Trigger Warning: Rape
Disclaimer: This post is also being brought over to my current blog from my previous site, so it isn’t as up-to-date as the other issues I will be publishing.
I’m sure that most of you have heard of the Steubenville Rape Case; it’s rather difficult to stay ignorant of and has been plastered all over the news.
A refresher: On the night of August 11th, 2012, a sixteen-year-old girl was raped and sexually violated in Steubenville, Ohio. Many of the transgressions were documented digitally and via social media, all while the girl was incapacitated. Whether she was drunk, given a date-rape drug, or both, is up to debate; what is clear is that she was unable to respond and was so far gone that the only thing she remembers of the night is throwing up in the street. The two main perpetrators were Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, members of the high school football team. They took her to multiple parties, where she was photographed in various states of undress, sexually assaulted, and orally penetrated. Students also penetrated her vaginally with their fingers, an act which is considered rape under Ohio state law.
Pictures were taken with the victim nude and covered in semen, with one student stating that it was his. He later texted a friend, stating that he should have raped her since everyone thought he did, but she wasn’t ‘awake enough.” A 12-minute video was posted to YouTube, in which students talk about the rape, with classmate Michael Nodianos commenting that “they raped her quicker than Mike Tyson raped that one girl.” One student testified that he videotaped while Mays fingered her and exposed her breasts in the back of a car, and another said that he watched Richmond digitally penetrate her in the basement where she woke up. All of this occurred within a period of six hours.
Upon awakening the next morning, she found herself naked in the basement with Mays, Richmond, and another unnamed teenager. In the days following, Mays seemed frantic to cover up what happened. He reportedly begged the victim to not press charges. Words cannot describe my anger at not only the incident, but his request of the victim. Who exactly do you think you are? You sexually assaulted and raped one of your classmates. You carried her from party to party and photographed her naked. You humiliated her, penetrated her, plastered her body all over the internet, and you ask her to not press charges? Are you stupid?
Thankfully, she did. On March 17th, Mays and Richmond were tried as juveniles and convicted of rape. Richmond’s minimum sentence is one year, Mays’ is two years, and they both have the possibility of remaining in juvenile detention until they are twenty-one.
I’m both incredibly angry and flabbergasted. I don’t think it’s excessive to say that these two boys are getting off easy. After everything they put her through and all the things they did, their minimum sentences are one and two years. Consider all the people at the parties that stood around and watched. How is it humanly possible that in the span of six hours, with so much texting, so much Tweeting, and so much uploading, that not one person came forward to help her? I cannot imagine seeing such a thing and standing by while it happened. It’s inhuman.
And let’s not forget the public’s reaction. Some community members scorned her for casting a negative light on the football team and on the town. Others blamed her for the rape. Perhaps the most appalling comment came from CNN’s Poppy Harlow, who said that it was “…incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart…”. Others were also criticized for lending sympathy to Richmond and Mays. Candy Crowley and Paul Callan both expressed concern that they would have to register as sex offenders.
Well…that’s because they are. If you’re wondering why they can’t go on to have these untarnished, wonderful futures, it’s because they raped someone. It doesn’t matter that they are good students or that they were star football players. Is that the standard we are expected to hold? That good grades and participation in athletics give you freedom to do whatever you want?
I am completely disgusted.
Why so much sympathy? I’ll just say right now that while I enjoy certain sports, football is certainly not one of them, and I don’t understand why their participation in an American pastime should give them more weight. I’m also a good student, carrying a high GPA, but my grades shouldn’t dictate my punishment when I do something wrong. Richmond and Mays obviously have defective moral compasses, and I don’t feel bad saying so. Richmond reportedly collapsed into his attorney’s arms when they passed the sentence, crying about how no one was going to want him. Maybe he should have thought about that before fingering her and plastering her naked body all over the internet.
However, it is also important to point out that not everyone was sympathizing. There were many people giving the victim support and shaming the media for its inaccurate portrayal of her suffering and her perpetrators’ transgressions. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is quoted as saying, “Every rape is a tragedy. This is a tragedy…this happens every Friday night. We shouldn’t tolerate it anymore as a country.”
So kudos and applause for DeWine, and for everyone else who can see this for what it really is. As a current sophomore at a public university, I can proudly say that I’ve never heard a single person speak with sympathy on the behalf of the two boys, and my campus consists of over 25,000 students. It has, however, spawned a discussion of rape culture and safety concerns, which need to be openly discussed and acknowledged. I also have so much respect for the victim for standing up and actually pursuing their incarcerations. It takes so much courage, and many rape victims never even report what happens.