ATLANTA -- The moment in Pittsburgh Sunday was about football, and a man who'd led his team to the pinnacle of his sport. Thousands of delirious Steelers fans saw their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, as a gifted athlete headed to the most-watched game in American sport, the Super Bowl.
But Jennifer Bivins sees something else: "I see a rapist."
Bivins is president of the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault. Late last winter, Ben Roethlisberger was an alleged rapist, accused by a 20-year-old college student from Metro Atlanta. A GBI investigation produced numerous eyewitnesses to an ugly evening spent by Roethlisberger in Milledgeville, culminating in a rape allegation taken seriously by police.
In order to make the charge against Roethlisberger stick, the student would have had to testify against the athlete in court. Roethlisberger had hired high-priced Atlanta lawyers to fight the allegation. His accuser chose to drop the case instead.
"He basically took advantage of someone else, and he's not going to face a criminal action because of it," said Bivins, who says she has read the voluminous GBI case file.
Ben Roethlisberger is guilty of nothing in the eyes of the law, but Jennifer Bivins says the star quarterback shouldn't stay off the hook so easily. She sees Michael Vick, another gifted athlete who victimized animals and did hard jail time. She sees Roethlisberger as a man accused of a crime no less serious, but whose young accuser simply lost her nerve.
"His consequence was to miss a few games," said Bivins. And when he takes the field at the Super Bowl in Dallas, "people will think that he's a god."
Ben Roethlisberger will take a proud Pittsburgh Steelers franchise to the Super Bowl for a third time. But in Milledgeville, he may never shake an ugly night last March.