Sunday 13 January 2013

Steubenville Rape Case: It could be your daughter.

Updated: March 18, 2013

Steubenville, Ohio is Anytown, U.S.A. With a population of eighteen thousand plus (2010 census), the city bears no major distinction in the grand scheme of things and I say that with all due respect to the residents. According to Wikipedia, it boasts of what many communities boast of: a university, a community college, and an historic fort. I would add that more than 25 downtown murals have given Steubenville the nickname, the "City of Murals".

So, how does Anytown, U.S.A. suddenly find itself on the map? One would hope for something good: the success of a local athlete or scholar or the decision by a major company to locate there. Instead, this small city on the Ohio River has opened itself one humongous can of worms.

After a summer evening of partying with over 50 people on August 11, 2012, two Steubenville football players stand accused of raping a 16 year old girl who was too drunk to resist including penetrating her with their fingers. While apparently this is not the first time the football team has been accused of sexual assault, social media has dramatically changed the situation by supplying both photographic and video evidence of possible criminal behaviour. The two boys currently under arrest actually posted nude photos of the girl and a video of them talking (or bragging) about it afterwards. An unknown boy is heard talking about one of the accused by saying, "He raped her harder than that cop raped Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction."

Why am I writing?
The New York Times article "Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City" by Juliet Macur and Nate Schweber published on December 16, 2012 thoroughly covers all aspects of the story. It is a must-read.

So what could I possibly add? I first heard about this incident on Facebook where a blogger I know was posting information about the story. Having written about the rape in Delhi, India, I immediately saw a parallel. When I mentioned this to the woman, a mother, she told me something which startled me. While she explained that the Steubenville story was a long way from her and her family (she is not personally connected in any way), she said, "That could be my daughter."

The media is filled with the back and forth debating of whether the boys are guilty or not. No matter what comes out in the up-coming trial, it is evident that something happened, something bad. How many people do you know end up in jail accused of a crime? Where there's smoke, there's fire? Obviously a court of law will (hopefully) determine "the truth" but considering our culture, how much of a chance is there that a cover-up will occur?

The bigger issue is what's going on in our society. This type of situation has cropped up so many times that anybody who stands back and looks at the big picture has to ask themselves whether or not we fully grasp what's going on in society. You go to a party and see a girl who has made the mistake of drinking too much. What do you do? Try to help her out by sobering her up. See if she has a purse and try to find the telephone number of her parents and call them. Pull off her panties and insert your fingers in her vagina.

(Sorry this is graphic) In the Delhi rape, a man penetrated the woman with the steel bar from a car jack. He then removed the bar with such force he pulled out her intestines. When she finally ended up in emergency, the hospital reported she only had 5% of her intestine in her body. (Hindustan Times)

Okay, Steubenville wasn't as brutal as Delhi but the idea that a woman is somehow less than a human being; she is a "thing" deserving no more respect or consideration than what? A plate? A pot? Any one of a number of items? I look at these two incidents and shake my head. The idea of doing such a thing wouldn't occur to me in a million years. No, let's make that never. I mean absolutely never. So I then have to ask myself where did these men get these ideas? What made them think of this? What contributed to their cavalier attitude towards these women? Cavalier? No, it goes beyond that. It's unfettered cruelty. It's a complete detachment from reality. It is a lack of compassion so profound, I would wonder if an argument could be made to compare this to the amorality of a serial killer. Did these men have a "Hannibal Lecter" moment?

I do not believe men are inherently evil. As reported by the University of Southern California, a study of children raised by gay parents showed differences in their behaviour from those raised by heterosexual parents. For example, boys raised by lesbians appear to be less aggressive and more nurturing than boys raised in heterosexual families. While the aggressiveness of males may be attributed in part to the genes of the species, is aggressiveness also a learned behaviour? A study showing that lesbian parents have less aggressive boys would seem to point out that if Junior's a tough guy, he may have gotten that way from imitating dear old Dad.

Does a fish know it's living in a fish bowl?
Do we living in this society fully understand what's going on around us? Do we appreciate how what we're going affects others? Do we have the foggiest idea of how we ourselves, our institutions, our society, and our traditions are moulding children and shaping all of us, our view of the world, and our behaviour towards others?

In my posting "Justice Robert Dewar: rape is inconsiderate" (February 2011), I discuss a Canadian judge who let a man walk away from a rape charge.

Dewar made mention of the women wearing no bras (you don't wear a bra with a tube top), of the women talking about going swimming even though they didn't have bathing suits, of wearing high heels and having "plenty of makeup". Manitoba Queen's Bench Judge Robert Dewar described Rhodes as a “clumsy Don Juan” but said the circumstances were "inviting" and that "Sex was in the air." He concluded by saying, "This is a case of misunderstanding signals and inconsiderate behaviour."

The man isn't guilty of proceeding without consent; the woman is guilty of being "inviting" and confusing him.

The FBI's definition of rape states:

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

The revised definition includes any gender of victim or perpetrator, and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age.

Note the word consent. If the person doesn't say "yes", it's rape. In the Steubenville case, the young woman was drunk to the point of being passed out.

Final Word
Another day, another story in the newspaper. But let's put a twist on this one: What if this was your daughter? Gives the story and the issues it raises a whole new meaning, a whole new sense of urgency.

There are some deep deep issues percolating in the background of our society and every once in a while, something boils over. Yes, we are horrified when these issues hit the headlines but do we truly understand where they came from? Yes, it's ugly. Yes, we hate ugly things. But if we don't deal with our ugliness head-on, these ugly issues will never go away.

Should the girl have drunk too much? Obviously that wasn't a good thing. But everybody makes mistakes and I would hope that we collectively recognise that we all have been pretty lucky in life. We have more than once had the good fortune of receiving the generosity of a compassionate human being.

"Everybody does stupid things; it shouldn't cost them everything they want in life."
-Gregory House, fictional character from TV medical drama

It could be your daughter.

Postscript: March 18, 2013
A judge has found Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond guilty of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl. The two teenage athletes were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison. Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the girl naked. They can be held until they turn 21.
(WKSU: Mar 17/2013)

The Ohio Attorney General said he will convene a grand jury next month to continue investigating the Steubenville rape case, even as two teens were convicted earlier today. Attorney General Mike DeWine said the grand jury would meet April 15 where prosecutors from his office will present evidence to determine if other crimes were committed Aug. 11 and 12 at a series of parties the night of the assault. ... Several party-goers saw what was happening and did little or nothing to stop or report the assault. A rarely used Ohio law makes it a crime not to report a felony, such as a rape.
(Cleveland Plain Dealer: Mar 17/2013)

The crime, which took place after a party last summer, shocked many in Steubenville because of the seeming callousness with which other students took out their cellphones to record the attack and gossiped about it online. In fact, the case came to light via a barrage of morning-after text messages, social media posts and online photos and video.

"Many of the things we learned during this trial that our children were saying and doing were profane, were ugly," Judge Thomas Lipps said.

Mays and Richmond were charged with penetrating the West Virginia girl with their fingers, first in the back seat of a moving car after a mostly underage drinking party on Aug. 11, and then in the basement of a house.

"They treated her like a toy," prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said.
(Huffington: Mar 18/2013)


New York Times - Dec 16/2012
Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City
[This article comprehensively covers everything about the case. It is a must read.]

Prinniefied - Jan 3/2013
Collateral Damage by Alexandra Goddard
[12 minute video of football player talking about the victim]
I think what most find disturbing is the lack of empathy and compassion from so many of those who witnessed the brutality. What kind of person stands by and watches gleefully as another is violated and publicly humiliated?

New York Times - Jan 12/2013
Is Delhi So Different From Steubenville? by Nicholas D. Kristof
Gender violence is one of the world’s most common human rights abuses. Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. The World Health Organization has found that domestic and sexual violence affects 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries.

Wikipedia: Steubenville high school
Steubenville High School is a public high school in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the only public high school in the Steubenville City Schools District. The school is commonly known by the name of its mascot, Big Red. The school has come to international attention for the alleged rape of an underaged girl by members of the Big Red football team and alleged efforts by the team's coach and local officials to shield several of the alleged perpetrators from any consequences.

Wikipedia: Steubenville
Steubenville is a city in and the county seat of Jefferson County, Ohio, United States. Located along the Ohio River, it is a principal city of the Weirton–Steubenville, WV-OH Metropolitan Statistical Area.

my blog: Cruelty knows no bounds
I read the details of the gang rape case in India. Am I horrified? Yes. Am I sickened? Yes. But I am also stunned by the level of cruelty. How could anybody do such a thing to another human being? It defies belief.


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1 comment:

Walker said...

The stories are horrible, no doubt. The comments by the Canadian Judge are inexcusable and indicative of the type of attitude that allows rape to continue to exist. I used to work as the director of a sexual assault program. When I spoke to male groups, of any age, I often mentioned their sister/girlfriend/mother/daughter. This immediately changes their perspective and causes them to pause just a little. The sad part is that we even have to do that? What goes on in the families of young men who rape? I don't think this is a naturally occurring, instinctive behavior. These young men were taught to be aggressive, to disregard females, to feel their superior power as male and to take their rage out on females... All or some of the above. Athletes and frat boys tend to be the most likely to perpetrate rape or sexual assault--there is something in those cultures that breeds this criminal behavior.