Watson’s trade from Browns sparks past sexual assault

Note: This article includes a woman’s description of a sexual assault. This may be difficult for some readers.

A decision by Dee and Jimmy Haslam brought back memories from nearly 47 years ago that I thought was safely locked away.

Ever since the Browns co-owners met and traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson, I’ve been among the victims of sexual assault in northeast Ohio and across the country who have had their past trauma unleashed.

I’ve written before that the Browns were the epitome of hypocrisy for their pursuit of Watson. Even though Watson was accused of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage dates by 22 women who filed civil lawsuits, the Browns made Watson the face of their franchise with a record-breaking guaranteed contract of 230 millions of dollars.

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It’s not about Watson’s guilt or innocence. Two Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges last Thursday. No matter the resolution, it will be forgotten when Watson wins games and possibly takes the Browns to their first Super Bowl.

It’s about victims reliving untold acts of violence because of the way the Browns kissed Watson.

I am one of them.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, center, answers questions from local media during his introductory press conference at the Cleveland Browns training facility on Friday.

I cried myself to sleep on March 15, when news broke that the Browns were flying to Houston to meet Watson.

Like so many female victims of sex crimes, I know what it’s like not to be believed.

In 1975 – that’s as accurate as it gets because the date is the only thing I can’t remember in this nightmare – I was picked up by Kentucky State Police troopers from my dorm in Eastern Kentucky University and taken to the Capitol in Frankfort for a lie detector test. I was strapped into an oak chair with arms like paddles.

It was like the electric chair.

All because after a night out in the bars of downtown Richmond, I didn’t go with my friends to the truck stop for breakfast. Walking alone through the parking lot to enter through the emergency door that was still open, I was abducted at knifepoint, taken to a house outside of town, and gang-raped.

At that time, there had been rumors on campus about sexual predators, but nothing substantiated.

In the wake of my horror, I decided my classmates needed to know. A member of the staff of the campus newspaper, the Eastern Progress, I arranged an interview with the editor. I didn’t tell him I was the victim.

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She was shocked when I walked into the room alone and she found out it was me. She brought a tape recorder, listened intently as I related what had happened, but said she was unable to write it down.

So I wrote it myself.

Prior to its anonymous publication, Progress’s then-editor, TG Moore, ran it through university president Robert R. Martin. Martin thought that was wrong. Moore vouched for its veracity.

I didn’t know that a few days ago after the story was published, my best friend from EKU was approached by another woman who lived in our dorm. She wanted to know if my friend would reveal the perpetrator and told her that she had also been assaulted.

I cooperated with the police in an attempt to apprehend my attackers, who had blindfolded me with the black scarf I wore around my neck. I even went back to the probable crime scene. I only knew that I had to cross a swing bridge because I could see through a slit in the scarf as I was being taken across.

Driven there by soldiers, it looked like the place.

But the case went cold. Police believed the men fled after the newspaper article appeared. I finally picked up the brown paper evidence bag with my clothes and returned the shirt and scarf I had borrowed from my roommate.

To this day, I still remember what I wore – a black and steel blue printed polyester blouse, my best flared jeans, woven brown leather wedge sandals, the scarf that in my mind saved me. the life. I remember the embroidered purple sweater my friends brought me to the ER to change into.

I remember the wide, smooth wooden arms of that polygraph chair.

All the memories triggered by the Watson news.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson responds to reporters during his introductory press conference at the Cleveland Browns practice facility on Friday.

I was too ashamed to tell my parents. They learned what had happened when they received the bill from the emergency room. I gave my father the story of Progress, but we never discussed it. He died two years later of lung cancer that spread to his brain, but I always felt like this article broke his heart.

My mom and I never talked about it either. Few of my friends know this story.

Victims suffer in silence and try to move on. I still believe that pouring everything into that piece of Progress was the catharsis I needed to keep my life on track.

But there are still lingering effects. I will not park in the underground section of the Gateway East Garage between Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and Progressive Field frequented by many media. I change radio stations every time a ZZ Top song plays. I won’t stay in a first floor hotel room, especially one entering from the outside (unless it’s an Arizona casita with a patio).

The charges against Watson are not on the same level as what I experienced, but the lasting effects could be the same. The statements released by the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center since Watson’s exchange regarding the 24/7 availability of helplines are oddly comforting, at least in the sense that we are not alone.

I share this now because I feel like my life has come full circle. It’s almost as if that horrible experience led me to that moment with the Browns and Watsons. Many times I thought of helping retired sexual assault victims.

It sounds like a meager offering, but rest assured it’s sincere.

Marla Ridenour can be reached at [email protected]

How to get help

If you are the victim of a sexual assault, help is available:

• Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina Counties: 330-434-7272 (24-hour hotline) or https://hopeandhealingresources.org/rape-crisis-center/.

• Victim Assistance: 330-376-0040 (24-hour hotline) or https://victimassistanceprogram.org.

• National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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