Sharing Her Story

SportsMap's Seymour opens up about dealing with the aftermath of rape

Holly Seymour does a lot of media work for SportsMap, GowMedia and her own web site, Courtesy photo

Editor's note: Holly Seymour is the talented host of Sports on The Rocks and a frequent contributor to Gow Media and SportsMap.  In this piece, she shares a story of being raped by an athlete and dealing with the aftermath.

That day was supposed to be perfect. V picked me up, we had the windows down and our music blaring. We were taking selfies and making snap videos on our way over the causeway. My fake boyfriend FaceTimed me when we got to the island to remind me to have a good time. I still remember him smiling and laughing at us joking on our way into the bar. We sat at our usual table outside to tan. We ordered our usual vodka waters and bitched about how annoyed we were that we forgot to bring the Adderal. The rest of our friends showed up a few hours later. We were having the best time just enjoying the sun, good music and lots of booze. 

I checked my social media and I had a random message from you. We never talk, players don’t associate with media outside of the facilities. You asked where I was and if you could join. I half drunk replied. I was so in the moment that I told you sure, not even realizing you were supposed to be on a flight to your game. I didn’t think you would really drive down from the city and come, nor did I care.

I kept partying and enjoying my friends. When you showed up, we had already been drinking for hours. I remember asking if you wanted a beer. You ordered a bucket. On my tab. How rude, right? I didn’t care though because I was countless vodkas in. I probably would have ordered the entire bar for anyone who asked. You didn’t stay long. You and your two friends asked what was next on our agenda. Drunk me suggested we all go back to my place and order pizza… and drink more, of course. I rode with you while V followed us. That was my first mistake, but who counts mistakes when you’re drunk living life? The rest of my friends wanted to finish their drinks and close tabs before they came back to my place. The pizza came. We all ate. 

Then you went into my room and called me from the living room. When I came in, you closed the door. I remember still being dazed and confused as to why you called me away from my company. You pushed me against the door and tried to kiss me. I turned my cheek and attempted to go back into the living room. V was alone with your friends and I didn’t care to be alone with YOU. But you didn’t let me. You sat me on my bed and tried to mess with me. I kept trying to leave. You forced yourself onto me. I told you to stop. I told you so many times. You kept telling me to be quiet. I kept trying to push you off of me and begged you AGAIN to stop. For the second time in my life i was scared of a man. But this was a different scared. This was forced. I wanted to fight back, all I had to do was scream but it’s like my body shut down. You continued to have your way with me. I remember tears coming down my cheeks and you just saying “shh, it’s OK.” But it wasn’t OK.

Those few minutes felt like a lifetime to me. I froze and everything else went blank. When you finished you had the audacity to use my restroom to clean up. I grabbed the closest piece of clothing on my floor that I could find. When we came out of my room your friends knew what happened, they could tell by my face. V was gone. You and your friends left. 

I sat on my floor alone crying and in shock. My other friends finally walked into my apartment thinking we were still all partying. I was now just naked on my bedroom floor curled up like a little girl scared and unable to talk. I managed to call my sister, I still don’t know how. B came to me first and she didn’t even have to ask me what was wrong. N called the police and R wrapped me in my robe. The officer that arrived was someone I knew from school. I was so embarrassed and so ashamed. I refused to tell her who did it. She gave me a case number and insisted I go to the hospital for testing and to file. I didn’t want to go. I still didn’t want to move. My friends made me. 

I thought the actual rape was the worst part. It wasn’t. The hospital gave me a handful of pills that immediately made me sick. I had to go into a private room where a social worker asked me questions and tried to take pictures of my body. I couldn’t do it. The whole time she was asking me questions I was staring at the hideous ceiling tiles covered with construction paper butterflies that kids had made. I suppose it was to help children who’d been molested feel like they were in a more happy place, that they were safe. But they weren’t. And neither was I. Nothing felt safe anymore. I walked out and refused to let the social worker perform the stupid rape kit or take her stupid pictures of my naked body. My body that had already been exposed a few hours earlier. My stomach was hurting, my head was pounding. I was dizzy and shaky from the stupid pills I had to eat to kill whatever may have been inside of me from you. 

I sat in the passenger seat while B drove us home that night. R held my hand from the back seat while I tried to cry as quietly as possible. I insisted I stay home alone. I’m a big girl, I can handle it. Besides, the humiliation was unbearable. I wanted to be alone. And for the next two days, I was. I didn’t move from my couch except to throw up or use the bathroom. A good friend of mine had been calling my phone since the day at the bar. He finally showed up at my apartment. When I let him in and went back to my couch without saying a word, he sat me up and made me talk. I said the bare minimum. He wanted to kill you. He told me if I ever told him your name he would make sure you never touch a woman again. 

Don’t worry, I wouldn’t say your name because you’re not worth it. It’s been a little over a year and you’re still not worth it. You will never be worth sh--. After taking a few games off from covering the team, I finally decided you’re not going to stop me from what I love. Covering sports. At first it was hard being back because no one knew. No one but you and I. Honestly, I felt disgusted every time I walked into that stadium. I felt dirty because of what you did to me, what you took from me. I hoped and prayed to God that you didn’t brag to the other guys and make it seem like I wanted you. I work hard for my reputation. I never wanted you. I never even had your f------ phone number. 

You’re probably wondering why I never told the police your name. All of my friends are. I did that for me, not for you. Don’t ever think I didn’t want you locked up or known as a rapist. I didn’t want MY name being out there. I didn’t want to be the helpless victim associated with you. Here comes my shame again. But I’m getting better now. And every time I walk past you or see you in the locker room, I look directly at you. Because I’m not afraid of you. I want you to know that what you’ve done to me, I will never forget. But in reality, you only made me stronger. Yeah, I still have nights where I have trouble sleeping, or moments during my day when I stop and have to refocus because something triggered that night. But I’m learning more about myself than I’ve ever known. Each day I get stronger and more aware of my surroundings. I would thank you, but an f--- you is more appropriate. 

I’m finally sharing this because I can. And I’m proud that over a year later, I can finally admit that this happened to me. I still blame myself but I’ll get over that too. This isn’t my fault. I hope that women who’ve experienced this traumatic hell will be able to realize it too. No matter what, we didn’t deserve this.

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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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