Public litigation of the Trevor Bauer assault allegations is miserable and unavoidable

Warning: The following article contains strong language and graphic allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault.

(Update: This column has been updated to include the woman's lawyer revealed her name in an initial report and additional information about her medical tests.)

I hate that the accusations against Trevor Bauer made me immediately dread the news cycle. I hate the news itself, too, of course — on Tuesday night, TMZ reported that a woman was granted a temporary ex parte restraining order against the Dodgers pitcher after an alleged assault — but I hate how quickly my mind made the whole thing meta. How the disappointing frequency of sports-adjacent sexual and domestic violence and unrelenting churn of reactionary content has made me cynical and tired and anxious. Hackles up for what’s to come. Braced against being plunged back into the forever culture war for which violence against women is seen as a key battleground. Because, apparently, if you look closely enough at the technicalities, you don’t have to consider the human cost of taking a contrarian stance.

I hate that it feels necessary but also like rubbernecking to read the graphic details of a woman’s alleged sexual assault. It made me uncomfortable and sorry for being uncomfortable and so, so angry. I hate that her lawyer named her in early accounts and thought to search it. Hate that I noticed how it has been omitted in many more careful articles since then, because every time it just makes me think how easy it is to find if you’re motivated by malice. Especially because the team around Bauer is working behind the scenes to push to make it more public.

I feel sick that some people would watch all this play out — aggregated accounts of intimate violence, salacious but non-exculpatory text messages, a whole cottage industry of armchair analysts debating whether she wanted to be anally penetrated while unconscious and allegedly punched in the head until a doctor initially suspected her skull was fractured before a subsequent test, Bauer's representatives emphasized, failed to show a fracture — and conclude that an otherwise anonymous woman would pursue being publicly linked to this story forever as anything other than a last resort.

I hate how the worst people have the power to flatten the discourse. Saying anything is akin to calling for a public execution without a trial. You’ll run yourself ragged or insane, quote-tweeting toxic replies to clarify that consent can be revoked or that administrative leave doesn’t require the same burden of proof as a criminal conviction. They don’t care. Who are we doing this for anyway?

Sometimes I think about how our current modes of discourse were not arrived at intentionally. They haven’t been tested to ensure we’re not subjecting ourselves to cultural carcinogens every day, simmering in poison and calling it modern society.

Just because we got here doesn’t mean it’s a good place to be.

I think about that every time one of these stories dominates the baseball news and I have to watch as reporters who do painful, important work are often met with harassment. And well-meaning people say things like how the Dodgers had this coming when they signed someone so controversial as if this whole thing is just comeuppance for a baseball team.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 23:  Trevor Bauer #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pauses between pitches during the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer is on administrative leave after a woman accused him of assaulting her during a sexual encounter. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

I hate the way we say sports are a microcosm of the real world even though they aren’t equipped to regulate this kind of reality. Fandom is turned sour and the whole enterprise suddenly seems so flimsy or suspect — this is supposed to be fun. It’s a privilege to have not just the platform of a professional baseball player, or the salary, but the emotional investment of strangers, too. When that adoration no longer applies, the dissonance is striking.

I hate the entire public litigation of sexual assault and the way it often forces people to say something vulnerable at the risk of staying silent. How we subject ourselves to this s***, write helpless hypocritical columns about how unpleasant it all is, because the other option is to simply ignore it.

Ironic, isn’t it, how the story managed to be about sports again for a second — the weight of a public sexual assault allegation colliding with questions about which pitcher will toe the rubber on the Fourth of July. Of course the actual legal system is just a game that can be rigged with enough money and clout, too. But maybe that’s a reason to let morality and, I don’t know, some goddamn optics rule the day when that’s an option.

In the end, MLB placed Bauer on seven-day administrative leave — sent him to make his millions on the sidelines rather than while standing at the center of a televised entertainment product. I hate that this is supposed to feel like a victory. Nothing that happens now is good, the bad stuff has already happened.

I just hope the people who passed the buck, letting the story twist in the wind, have some shame about hiding behind their professed helplessness. You know, given the context of holding a woman accountable for allegedly what happened to her while she was unconscious.

I hate that the best self-care for compassionate sports writers and fans this week — and so often — is to not read their mentions and to be lucky enough for the details in the news to not track too closely to their own trauma. At least not this time.

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