In the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, former Florida State University student Erica Kinsman speaks publicly for the first time about December 7, 2012, the night she says that FSU quarterback Jameis Winston raped her. Though she reported the incident to authorities that day, while fresh bruises were still appearing on her skin, her case was mishandled for years by a bumbling administration intent on protecting its football program. Now, more than three years later, Kinsman has finally settled her lawsuit against her former university for $950,000.
The lump sum is the biggest payout for the settlement of a Title IX case. FSU has also agreed to “a five year commitment to sexual assault awareness, prevention, and training programs” and “increased transparency through publication of annual reports for the next five years about its programs to deter and address campus sexual assault.”
Kinsman filed the civil suit last January after both an FSU investigation and a State Attorney’s Office investigation found insufficient evidence to charge Winston. But both The Hunting Ground and a New York Times feature point to major errors by both the school and law enforcement in investigating the case. Against Title IX regulations, FSU administrators did not launch an investigation immediately upon hearing about the case, instead waiting until after football season ended to act. According to the documentary: “With the information Erica provided, the Tallahassee Police Department could have … identified and questioned the suspect and his two roommates the next day … obtained video from the 30 surveillance cameras at the bar where she met the suspect … located the cab driver who drove Erica and the suspect from the bar. They did none of these.” Kinsman’s Title IX complaint is ongoing.
A “hostile educational environment” eventually drove Kinsman from FSU, which she says was always her “dream school.” She was forced to pursue her degree elsewhere, while spending the last three years dealing both emotionally and legally with what she says happened on December 7, 2012. Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy and was the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft. He’s now the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I’ll always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” Kinsman said in a statement. “I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students. My hope is that the federal investigation of my complaint by the Office of Civil Rights will produce even more positive change, not just at FSU, but across the country.”