Saturday, March 23, 2013

on steubenville

Just like many American's, I've paid attention to the news out of Steubenville, OH with both disgust and sympathy.  To summarize, an intoxicated 16-year old girl (“Jane Doe”) was raped by two teenage high-school football players. Further victimizing Jane Doe, video and photographs were taken which showed both the rape, and party attendees witnessing the rape.  The video and photos were widely distributed.

The case has brought national outrage, with many (most?) people crying foul and horror and having a hard time imagining the kind of person that would do this.

But a certain segment of the population feels a thinly veiled sympathy toward the convicted rapists. CNN is in major hot water over their coverage of the case.  One CNN reporter, Poppy Harlow, said: "These two young men who had such promising futures -- star football players, very good students -- literally watched as they believed their life fell apart."  Candy Crowley, another CNN reporter, said: "What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?"

I'm not sure we should be concerned about the "lasting effect" on the rapists.  They did this!  What about the "lasting effect" on the 16-year old victim, who suffered unbelievable crimes by both her rapists and the people around her who didn't step in?  If we're going to talk about lasting effect or lives falling apart, why is CNN not focusing on the victim?

In addition to our national media, Jane Doe is being victim shamed by clueless faceless commenters, saying that she's "crying rape" now that everyone knows, that she wanted it, that she deserved it.

I suspect some of it could be because of the (so-called) mitigating circumstances surrounding the incident.  Jane Doe was drinking - a lot - underage.  She lied to her parents, and went to an underage drinking party with the intent of drinking.  People say that she wanted to hang out with the popular "Big Red" football players, and that she was clinging on to their elusive attention.

Jane Doe was not asking for it.

Drunk girls aren't asking for it.

Scantily clad girls aren't asking for it.

Girls walking down a dark alley in the middle of the night in the sketchiest part of town aren't asking for it.

Do you get the theme?  Under no circumstance is a woman "asking for it" - unless her mouth is moving and the words coming out are her literally asking for it.

A rapist is not a victim.  I don’t care how good of a student he was, or how much is life is “ruined” by the sentence he gets for committing the crime.

A rape victim is a victim.  No matter the extenuating circumstances, no matter the mitigating details.

I also feel some animosity towards the students who witnessed any parts of the evening.  I will go on record saying that if I saw a girl in that circumstance, I would step in, no matter if it was uncomfortable or I felt like I was being "uncool".  It's harder in high school, I'm sure, when you're doing anything possible to not stand out.  But a brave and helpful friend, a strategic call to the girl's parents - or hell, to the boys parents - could have ended this.  It could have cut down on the media attention and the distribution of the videos and even the rape.

Jane Doe is a victim, and while her first victimizers were the teenagers that raped her, she was further victimized by the people that stood by and did nothing, by the media who attempted to shame her, and the commentators who simply don't have a damn clue.

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