I’ve started to post something about the Steubenville rape case several times over the last few days, but I never seem to be able to quite compartmentalize my own disgust long enough to get something coherent in print. So, rather than wait for coherency, I’ve decided to cast any hope for it aside.
My disgust, including but not limited to:
(1) The media coverage.
Of specific disgust was CNN’s treatment of the verdict as some sort of unfortunate hardship for the convicted. While I usually find CNN to be a (moderately) palatable mid-point between the opinionated fringes offered by MSNBC and FOX, this was a reprehensible display. Shame on you, CNN.
And shame on you, too, FOX News, for having the audacity to run the name of the victim. You should know better.
(2) Somehow, we’re “divided” on the issue.
We’re DIVIDED on the issue of the sexual assault of a minor? Why, exactly? Is it because the girl was drunk? Is it because the rapists were allegedly “good students” or — gasp — athletes in a small town where sports rule? Exactly when did we decide that in some cases the rape of a minor is deserved or, at least, understandable? When did we become a community that could look at a situation like this and somehow find ourselves “divided” about it?
You know, I had to stop reading news article comment sections because of the unrelenting victim blaming. If you wonder why more women (and men and children) don’t report sexual assault, it’s because in 2013 we still manage to be “divided” when it comes to how we view the legitimacy of such crimes. (“Legitimate rape,” anyone?)
Let’s be clear, shall we? No person ever asks to be sexually assaulted, no matter what they’re wearing or how much they had to drink. Never. It is never justified.
(3) So, what’s the lesson?
I get it. We’re a society that needs to find a lesson in everything. While I can appreciate the judge suggesting that this case should compel us to talk to our young people about what is and is not appropriate content for texting and social media (it’s true, that’s a conversation worth having), shouldn’t the far greater “teachable moment” be about NOT RAPING OTHERS?
(4) The paltry sentencing.
Really, that’s it? And for the people who bemoan the incredible imposition that being listed on a sex-offender registry might create for the convicted, I have this advice to pass on, swiped from a friend on Facebook, who swiped it from Gawker:
“For readers interested in learning more about how not to be labeled as registered sex offenders, a good first step is not to rape unconscious women, no matter how good your grades are. Regardless of the strength of your GPA (weighted or unweighted), if you commit rape, there is a possibility you may someday be convicted of a sex crime. This is because of your decision to commit a sex crime instead of going for a walk, or reading a book by Cormac McCarthy. Your ability to perform calculus or play football is generally not taken into consideration in a court of law. Should you prefer to be known as “Good student and excellent football player Trent Mays” rather than “Convicted sex offender Trent Mays,” try stressing the studying and tackling and giving the sex crimes a miss altogether.”
(5) She’s still being victimized.
Clearly, it’s not just our young men who are the problem. Even after the conviction, the victim (for the record, she’s no longer an “alleged” victim, despite the way the folks at The Washington Post have labeled her in the above) continues to be harassed and threatened? What is wrong with people? It’s unimaginable enough to note the way this young girl’s friends and classmates abandoned her on the night of the assault, but we’ve raised kids who continue to harass and threaten her long after she was initially victimized? It’s unconscionable. And it’s being done by our children.
(6) Abuse, institutionalized.
It’s difficult to read accounts of the unfolding trial in Steubenville and not think of the situation at Penn State. It’s evidence that it doesn’t have to be a big multi-million dollar collegiate football program to make us turn the other way when it comes to sexual assault. Even a small Ohio town with a beloved high school football program — “Big Red” — can fall prey.
If nothing else, it should make us look at the way we act and interact in any group. What do we let slide, what do we turn away from, what do we pretend not to know…. in our neighborhoods, in our school systems, in our civic organizations, and in our churches? Stand up and be accountable, people.
Stand up for the least of these.