Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Steubenville case highlights U.S. rape culture

By Hannah Sparks

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In a short but comprehensive article on, “America’s Rape Problem: We Refuse to Admit That There Is One,” feminist author Jessica Valenti explains the hypocrisy of American attitudes towards sexual violence.

We are quick to lament how poorly women are treated in other countries but reluctant to admit that violence and misogyny runs rampant in the United States as well. American feminists are written off, told that their time is better spent elsewhere, improving the lives of women around the world who have it “worse.”

Women’s rights groups have worked very visibly over the years to fight against rape and cultural attitudes surrounding it, but the message still doesn’t seem to be sinking in. One glaring and ongoing example of this is the rape case investigation in Steubenville, Ohio. A Dec. 16 New York Times article titled “Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City,” gives an account of the case and is the source of many of the facts used in this column.

According to the Times, the 16-year-old victim, who was attending an end-of-the-summer party in August, was transported, semi-conscious, from party to party by two Steubenville High School football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond. Mays and Richmond, among others, allegedly treated her “like a toy” throughout the night, exposing themselves to her, taking off her clothes and penetrating her with fingers, according to a Slate article.

Partygoers reportedly tweeted about the men’s actions throughout the night, while referring to multiple rapes, which suggests that the victim may have been assaulted in other ways. Others were said to have filmed and photographed themselves abusing the woman. Footage also revealed that her assailants joked about their actions afterwards. Horrifyingly enough, the victim only realized what had happened via social media the next day, according to the Times. Mays and Richmond are now being charged with rape, and others may be charged as the investigation continues.

Some members of the community have rallied behind the accused, leading to suspicion of a cover-up, with everyone from the football coaches to town leadership to the police seemingly complicit in shielding the accused.

The victim and her family have even been threatened by residents who claim she is trying to tarnish the reputation of the football team, which is seen as the core of the town’s identity. Supporters of the accused have attempted to assassinate the victim’s character and used her sexual history to claim she invited the assaults. A similar argument has been used by defense lawyers, who also say it is unclear whether or not the victim consented, even though pictures show her to be unresponsive and unable to give consent.

Those who support the victim have blamed the prioritization of the football team over a fair investigation on Steubenville’s tradition of hero-worship for its athletes, as well as a long-standing history of political and police corruption. One of the strongest advocates for the victim is the controversial social-justice vigilante hacker group Anonymous, which has released information that’s inspired national interest and outrage.

Accusations of a cover-up, Anonymous’ involvement and the question as to who exactly can be trusted in this investigation all emphasize that the details of the case are complicated and unclear. However, the photographs tweeted that night and footage of the accused joking about the victim exist, and these media pieces are are also pieces of evidence that certainly make a powerful enough statement that rape culture is alive and well among these Steubenville students.

Meanwhile, these pieces of evidence on top of the reaction of the community and lines of argument from the case’s defense lawyers show that people in the United States are no where near as outraged about rape as they should be.

The accused took a nearly unconscious girl, carried her from place to place assaulting her along the way, and then they had the callousness to not only publicize it, but also to make light of it over social networks. The sense of inviolability that the accused have displayed in regards to highly immoral and illegal acts shows that these boys are reprehensible, predatory human beings.

As I read more about the Steubenville case, I notice that it is often discussed alongside the rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old student in Delhi, India. That attack involved six men and took place on a moving bus on Dec. 16 – the same day the Times published its article on Steubenville. In response to the rape in Delhi, thousands of protesters, male and female, took to the streets in India in an attempt to combat sexist culture and government apathy about sexual violence in Indian society.

Why aren’t Americans having the same kind of reaction to the terrible sexual violence happening right on our very doorstep – or at least acknowledging it? Sexism and apathy are as endemic in America as they are anywhere else. Just this month, Congress failed to renew the Violence Against Women Act and also stalled on the International Violence

Against Women Act. It is chilling, to say the least.

Americans lamenting rape and rape culture abroad need to stop ignoring that it exists here.

It’s seen clearly in the attitudes of those who would rather sacrifice supporting a young survivor of rape than tarnish the reputation of a high school football team. If we refuse to even acknowledge the fact that sexism and sexual violence are as prevalent in the United States, then how are we to continue marketing ourselves as a paragon of freedom and equality? Sounds like hypocrisy to me.



9 Responses to “Steubenville case highlights U.S. rape culture”

  1. Rob on January 22nd, 2013 7:08 pm

    This is a horrific story and the perpetrators should be executed. But to imply that we’re on par with other parts of the world with respect to womens rights, especially (but not specifically mentioned) muslim countries is outrageous.

  2. Dr. Ed Cutting on January 23rd, 2013 5:55 pm

    (A) [The fact that there are] “…those who would rather sacrifice supporting a young survivor of rape than tarnish the reputation of a high school football team.”
    (B)[Is proof that]”… sexism and sexual violence are as prevalent in the United States….”
    Can we say “the Logical Fallacy of “False Cause”?
    How on earth does any rational person reach such a conclusion?0
    Two men come to mind — Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy — neither treated women nicely, and thinking just of Teddy K (and ignoring the “blond in the pond”), Hannah think of this: You are working as a waitress, as many young ladies do, and a 200+ lb Ted Kennedy physically grabs you, tosses you on top of Chris Dodds, and then jumps on top of you. As you scream and struggle to get loose, Kennedy proceeds to repeatedly push against you so as to drive you further up against his friend, the then-US Senator from Connecticut. That happened in a DC restaurant called La Brasserie and is well documented — as is his practice of just tossing the waitress on top of his table and jumping on top of her, which happened with some degree of frequency back in the 1980’s.
    So anyone who voted for these schmucks supported sexual assault & rape?
    Women overwhelmingly voted for both Clinton and Kennedy — not because they supported rape and sexual assault, but because these men could advance a political agenda they supported and hence they were willing to ignore (and COVER UP) things they considered reprehensible.
    The same thing happens with winning sports teams, and not just in some hick rust-belt town but on your own UMass Campus. At various times, the Football and Basketball players (whom I openly referred to as “Coach Cal’s Criminals) have done things somewhat less than appropriate to women — using his girlfriend’s shoulder to break a dormitory wall comes to mind — and it was largely covered up. The recently honored Marcus Camby — amongst other tings, he was bringing prostitutes into his dorm — that made the Collegian, look it up…
    Hannah, if you haven’t seen the logical fallacy yet, you never will but here is a priceless example I found on the web — do you honestly believe that what is now Coors Lite is the reason why he couldn’t finish his novel?
    “We hear that a writer has just filed a two million dollar lawsuit against the Coors beer company for pickling his brain. It seems that he had been consuming large quantities of Coors’ 3.2 beer, containing only 3.2 percent alcohol and so supposedly non-intoxicating, at his local tavern. But, the suit contends, the stuff was insidiously marinating his mind; and as a result he has been unable to finish writing his second novel. The author may have a point. But we have to wonder whether the damage was caused by the beer, or by the current fad of product liability suits.” Wall Street Journal (02.14.79).

  3. N. on January 24th, 2013 10:53 pm

    Hey “Dr.” (I would think a real doctor would have more to do than make zillions of comments on a college newspaper website). I don’t think she said that A directly implies B, as you seem to be insinuating. Where is the ‘false cause’ here? Also, I think suggesting to the author that she imagine being sexually assaulted is manipulative, in poor taste and basically incredibly inappropriate.
    Also I really don’t think it is fair to talk about prostitution as if it’s the same thing as rape, because it isn’t. It does seem to get at something about a deeper dysfunction in how men and women (and people in general) interact with each other.
    Along those lines I do see some problems with the ‘argument’ in the piece – first of all what exactly is a ‘culture’? How is it created and sustained? is it something that is only notable when incidents of sexual transgression are actually happening nearby? For all the significance of the titular ‘rape culture’ which is a popular phrase in feminist circles these days, I don’t think it’s really explained what is meant by that or how it relates to the issues about American feminists and the foreign policy raised at the beginning.

  4. Dr. Ed Cutting on January 27th, 2013 12:51 am


    20 years ago, I had a valid CPR certification and whenever I saw a woman (or man) with a disabled vehicle on the side of the highway, I would stop and offer assistance.
    Now I refuse to get my CPR renewed (and it isn’t because it didn’t work the times I tried to use it, trust me, that I accepted as a given and could deal with) and I absolutely don’t stop for women with broken down cars. I will stop for men sometimes, but *never* for a woman. Not in this political climate.
    Do the math you feminist schmuck and ask yourself if this is the society you really want to live in? No, you have too much of the “world revolves around me” to even understand what I have just said so let me be more explicit: THE DECENT GUYS WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU, AND ARE AVOIDING YOU LIKE THE PLAGUE, WHICH MEANS THE ONLY GUYS YOU ARE ENCOUNTERING ARE THE A******S.
    Does that make it through your “world revolves around me” cocoon? And by the way, it *is* socially acceptable to wear underwear under that micro-mini skirt. It really is — and it also something that the “decent” guys aren’t impressed with you not wearing — not that you really are interested in the “decent” guys anyway, I suspect….

    But if watching people die in front of me is *not* why I didn’t renew my CPR — and I have, and didn’t/won’t — then maybe you might want to think what might possibly be exponentially more traumatic than having to go tell family members that someone they cared about is dead. If you can get off your “world revolves around me” pedestal, which I doubt….

  5. Beauteous on January 29th, 2013 4:24 pm

    Somewhere in the middle of all the anger above might lie reality. In my opinion has always been, Bill Clinton was stalked by a (to put it bluntly) seasoned young hooker) and yes him being a virile man succummed; she was groomed by her mother and aunt alledgedly as written in the paper. If this girl had as many sticking out of her as she had stuck in her she would look like a porcupine when she was 18, tell the truth. She was predatory, on the prowl for any moving object- she was no victim- Clinton was.. I can’t believe people can’t see the deal there. Ted Kennedy was a different story; he saw his privilege as his executive birthright–two entirely different stories entirely. This young woman in Ohio is being railroaded by the system, and she was roofied and unconscious. The FBI needs to be a party of this court event, as this girl needs protection from the town of Steubenville and its legalesse that runs it including the prosecutor, sheriff, coach, all the way down the line according to the way the evidence seems to go. She needs to file a civil suit against the city, school, county, and state when this is over just like the victims of Penn State. She needs a real lawyer, not a Micky Mouse lawyer who talks out the side of his mouth. She alone cannot take on this drudge. She did not consent, an unconscious person cannot give their consent when they have been given roofies and this was a premeditated assault before they even got her in that car by a spurned exboyfriend. One of her “girlfriends” set her up and got her to go to the “party”, she did not even know what she was walking into, and she was “roofied” before she got there. Don’t assasinate her beforehand. Her “girlfriend” should be charged with accessory by the FBI, if there is justice for this young lady.
    The Dr. above needs to cool his heels, there are all kinds of extraneous circumstances in this world sadly; this poor girl is one of them. God pity on her and protect her from these vultures.

  6. Copper on February 1st, 2013 7:58 pm

    Dr., I’m not sure that refusing to offer help to a woman reflects poorly on anyone but you.

  7. N. on February 3rd, 2013 8:54 pm

    Um yeah btw i’m not a woman or a feminist.

  8. Dr Watson on February 15th, 2013 8:18 pm

    The rape culture of the US?
    If you are a man and against rape, you are still “internalized” for rape, and bad no matter what.

    If you’re a woman you can do no wrong. Men don’t get raped, silly y chromosone.

  9. Matt on April 21st, 2013 3:21 pm

    What happened to that poor girl is awful there is no doubt. Some of these comments make me disgusted to be a human being though.

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