Earlier this week, the verdict in the Steubenville, OH rape trial was handed down and the two teenaged, football playing boys accused of the crime were found guilty. Surprisingly, many media outlets focused not on justice or on the victim, or on how we can raise young people to respect one another. Instead they focused on the way the verdict will haunt the boys for the rest of their lives.
I’m a pretty sympathetic person. I don’t like to see anyone hurt. But the fact remains, they committed a crime and they have been judged and sentenced in a fair trial. They are not the victims here. The 16 year-old girl who they raped at a party while she was in no state to give consent and while her peers looked on and did nothing is the victim.
I live in a college town where there was a rape flyer scandal (with tips on how to get away with rape) just last semester. I’m also pretty dedicated to working toward a better, safer world for the girls and women around me. I’m sick to death of this crap. Most rapes in this country go unreported. There’s little doubt that we live in a culture that shames the victims and puts them in a position where they have to weigh seeking justice and help against backlash–especially since most rapes are also committed by someone the victim knows.
I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said already, and better, so I’m rounding up here a few of the reactions I found most compelling.
My favorite is a post from Feministing, “Steubenville teens are found guilty but rape culture remains alive and well.” In the entry, Maya writes about all the ways this case highlights what’s so messed up with our culture on this issue. Excuse the massive quoting. “I don’t want to live in a world in which dozens of kids see a girl who was so drunk she was passing out and don’t take her home. I don’t want to live in a world in which kids see a girl who was so drunk she was puking and joke about urinating on her. I want to live in a world in which people can get too drunk–while out with friends or acquaintances or total strangers–and expect that they will be hungover, not sexually violated, in the morning. I want to live in a world in which girls have the right to be reckless and not get raped, and I want this to not be a controversial statement.
I don’t want to live in a world in which many people seem to truly believe that women must be constantly “aware of their surroundings” and vigilantly guarded against being taken advantage of, or else they bear some “some accountability for the incident.” I don’t want to live in a world in which anyone believes that Mays and Richmond “did what most people in their situation would have done.” I don’t want to live in a world that assumes guys are naturally sexual aggressors who will opportunistically take advantage of an incapacitated girl, or forever push, push, push at the boundaries of consent until they hear a clear and forceful “no.” I want to live in a world that gives boys more credit than that.”
The Daily Caller detailed criticism of CNN‘s coverage of the case, in which reporters repeatedly prompted guests to express sympathy for the rapists. For example, “Harlow brought attention to Mays and Richmond’s apologetic statements, and even highlighted a personal moment between Richmond and his father, who said ‘I love you’ to him for the first time, according to Harlow.” There’s no doubt that much of the problem comes from how our culture raises boys. Our ideals for masculinity are just as suspect as the standards girls are held to, though in different ways and to different extents. BUT, I think 16 and 17 year olds know what rape is. Jezebel also lambasts the network coverage.
Jezebel’s “The Egregious, Awful and Downright Wrong Reactions to the Steubenville Rape Trial Verdict” details the incredibly skewed coverage of the case in the media, covering the way blame was placed on social media, alcohol, etc. and the way sports stardom is used as a motive to cover up for rapists, rather than protect young women’s rights to basic safety.