacted by it, and the least those of us who are looking in from the outside can do is be respectful of the rights of accuser and accused — even if we support one over the other. It’s hard enough to be involved in a situation like this and have everyone weighing in on something so personal, who are we to make it harder by hating on innocent victims or denying the accused their due process before making a decision either way?

Not to sound like a cheesy after-school special, but if you or someone you know is facing a sexual assault issue, there’s plenty of places to go where people can help. The Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center has a 24-hour hotline at (805) 564-3696 with information for victims of sexual assault, as well as their family, friends and significant others. The Isla Vista Foot Patrol generally has officers on duty in their office on Pardall Road, and the phone number there is (805) 681-4179. UCSB Student Health Services also offers counseling and consultations to UCSB students, and can be reached at (805) 893-5361. And, don’t forget, in case of emergency always call 9-1-1.

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