I had started this posting as something much different than what it has become. Since the verdict in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case was handed down yesterday I feel that this is something that must be addressed now, rather than later.
For those of you who don’t know about this case, two high school football players, one 16 and one 17, were found guilty of the rape of a 16 year old girl. She was unconscious and unable to consent. The town of Steubenville, Ohio is the typical American small town, with its pride determined by the victories of the high school football team. With this pride came a town, complete with parents, who turned a blind eye to the hard partying, drinking and wild lifestyles of the football players. Bartenders would serve these under age kids and liquor stores would sell to them. There were no consequences for the behavior of these players because they were the pride of the school and the focal point of a town that had been hit hard by the economic down turn. They gave the town something to cheer for, something to be happy about.
The two teenagers who committed this vile crime did not act alone. There were many others who used their cell phones to record, take pictures, sent text messages and posted on social media sites about the attack. This was, quite possibly, the best documented of a rape in history. Everything that happened, including those who stood by cheering these two young “men” on and those who stood by doing nothing to stop it, was all caught on tape.
When I first heard about this case, I thought that they would be tried as adults. After all, they are not children and they knew right from wrong. No such luck. They were tried as juveniles. This meant no jury trial. A judge hears the case and he alone decides the verdict and sentence. With a few of the “witnesses” being granted immunity for testifying for the prosecution, and the whole attack being documented on Facebook, YouTube and text messages, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were found guilty. They were sentenced to at least one year in juvenile detention, but could remain there until they are 21 years old. The only piece of their sentence that is still left up in the air is how long they will remain on the sex offender registry – ten years or a lifetime. While I am thrilled that they were found guilty, I regret that they, for all intents and purposes, got off light. If they were charged and convicted as adults they could have served ten years in prison, if not more. After they were sentenced, both Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond made statements. Proving at least to this writer that he still didn’t believe that he did anything wrong, Mr. Mays only apologized for the photos saying, “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone ever taken,” he said. In his statement, Mr. Richmond showed some remorse saying, “I had not intended to do anything like this. I’m sorry to put you through this.” These teenagers were arrogant enough to believe that they were untouchable because they were football players. Why shouldn’t they believe that? They were surrounded by a community of people who were so permissive that this arrogance and sense of entitlement was reinforced each day. Even as the details of the rape came out, there were some in the town who stated that these boys are the “pride of Steubenville.”
The coverage of the verdict was just as despicable as the crime itself. CNN Reporter, Poppy Harlow, reported the story by sympathizing not with the victim and her family, but with the rapists, saying "family members (of the rapists) tried their hardest to plead for some forgiveness from the victim's family, as well as from the judge." She went on to say, "These two young men -- who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students -- literally watched as they believed their life fell apart." CNN tried to depict these now convicted rapists as the victims in this case, stopping just short of outright blaming the true victim, Jane Doe.
Was there excessive alcohol at the party? Yes. Was Jane Doe drunk? Yes. Was she unconscious because she was drinking? Yes. Does anything other than Jane Doe being unconscious and unable to consent matter? Absolutely not! She could not and did not give consent, plain and simple. Last time I checked, being unconscious, no matter the cause, is not an invitation for sex. In my mind, what the cowards who laughed and joked, doing nothing to stop what was happening to her, did makes them just as guilty as the rapists themselves. They could have, and should have, protected Jane Doe. They should have made sure she was safe instead of adding fuel to the fire with their comments, actions, and inactions.
No matter what occurred prior to the rape, no matter how drunk she was, Jane Doe did not ask for, nor deserve what happened to her. She is the victim in this case. She is the one whose life is forever changed. She is the one whose life is being threatened via social media by classmates and strangers alike. She is the one who gets a life sentence. These young “men” got off easy. They were raised in a town awash in an arrogance that made this behavior, this crime, permissible. They lived in a community that would turn a blind eye to and cover up any wrong doing by the members of their precious football team. As a result these “men” grew up to believe they can simply take whoever and whatever they want because there will be no real consequences to their actions. Had the presiding judge been from Steubenville and not from outside the area, as Judge Lipps was, I fear that this trial would have had a different outcome.
I stand with and support Jane Doe. Will you?