Two members of the high school football team that is the pride and joy of Steubenville, Ohio were found guilty Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl in a case that bitterly divided the Rust Belt city and led to accusations of a cover-up to protect the community’s athletes.
God and misogyny forbid that a 16 year old girl who was raped stand in the way of a long established and beloved football tradition in a town filled with righteous townsfolk and faithful church goers.
As it is the case with rape trials, rape apologia and victim blaming followed the case almost immediately because this is how the rape culture we have created operates: go after the victim, question her and her integrity and make it look like she was responsible for her assault in one way or another. Or go after her parents, friends, teachers and everyone for the rape. All but the actual rapists.
The two juveniles, who I am sure will grow up to be formidable misogynists and rapists, got off the hook easy with the verdict, as both Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were tried as juveniles, receiving merely delinquent verdicts on all three charges. Delinquent is the guilty equivalent for juveniles. They were both convicted of digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, and Mays was also found guilty of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
If they had engaged in copyright violation no doubt they would have been tried as adults.
The “boys” will serve their sentence at a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21, which effectively means they’ll probably be out in six months and welcomed back to the warm bosom of the Steubenville community that will treat them like long, lost sons that were unlawfully sent to the front but are finally returning to their rightful place on top of the football team throne, while their nameless victim will be traumatized and has to go into hiding for ever having dared to accuse her tormentors.
A guilty verdict in a juvenile case also means little given because their records will be sealed after they serve their sentence. Erased. Invisible to the outside world. If they move in your neighborhood or seek employment in your company or non profit, no one will know what they did. In other words, there will be no real consequences for them as a sealed document for a juvenile case may as well not exist.
And that is the problem isn’t it? As long as we allow such actions to remain without consequences, we will only add to the problem and encourage it or at the least send the message that there is little consequence to committing such a huge crime.
As it is to be expected, after the verdict was announced, message boards and commenting sections of news articles and blogs were inundated with comments by people, some of whom think they are acting in good-will, lecturing the girl on how she needs to be more careful in the future and that hopefully she learned her lesson to “not get drunk” again so as to avoid getting raped, as clearly, she not only invited the rape but she is also the one person who needs to learn a lesson from this, namely to not get drunk or engage in other behavior that might prompt otherwise stand up young men like these to rape and assault her.
Some even wondered why parental supervision was missing.
Very few comments, if any at all, were criticizing the rape culture we live in and the values we raise young boys with. No one commented on the culture problem with young men or with bystanders not stepping in. No one commented on the fact that we need greater socialization of young men to appropriate masculinity so that honorable behavior and mutual respect are encouraged.
Instead everyone engaged in a cover up and burst into tears when the two men got what they deserved.
When these boys see that an entire community charges to their rescue, tries to cover up their crime and then bursts out in a hail fire of tears and sobs after they get their well deserved guilty verdict, how will they ever internalize the truly horrendous act they committed?
If I was one of the boys sitting on that chair, watching everyone cry for me and defend me after I did such a horrible thing to someone else, I would not think what I did was all that bad. I would just be bitter at the justice system that has come after me in the first place and failed me.
Note how the socialization works even at this stage: these boys are being treated as unfairly judged, misunderstood. Not as truly guilty. Sure the law says so, but just look at the support they are getting from their community.
I must say I was and remain very appalled and disturbed by all the rape apologia comments.
Instead of Asking “How can we create a culture in which men stop abusing and raping women?”,We Are Striving to Create a Culture in Which We Teach Women How to Not Get Abused and Raped
As if it was on them to not be violated, as opposed to those committing the crimes.
Telling a woman that if she had not been drinking, she wouldn’t have been raped – no matter how well meant (it is not) – shifts the blame to the woman “see, this wouldn’t have happened if only you had behaved.” Such attitudes and notions are destructive and callous and once again shift the burden onto the victim instead of to the perpetrator. As if some men just couldn’t help but raping and abusing (and thus as if it was somehow their natural birth right or something the world and their victims had to just deal with, like thunderstorms and earthquakes), so it was up to women to make sure a man doesn’t t get to engage in both or either behavior.
Let’s be clear on this, rape apologists and victim blamers:
1) Who brought alcohol to the event is irrelevant as that doesn’t make it ok or understandable to rape someone.
2) Lack of parental supervision doesn’t make it ok or understandable to rape someone.
3) The victim having been inebriated, dressing a certain way, behaving a certain way and talking a certain way is neither an invitation to rape nor does it make rape understandable and/or acceptable.
4) That these were 16 year olds as opposed to 26 year olds, doesn’t make the crime less heinous and it doesn’t mean their punishment is to just sit one out as opposed to seriously pay for their cruelty – which means being tried as adults as well as receiving counseling and an education vis a vis their actions.
Nothing makes rape ok, understandable, acceptable or invitational. “Oh sorry ma’am, I saw you dressed in this sexy outfit so naturally I thought you enjoy a little raping, no?”
There is nothing this girl – or any rape and sexual violence victim – did to cause, justify, excuse or make more understable the assault on her person. Period. It is not even a matter of opinion.
We do not accuse murder victims of having brought it on themselves, asserting that they, after all, behaved in a way that invited murder and then dismiss the case. Why is doing the same with rape ok? Again, I point to our rape culture where sexual assaults are far more forgivable offenses than other acts.
See Mike Tyson and his revival onto the grand hall of fame of legends for something or other ( I mean what is Tyson good for anyway?) and promising return despite being a convicted rapist. Cast members of The Hangover 2 – most notably Zach Galifianakis – wanted Gibson’s Hangover 2 cameo cancelled, but did not ask the same when Mike Tyson got to have a super duper cameo in the first Hangover. On the contrary, he ended up being portrayed as the sensitive, cool dude everyone was honored to meet. I mean MIKE TYSON. Yeah!!
This is the rape culture I am talking about.
Mel Gibson bad (for hating blacks) Mike Tyson redeemable (after raping and assaulting women).
I wish instead of trying to engage in the same old victim blaming and gas lighting rhetoric, people would just admit that what these two did was hideous and wrong instead of sitting here trying to assign blame to everyone but the rapists.