On Aug. 18, the NFL and the Cleveland Browns agreed to suspend quarterback Deshaun Watson for 11 games and fine him $5 million after 24 women accused him of varying degrees of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions (he signed a $230 million contract with the Browns this offsesason). All of his accusers agreed to financial settlements with Watson. Except one.
My name is Lauren Baxley. I am a former massage therapist, having quit the only career I have known in May of this year.
I was forced into quitting for the sake of my health and life; I have not felt safe providing therapy since before June of 2020.
I am the remaining plaintiff against Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback who harassed and committed indecent assault against me.
I have rejected all settlement offers, in part because they have not included any sincere acknowledgment of remorse and wrongdoings, nor have they included any promises of rehabilitative treatment. Watson still refuses to admit that he harassed and committed indecent assault against me. Any settlement offer he has made has been a dismissal of his evil actions, and I know that unless there is an authoritative intervention, he will continue his destructive behavior.
Because Watson repeatedly assaulted women, the institutions and individuals who currently uphold and employ him must also be held accountable.
I am just one of dozens of women whose lives have been eternally harmed by his sexual violence. Even one more victim is outrageous.
I will say again: All non-consensual sexual acts are a violence, particularly when the predator far outweighs his victims in physical stature and influential power. And inherent and unspoken threats are just as damaging to the psyche as explicit threats. I will never cease my attempts to educate on this point.
I sincerely, with humility in my relative anonymity, ask that those in power over Deshaun Watson make swift and stringent decisions to prevent further acts of harm against women. Please remember the women who have decided they could no longer fight this legal battle after multiple courts, and multiple fandoms, told them their lives didn’t matter.
Please remember his victims who did not sue, and please take action for survivors everywhere.