Roy Hobbs said that some mistakes you never stop paying for. Maybe it should be that way. In terms of social stigma, at least, if not in terms of actual punishment. That’s what Rays’ reliever Josh Lueke — who plead down sexual assault charges to a false imprisonment with violence conviction — has learned over the years.
He has learned that no matter how long ago you paid the criminal price for your actions — in his case an extremely light 42 days in jail for what were undeniably odious and criminal actions which can only be logically defined as rape even if they were legally characterized as something less — people may still hold you socially accountable for many more years. This we have come to see with websites, with ballpark signs and with chants by fans whenever he comes into games. We have also seen it in the form of responses to those who would ask that we stop talking about Lueke’s history and instead marvel at how he has “persevered” through “adversity.”
Of late, a number of people have taken to pointing out on Twitter, each and every time Lueke comes into a game, that he is, indeed, a rapist. Of late a number of other people have responded that that first group of people should just drop it already and stop mentioning that fact. They do so less as a defense of Lueke’s tender sensibilities — as far as I’ve seen he ignores it and none of those who wish the matter would be dropped online are actually defending Lueke personally — than as an exclamation of the pointlessness of constantly mentioning it or, in some cases, as a matter of mental fatigue at having to discuss it all again.
It’s an interesting little debate, but one which Stacey Mae Fowles — a rape survivor — sees as not so little at all. Today she writes at Deadspin about why it’s necessary to remind baseball fans of Josh Lueke’s past:
Because most survivors never have the opportunity to name their attackers, I have to disagree with the suggestion that tweeting is a futile endeavor—naming Lueke is most certainly accompanied by its own sense of empowerment. My own fear may prevent me from calling out my attacker in a public forum, but at least I can remind the baseball community that we have failed victims every time Lueke comes up to pitch. The fact that others don’t see it as a meaningful action is entirely meaningless to me. You can volunteer and you can donate money, but the most significant acts when it comes to dismantling a culture that forgives rape is to name those who commit it and support those who endure it. The irritation this man faces each time the chorus of condemnation rises is wholly insignificant when held up against the plight of survivors, and it may be wise for those who dismiss the messages as a “waste of time” to think for a moment that rape victims might have different thoughts on what does and doesn’t constitute a waste of time.
Is it unfair to Lueke? Not in any way I can see. He is not subject to any more criminal sanctions nor, per our Constitution, should he be. But nor is he immune from criticism for his past. And more importantly, nor is society immune from reminders of how poorly we have dealt with rape as a crime, treated some rapists as something less than criminals and done grave disservices to rape victims as people suffering from trauma and often forced to endure more after the crime has already taken place.
I don’t beat the Lueke drum that often because there are plenty of people who do so who are more informed and in a better position to do it. But I don’t begrudge Stacey and anyone else who does.
Go read her post. Read it all before commenting. And think about it a bit before you do.