In an era when accusations of sexual misconduct are ending careers every week, a false rape accusation against a high-profile college football player in Oklahoma is an example of a woman attempting to use benefit of the doubt to ruin a man’s life.
Rodney Anderson is the starting running back for the College Football Playoff-bound University of Oklahoma football team. On Dec. 4, a woman named Courtney Thornton accused Anderson of raping her at her apartment more than two weeks earlier.
The two met at a bar, and then went back to her apartment. They didn’t have sex, but two weeks later, Thornton told an ex-boyfriend (who she was talking to about getting back together) that she began “recalling images and feelings of Anderson forcing his fingers” inside her and biting her. She was admittedly intoxicated that night.
The rape accusation, made through an emergency protective order, made national news. Suddenly, when someone searched the name “Rodney Anderson” on Google, the top items were news stories suggesting he may have raped a woman.
But there was much more to the story.
What really happened
After an investigation, Assistant District Attorney Susan Caswell found numerous inconsistencies in Thornton’s account. The DA’s office announced Thursday that no charges would be filed.
- Text communications between the two showed that Thornton never expressed any hesitation or regret about anything that happened. She even said they had fun and she wanted to see Anderson again.
- Her friend told police that Thornton said the next day that she had a great time.
- Thornton called the friend from the bathroom of her apartment, excited that Anderson was at her home, saying she “had vomited but intended to brush her teeth and go back and kiss him some more,” Caswell said.
- Two additional friends corroborated the first friend’s claim that Thornton said she had fun, and said she began to brag about the relationship that she was having with him.
- One friend told police that Thornton called Anderson a “nice guy” for not going all the way with her that night.
The last several text messages Thornton sent to Anderson, which were suggestions from her that they get together, were not replied to by Anderson.
It was only after Anderson stopped responding to her advances that she decided to go to authorities and accuse Anderson of rape.
This writer’s perspective
There is a problem in college athletics with sexual assault, and with a lack of support for victims. Women who have reported sexual assaults by athletes to campus and local authorities have sometimes felt that no one believes them, or felt pressured to keep quiet.
False accusations like this one only add to that problem. They only create a more hostile environment for actual victims, and weaken the ability of authorities to grant the benefit of the doubt that a victim is telling the truth.
Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn was careful to say that his office could not prove that Thornton was lying about what happened. But that’s effectively what they did by not finding any reason to press charges against Anderson.
Thornton tried to initiate a relationship with a star on the football team, and after he didn’t reciprocate her interest, she tried to ruin his reputation and possibly his life.
Thankfully, the facts were brought to light in this situation. I shudder to think about what happens to accusers, and the accused, when they’re not.