Oklahomans for Reproductive Justice

Oklahomans for Reproductive Justice (OK4RJ) consists of a group of young Okies dedicated to caring and advocating for Oklahomans, using community and grassroots approaches to raise awareness and advocate for access to full reproductive freedom for all, regardless of race, class, ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. We believe that social justice issues are inseparable from reproductive issues and advocate for a holistic view of reproductive justice Visit our site at ok4rj.org
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Sometimes, especially in Oklahoma, we can get caught up in the big picture, and the huge hurdles we’re fighting: fetal pain laws, “personhood”, abortion access, AHA postering, and all the other generally racist, classist, or ridiculous laws proposed for the next legislative session. Victories are few and far between, but I completely overlooked a wonderful victory from a very surprising place… deep in the world of college football. The“Alabama Teabagger” (link nsfw-ish) was on my radar, but I failed to get upset, merely trudging along with a hundred other things I felt were more important.

Imagine my surprise out on the town Saturday night, overhearing my boyfriend telling his friends what a wrong and malicious act this “prank” was and how important it was that this man had been arrested. I consider myself a huge sports fan, maybe the biggest in the OK4RJ family, and had simply allowed myself to look at this event not as sexual assault but as a stupid “joke”, because it fell in a different arena of my life. I’m now kicking myself for a ridiculous mistake. I had brushed off this act of sexual assault for the exact same reasons people try to belittle other victims of rape and assault. The parties had been drunk, they were in a celebratory environment, the assault didn’t leave lasting physical injuries or effects. UGH, I’M A MONSTER! I can’t believe it.

Sexual assault doesn’t get a free pass anywhere, not even for sports fans celebrating a major win, not as a prank, not because other people are also mocking an incapacitated person. Even though I was slacking, the internet, the press, and the New Orleans police department weren’t. Video of the incident went viral, and Brian Downing was identified, he was fired from his job, and was booked on charges of sexual battery and could face 25 years in prison. He might plead out, but regardless, some justice has been served, and people are thinking. Even with an incident this ugly, it seems very possible that this could have just been viewed as a bro-joke, and then video could have gone viral as entertainment, not as evidence.

It’s hard to know why this caught the attention of the media, why it was dealt with so quickly, or why, amazingly, Downing was held accountable and arrested. Unfortunately,  this isn’t the norm. I suspect this event was a perfect storm culminating with man-on-man assault, overwhelming video evidence, and the affront to the stereotypical nature of genteel Southern football fans. It’s fantastic that it’s received so much attention, but we must continue to expose sexual assault for what it is, and hold people accountable, both in court and the court of public opinion. Little victories, little victories.

Judie was in New Orleans for this game, and was lucky enough to see nothing but classy fans and good defense.

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