This Is Not Over

steubenville

Earlier this morning I anxiously awaited the verdict in the Steubenville rape case. I was on edge, and I wasn’t even personally connected to this case beyond being a woman, a mother of a son, and somebody with a ton of heartache and sympathy for the victim. My emotions were a mix of nerves, fear, and anger. I was scared that the verdict would be ‘not guilty’ (and wondered of the potential repercussions) – but I wouldn’t allow my mind to hold on to that thought. How could anyone who heard all of the evidence and testimony come back – in good conscience – with a not guilty verdict? I was also so damn mad each time I read a headline or tweet where a publication had put quotes around the word rape, as if it was quite real or actually happened.

Then, finally – the verdict. Both young men were found guilty, solidifying what many of us already knew. Since this was tried in juvenile court, the sentencing wasn’t as harsh as it could/should have been: Ma’lik Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year in a juvenile rehabilitation facility with the maximum extending until he turns 21 on a juvenile charge of rape; Trent Mays, who was also found delinquent on a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, was sentenced to a minimum of two years and a “consecutive” sentence that could last until he turns 24.

Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richardson

Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond

It’s been reported that the boys – who had yet to show any real remorse – broke down crying upon hearing their sentences. Are we expected to feel sorry for these boys? Where were these tears while they were sexually violating their sixteen year old victim? Sure I feel bad that their futures are pretty screwed up because of this, but that’s on them. You know who else’s future is probably going to be really challenging? Jane Doe’s. She has to not only live with the fact that she was raped, but that evidence of her rape was broadcasted via social media while her town rallied behind her rapists instead of her. So sorry if I’m not feeling overly sentimental for the two young men crying in court earlier today.

There’s also this – after being found guilty, both Richmond and Mays made statements of apology, but you know what they forgot to apologize for? Raping her.

“I would truly like to apologize to [girl’s name], her family, and the community. No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken.”  – Trent Mays

“I would like to apologize to you [girl’s name]. I had no intention to do anything like that.” – Ma’lik Richmond

Excuse me if I can’t muster up an ounce of sympathy for these young men. I know teenagers are impulsive, I know that they can sometimes do stupid things (trust me, my list of teenage stupid would be pretty bad), but let’s not equate rape with “stupid, teenage actions.” Stupid teenage actions involve “borrowing” your parents car to skip school or staying out past your curfew and sneaking back in the house smelling  like cigarettes or pot. Raping an unconscious girl, photographing it, and sharing said photographs is not simply stupid nor can it be excused as regular teenage behavior. I will not devalue either teenagers in general or young men specifically by defaulting in that direction.

These boys SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. There is no excuse for not knowing this. In the months since this case first came to light, there have been many discussions over rape and rape culture. I wrote about teaching my son not to rape, and this is something I continue to stick by. There are many layers to what happened in Steubenville from it occurring in a community that holds up its student athlete population in an unhealthy way, to promoting rape culture and sexist behavior threaded within its infrastructure.

I will repeat and will continue to repeat this until I’m blue in the face: We need to reframe how we talk about rape in this country. We need to end all the victim blaming BS and teach everyone in our society that rape is not okay and DO NOT RAPE.

My son is six years old. He already knows about bodily autonomy. Its starts early. He knows he is in charge of his body and he also knows he is not in charge of anyone else’s body. That means he stops if somebody lets him know he’s playing too hard. It means he asks before he tackles or tickles a friend. It means he feel comfortable enough to tell somebody stop or no and understands the power of those words. These are the building blocks that will then allow me to explain rape to him when he is older. Because I sure as hell just won’t assume that he’ll figure it out.

So while the verdict in this case came back as guilty, and Jane Doe can begin to regain some sense of justice in her life, this is far from over. We have only just begun as far as dismantling rape culture in this country. We have only just begun having the real, painful, but oh-so-necessary conversations we need to have.

Update: I just heard about CNN’s reporting of the verdict and it’s awfully appalling. CNN seems to be reporting the story in a “these poor boys & their now crappy future” frame. No, absolutely no. This wasn’t just something that happened to these boys. The rape is what happened to the victim, Jane Doe. Richmand and Mays aren’t the victims here – they are the perpetrators.

28 thoughts on “This Is Not Over

  1. You’re right that we make a lot of things sound less “bad” than they actually are. Take, for example, “ethical cleansing” vs “genocide”. So true.

  2. Very well put. Your perspective is so similar to that of my husband and I. We had a conversation about how our culture perpetuates the potential for horrible violating acts to occur again and again, and how we need to start TEACHING, not just assuming that young people know right from wrong. My husband and son happened to be sitting on the couch together when a news brief about this came on and he talked to our son (13 years old) about what happened, how wrong it is, etc. We have to speak up to break the cultural cycle…

    • So glad you took that opportunity to talk to your son about this. It’s amazing how many parents let things slide by to the detriment of both their child and society as a whole.

      On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 5:11 PM, The Mamafesto

  3. Great post, thank you! I’m a high school teacher and am trying to figure out how to use my position to fight rape culture. I appreciate what you said about Mays’s and Richmond’s behavior not being typical of all teenagers.

  4. Pingback: This Is Not Over | Surviving High School

  5. Well-stated. I have, against my better judgement, read comments at the end of stories about this case. If many of the men commenting are serious, they better watch out before they “accidentally” rape someone. They act as if they really can’t grasp what is and isn’t rape.

  6. It was ridiculous how they just got a slap on the wrist for rape. I feel absolutely no sympathy for these guys despite articles (such as the yahoo article on this case) that wrote extensively on how much these boys cried when they heard the verdict and how their families cried. What about the young girl who got raped?!

  7. Thanks for this post, Avital. That something like this happened at all is appalling. That behavior like this is condoned and covered up–repeatedly–goes way beyond appalling. It’s despicable, inexcusable and simply must stop. Behaviors and attitudes of children originate at home. We as parents all have the responsibility to ensure our children grow up respecting others and treating others as they themselves would like to be treated. We need for attitudes about rape to be brought into the 21st century. Period.

    • Yes to all of that Ivy! I just updated the post with information on how CNN has chosen to cover this story and it’s super disheartening and pays into what you said about behavior like this being condoned/covered up. While CNN isn’t explicitly condoning the behavior, there is something extremely upsetting about trying to paint these two young men with the victim brush.

      On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 8:47 PM, The Mamafesto

  8. Not only were these boys, boys, they were also football players. The way our culture lifts sports figures — and in particular football players even down to the high school level — is disgusting. Even when they murder their girlfriends, the team pays for the funeral and honors the player with a ceremony on the field. I’m looking at you Kansas City Chiefs. The is bigger than rape. It’s about accepting violence against women as a side effect to entitled boys and me who are athletes and “entertain” us under the Friday or Sunday night lights. This strikes at how culture has defined masculinity.

    • Yes! I’ve seen that video before and it’s a great primer as to all the issues surrounding this case and how to go about starting to dismantle the infrastructure that allows these things to happen.

      On Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 9:04 PM, The Mamafesto

  9. Not to add fuel to your well justified inferno, but have you had the chance to read this?
    http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/03/23/land-mines-in-our-sexual-landscape/#.UVH5oQ2TCBs.facebook

    It is ridiculously unbelievable that anyone, let alone a woman could write these comments about this. If you have time, here are some links to some our blogging network’s outrage in response:
    http://ihaveanopinionidliketoshare.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/an-open-letter-to-perpetrators-of-sexual-violence/
    http://mylifeisthebestlife.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/no-means-no/
    http://shansshenanigans.com/2013/03/27/hey-macleans-i-have-a-request/

    I can’t stop being angry about this. I don’t think I should.

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