I’ve gotten a lot of submissions about different aspects of the gang rape in Steubenville, OH that has become a viral news story. So I thought I would make a master post about what has happened, the rape culture behind it, and how the case has evolved. This is a summary of violent and disgusting behavior, so please be aware before you continue reading.
WHAT HAPPENED: On August 11th, 2012, a party was thrown by Steubenville teenagers, including several members of the beloved high school football team. One of the attendees, a sixteen-year old girl, became heavily intoxicated and passed out. Instead of helping this girl - either by getting her home to a responsible adult, getting her medical attention, or keeping an eye on her vitals - her peers carried her into a bedroom by her hands and feet and raped her. Eventually, it came out that this was not an isolated incident; this girl was talked into going to the parties by a perp’s girlfriend, targeted, drugged, and raped at multiple parties throughout the summer.
The victim was not aware that anything had happened until the day after the August 11th attack, when she saw tweets about and pictures of the incident, and went to her father about it. What happened from there is still being pieced together.
THE COVERUP: It seems that the perps are members of the Big Red High School football team, and high school football is a big deal in Steubenville. At least one of the parties in question is thought to have been held at an assistant coach’s house. Not only is it wholly inappropriate for an adult employed by the school to be hosting students in their house, it is even more inappropriate to allow them to drink underage and assault their peers.
Football is such a huge part of Steubenville that the prosecutor and multiple judges have recused themselves because they personally knew the perpetrators. The case is now being handled by the Ohio state attorney.
After the rape was reported, law enforcement pleas for witnesses to come forward were met with silence. The Tweets, photos, and videos that originally alerted the victim to the events of the previous night were deleted - or so the perps thought.
ANONYMOUS GETS INVOLVED: The Steubenville story was picked up by crime blogger and former Steubenville resident Alex Goddard before it made it to major media outlets. She catalogued the aforementioned Tweets, videos, and photos, which are now being used by police.
Meanwhile, two football players have been charged, while multiple others are suspected and have not been benched. Apparently, the football fans in the town are more invested in the players’ rights than siding with the girl who was drugged and assaulted so horrifically.
The famed hacker group Anonymous did not find this satisfactory. The group hacked into the prosecutor’s office, and published photos, videos, and accounts of the assault that have since been spread across major news networks. It’s unclear how this will impact the trial.
RAPE CULTURE REARS ITS UGLY HEAD: Of course, people are already victim blaming the unconscious minor who was brutally raped by her peers. Just the other day, some douchebag on Twitter described the situation to me as, “rape is bad but that girl showed up for it every week like it was her job in tell her dad found out then there was a problem.” What should be a story about the importance of encouraging teenage witnesses of crime to intervene and come forward, as well as a discussion about the entitlement complexes that led these football players to carefully orchestrate multiple horrific sexual assaults has become for some another excuse to shame a teenager whose greatest crime was giving in to peer pressure and attending parties. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t caved to peer pressure at one time or another, and the punishment for it certainly isn’t rape.
Regardless of what you think of underage drinking or partying, it’s clear that this was a deliberately premeditated crime. It’s also clear that this girl at no time consented, and could not legally consent as she was unconscious. It also bears reminding that the photos and videos taken are child pornography - another felony.
THE LESSON: This is a tragedy that will likely affect this young woman for the rest of her life. Hopefully the perpetrators will all be held accountable for their atrocious actions, and the adults who allowed it to happen will be punished as well. At the very least, they have no business working with children ever again.
But a particularly striking thing about this situation is the fact that the teenagers who witnessed at least some of the events, as well as the videos, photos, and Tweets did nothing. They didn’t tell a teacher, a parent, or a law enforcement officer. They didn’t intervene to try and stop it. They didn’t even say anything to the girl who was assaulted, except apparently through online taunts.
So let this be the message to all teens: if you see something, say something. Drunk, drugged, and/or otherwise incapacitated people CANNOT give consent. Look out for each other, come forward about disturbing things that you see. Err on the side of caution - don’t exacerbate a horrible crime by blaming the victim.
MORE LINKS: For more information, check out these stories about the rape and ongoing investigation:
Local Leaks Tipsters Allege Steubenville Victim Was Drugged
Steubenville High School Students Joke About Rape In Video Leaked By Anonymous
Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City
Rape charges against high school students divide football town of Steubenville, OH