Opinion: Watson's suspension not even one game per accuser

It's 3 a.m. A survivor of sexual assault has just walked into the ER of a local hospital. She is scared. She is alone. She doesn’t know what to expect next. But she needs help and the intake nurse is getting her a room. As the only rape crisis center in the region, this is one of the reasons why Women Helping Women exists.

Whether it’s 3 a.m. on a Friday night or 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, we respond to survivors at 25 hospitals, 24/7 in a four-county region. And the reality is, we are busy responding as we have been seeing some alarming spikes in sexual assaults in our communities.

That's why headlines about the NFL's decision to suspend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for 11 games caught my attention. I grew up in Cleveland, and I grew up cheering on the Browns (and honestly never getting the satisfaction of cheering on many wins, but I loved rooting for the under "Dawgs"). When I moved to Cincinnati nearly 20 years ago, I learned to root for a new team. A new hope. A new cause.

I really began rooting for survivors. And I began rooting for the possibilities of our Queen City.  I value how Cincinnati shows up for so much in our region. I love the energy of our town. And with this energy, and as football season is just around the corner, I've been wondering what it would look like if 65,000 community members filled the stadium, cheering on a movement to end sexual violence? What would it look like if corporate box suites were mapped to the movement of prevention? What would it look like if one of the largest driver of ticket sales − women − never experienced sexual assault − ever − in their lifetimes?

Ashley Solis, left, the first woman among several plaintiffs to file lawsuits accusing Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual assault or harassment, speaks as her attorney Tony Buzbee stands beside her during a news conference to give an update to the lawsuits Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Houston. The NFL is appealing a disciplinary officer's decision to suspend Watson for six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Dreams can come true; we witnessed that last season as we rallied around the Bengals in a thrilling Super Bowl game. We could turn around the statistics of where nationally, every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and 1 out of 6 women has experienced rape. In order to get to that dream, we can't cheer on a mere 11-game suspension decision by the NFL for a player (whose contract is $230 million) who has civil lawsuits of sexual harassment and sexual assault by 24 women. It’s not even one suspension per woman.

So who holds the space of accountability of sexual violence in our culture? Is it on the survivor who comes to the ER at 3 a.m. and is expected to tell her story, go through the many hours of a forensic exam, talk to all of the nurses, partner with advocates, law-enforcement and prosecutors? Is it on the justice system to convict those who commit sexual assault? In the U.S., out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 975 perpetrators walk free. Does responsibility lie within us as a community to promote comprehensive prevention with young people? Does responsibility lie with employers to enact policies that bring to life the core values of equity that underscore protections for survivors as employees?

Accountability lies with the person who chooses to violate another human being. Responsibility lies within all of us in the region to create a culture where we build up champions on and off the fields.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jack Sorenson (14) keeps an eye on the ball as he participates in drills during Cincinnati Bengals training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, at the practice fields next to Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

While I am not shocked at the 11-game suspension Watson was given (or how much more work needs to be done to believe survivors), I am choosing to cheer on the actions of Bengals player Jack Sorenson. This Bengals wide receiver donated hundreds of clothes and undergarments to a hospital that performs sexual assault forensic exams. I will cheer on his actions because he understood that when a survivor shows up to the ER, they cannot leave wearing the clothes that they came in with as they are now taken for evidence.

I may not know much about football, but I know a champion of compassion and care on and off the field when I see one. Thank you #14 for showing up for survivors.

Kristin Shrimplin is president and CEO of Women Helping Women. To learn more go to

Kristin Shrimplin is president and CEO of Women Helping Women, a nonprofit that focuses on crisis intervention of gender-based violence that includes sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. The nonprofit created Dvert, a domestic violence response team that works with police on the scene to offer support and services to the survivor.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Opinion: Watson's suspension not even one game per accuser