The woman who says she was raped by Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston is breaking her silence after more than two years. Erica Kinsman, 20, waived her right to remain anonymous by choosing to speak out in the chilling new documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which takes a close look at the rampant problem of sexual assaults on college campuses.
Kinsman is joined by her father John in the film, directed by Oscar-nominee Kirby Dick. The film also includes experts on the subject of campus rape, supporters of victims’ rights and others who identify as the victims of on-campus sexual assault. FSU officials declined interviews, the film said in its closing credits.
Kinsman, who her dad describes as a normal kid, recalls meeting Winston at the Tallahassee nightclub Potbelly’s on Dec. 7, 2012. She says he pretended to be her boyfriend to drive a different guy away who she says was following her around the bar. Winston’s chivalry ended there, however, according to Kinsman, who recalls taking a shot with Winston that she was convinced was tainted.
“I’m totally certain something was in that drink,” Kinsman said, who revealed she did not realize Winston was the star freshman quarterback on FSU’s football team until months after the alleged rape occurred.
Kinsman later recalls winding up in cab with Winston and two other men, which she describes as “uncharacteristic” behavior for her. The cab went to Winston’s apartment, where she says the rape happened.
“He was on top of me and I couldn’t really breathe,” Kinsman says, noting Winston’s roommate disrupted Winston’s first attempt when he entered his bedroom because the door didn’t lock. She said the roommate, who she does not identify, pleaded with Winston to stop and noted Klinsman was saying “no.” That’s when Kinsman said Winston picked her up and took her to the bathroom, where the door did lock.
“He pushed his hand over my face and pushed my face to the floor,” she said, recalling the floor was tile. She said he dressed her and told her it was time to leave after he was done.
She said she agreed to let Winston take her home on his scooter, but said she instructed him to let her off at an intersection, so he wouldn’t know where she lived. She then said she sought help and went to the hospital where a rape kit was performed, but not analyzed until months later.
Kinsman and her dad both recall meeting Tallahassee police officer Scott Angulo, an FSU graduate and fundraiser, at the hospital, where she said she was instructed to think twice before filing a report.
Later, when Kinsman contacted Angulo to report Winston’s name, which she said she only learned when she overheard it being called as part of an event on campus, she was further warned by Angulo. She says he said, “This is a huge football town. You really should think long and hard if you want to press charges.”
The Tallahassee police did nothing for 10 months, and when they did, her claims were greeted with disbelief that ranged from general skepticism to caustic threats.
The film showed death threats she received, as well as clips of ESPN’s “First Take” hosts Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith defending Winston when the allegations first surfaced. They both defended Winston, calling Kinsman’s allegations “terribly unfair,” while noting the timing of the investigation “stinks.”
Winston was never charged by police and has always maintained the sexual intercourse, which the rape kit later proved occurred, was consensual.
“I think I didn’t have sufficient evidence to prove that (Winston) sexually assaulted (Kinsman) against her will,” Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs said in an interview after the film’s producers ask him if he believes a sexual assault occurred. “I think what happened was not good.”
An FSU conduct code hearing, however, failed to find anything “not good” had happened when it finally held Winston’s code of conduct hearing last December. Just days before Winston was to play in the College Football Playoffs, the school’s panel cleared him of any wrongdoing. This allowed him to play, although his team did not win.
Kinsman, meanwhile, had dropped out of school.
“All these people were praising him; they were calling me a slut, a whore,” Kinsman said. The film then cuts to a celebratory student gathering on FSU’s campus showing students doing just that.
“I kind of just want to know, like, why me?” Kinsman asks, giving up her fight to hold back her tears. “It doesn’t really make sense.”
Kinsman’s case is just one of several that “The Hunting Ground” highlights in making its point that sexual assault is more prevalent on college campuses — and within athletic departments — than most college administrators would like people to believe. While it’s certainly not limited to student athletes, the film, which was produced in part with CNN, provides a very sobering statistic: Less than 4 percent of students are athletes, yet student athletes are responsible for 19 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses.
“He won the Heisman trophy with his DNA in a rape kit,” retired NFL star Don MacPherson says in the film, referring to Winston.
The film, which premiered at Sundance last month, opens in New York and Los Angeles on Feb. 27 and in Washington, D.C., and other cities on March 13.