Crimes and Verdicts in Isla Vista

A mollie.jpgsearch for “Eric
Frimpong”
on the online social network website
Facebook.com 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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