Communications and Public Relations Intern
Last summer on August 12th, a sixteen-year-old girl went to a party in Steubenville, Ohio. Over a six-hour period, two football players from her high school raped her while she was unable to consent due to her over-consumption of alcohol. She woke up the next morning naked, in a basement, with her rapists present, without any memory of what happened the night before. Sadly for her, there was evidence of her rape in the form of pictures and videos taken from cell phones, posted on Facebook and Twitter, and being sent around her town via text messages.
On March 17th Trent Mays, the seventeen-year-old quarter back of the football team, was sentenced to at least two years in the state juvenile system. Ma’lik Richmond, a sixteen-year-old wide receiver, was sentenced to at least one year in the state juvenile system. Both rapists are facing time in the juvenile system until they are twenty-one-years-of age. Two girls, ages fifteen and sixteen, will be brought into court after posting threatening tweets against the Steubenville victim, including threats of homicide and bodily harm. There will also be a number of investigations concerning those who knew about the rape and didn’t report it, including the coach of the football team, and those who passed along the text messages containing evidence of the rape.
Aside from my feelings of sorrow for the rape victim, everything else about this case makes me feel like my head is going to explode with anger. In his apology for his crimes, rapist Trent Mays said, “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone ever taken.” If he actually understood the severity of his crime or felt real guilt for his actions, his statement should have been, “I should have never raped you. I’m so sorry for affecting your life forever. I’m very excited to start my therapy sessions and to learn how to respect women.”
My second source of anger is the media coverage surrounding this case. When CNN reported the verdicts of the two rapists, the coverage was riddled with sorrow over the rapists’ lives being ruined. According to the Huffington Post, “CNN anchor Candy Crowley and reporter Poppy Harlow just couldn’t imagine how ‘incredibly emotional’ and ‘incredibly difficult’ it was to hear the verdicts as these two young men who had ‘such promising futures, star football players, literally watched as their lives fell apart’.” Never once did they mention the effects this crime will have on the victim’s life. Change.org has created a petition to encourage CNN to apologize for their one-sided, wrong-sided reports. Fox News went as far as to “accidentally” release the name of the victim in one of their reports. When Fox news aired Trent Mays’ aforementioned apology, they did not edit out the beginning of his statement in which he mentions the victim by name. Locals were already attacking the victim via social media threats, but Fox News made it easier for hateful people nation-wide to join in on the torture of an already suffering person.
The last thing causing me to shout “WHY” as I raise my fist in rage is the way misogyny is fueling some public opinions on the topic. Boys will be boys, right? Wrong! Boys need to to be respectful of all human life. Everyone who blames the victim in this situation because of her “reputation,” or what she was wearing that night, or because she was a “bad girl” for drinking is wrong, wrong, WRONG! The only part of this story that needs to be addressed is that a girl got raped. For everyone who thinks this was a practical joke that went too far, I ask if they would be laughing if it was them waking up naked in a basement not knowing what happened to them the night before. HAHAHAHA SO FUNNY! But not really at all. Terrifying is probably a better adjective to use in this situation.
The occurrence of these events unveils the serious consequences of the rape culture existing in the United States. The idea that people took photos of a girl dragged around naked instead of helping her is astonishing. The thought that adults knew what happened but decided to protect football careers over justice for a girl’s autonomy is maddening. The fact that the media spun the story into a pity party for rapists instead of showing sympathy for a rape victim is mind-boggling. The only positive thing that has come from this incident is the broad outcry from other rape victims, feminists, and good people in general who are noticing the same things that I have talked about and who are also asking, why? The best way to move forward from these events is to continue to unveil the unjust nature of rape culture and question who supports such diabolical values. Through unveiling the truth behind rape and publicly uncovering the many injustices women face as rape victims, we give rape victims a voice that says, “I mean something, do something about it.”