CLEVELAND (WJW) — For Deshaun Watson’s accusers, the final punishment for the Browns quarterback’s two-dozen sexual misconduct lawsuits, announced Thursday, is a step toward “validating their experiences,” the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said in a statement.
“While traditional avenues of criminal justice may have failed his accusers, today’s NFL and NFLPA settlement of increased punishment is a step towards validating their experiences. Healing comes to survivors in many forms,” reads the Thursday statement. “Cleveland Rape Crisis Center believes and supports survivors. Continued headlines are triggering for many. Our staff is available 24/7/365 online or by calling/texting (216) 619-6192.”
Watson has been accused of exposing himself to massage therapists, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will during his appointments, the FOX 8 I-Team reported. Watson’s lawyers acknowledged “some sexual activity” at those sessions, but said Watson did not coerce anyone, AP reported.
Houston police and the FBI reviewed the allegations, according to AP.
Two grand juries in Texas have declined to indict Watson on criminal charges stemming from those 24 lawsuits, all but one of which has since been settled. They did not talk to Watson’s accusers, the I-Team reported.
A settlement between the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association announced Thursday called for Watson to sit out of 11 games, starting Aug. 30.
Though Watson in a Thursday statement said he accepted accountability, he maintained his innocence when speaking to reporters.
“I’ve always stood on my innocence. And I’ve always said I never assaulted anyone, and I’m continuing to stand on that,” he said.
“I know who I am as a person,” Watson said.
Watson’s punishment includes a $5 million fine. It will be part of a $7 million fund to support nonprofits that “educate young people on healthy relationships, promote education and prevention of sexual misconduct and assault, support survivors and related causes,” the NFL announced Thursday.
The NFL and Browns will each contribute $1 million to that fund.