HOUSTON – With nearly all of the more than two dozen lawsuits filed against Deshaun Watson having been settled, most of the women who accused the Cleveland quarterback of sexual misconduct have no interest in his return to Houston on Sunday and just want continue their lives, according to their lawyer.
But about 10 of the women who accused Watson of sexual harassment and assault during the massages plan to attend Sunday’s game at NRG Stadium in Houston when the Browns take on the Texans and watch him play when he returns from a suspension. 11 games, attorney Tony said. Buzbee.
Some of the women really want to watch the game “to kind of say, ‘Hey, we’re still here. We count. Our voice has been heard and it is not over. (Sexual harassment and assault) happens every day in the United States,” Buzbee said.
The women declined to comment ahead of Sunday’s game, he said.
But it’s unclear whether the spotlight Watson is expected to receive this week will mean continued focus on the allegations against him and what his accusers say is a trauma they still face, or if it’s the first step to shifting the spotlight. conversation strictly towards football and its play on the pitch, according to experts.
“It can go both ways…I think probably for the vast majority of NFL fans, they’re going to let go of the past and start to focus on the future with it,” said David Ring, an attorney based in California who is unrelated to the lawsuits and has represented victims of sexual assault.
Watson was still with the Houston Texans when more than 20 women claimed he exposed himself, touched them or kissed them against their will during massage therapy sessions. A woman alleged that Watson forced her to perform oral sex.
Ultimately, 25 women represented by Buzbee filed lawsuits. One woman dropped her lawsuit while 23 others settled their cases in August. In July, 30 women who had accused the Texans of turning a blind eye to allegations against their former star quarterback settled their lawsuits against the team.
Watson, who was traded to the Browns in March, has long denied any wrongdoing and two separate Texas grand juries have declined to indict him.
Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead attorney, declined to comment on Watson’s return to Houston, citing confidentiality agreements from settled lawsuits.
A woman represented by Buzbee has refused to settle and he expects the case to go to trial.
The other pending lawsuit was filed last month by a woman who alleges Watson forced her to perform oral sex.
In court papers, Hardin and Watson’s legal team said the latest lawsuit was brought by someone “seeking to cash in on 15 minutes of fame.”
But Anisah Nguyen, who is representing the newest plaintiff, said in court papers that Watson’s legal team’s efforts to discredit her client’s allegations are “for the purposes of intimidation, intimidation and shaming of the victim (the woman) to drop her case”.
Some organizations that work with victims of sexual violence have said the expected media attention on Watson’s return to Houston is likely to trigger traumatic emotions in the women who accused him and in other survivors.
“I think survivors of high profile cases that I’ve spoken to over the years, you get very mixed reactions. Some of them just want it out of the news… Others want it out of the news. (the abuser’s name) gets repeated every time…because little by little they feel like it brings some degree of justice,” said Scott Berkowitz, President and Founder CEO of RAINN , the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network.
Sonia Corrales, assistant general manager of the Houston Area Women’s Center, said this week’s focus on Watson’s return could be an opportunity for the NFL to highlight its policies aimed at punishing violence against women. women. A 2021 study by the University of Arkansas found that the NFL failed to follow its own personal conduct policy in punishing players who committed acts of violence, including violence against women.
An NFL spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
“I’m going to suspect the NFL is going to hold their noses and hope this weekend passes quickly. I don’t think they’re going to deal with it,” Ring said.
Corrales said she hopes the media and public attention this week will also spark discussions not just about football, but about sexual violence and all its forms.
“Of course you want to focus on the football, but let’s not minimize it. Let’s also say it’s important, that we need to talk about the trauma and the impact that sexual violence has on survivors,” Corrales said.
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