While they were found guilty of rape the media treated the case as through they were the victims not the girl who was forced to confront her experience in public after photos and a video of her on the night in question were circulated on social media.
Two girls made online threats to the victim via Twitter, menacing her with homicide and bodily harm for coming forward and launching the trial that led to the guilty verdicts for Ma’lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17. The girls were arrested and taken to juvenile detention.
Both Mays and Richmond face at least one year in juvenile detention, with Mays potentially serving an extra year for taking and distributing images of the girl while she was naked. They can be held until they turn 21.
With so much attention focused on the lasting legacy the convictions will have on the boys and their now ruined lives, there seemingly hasn’t been as much concern for the victim.
No one asks to be raped and though it was highlighted again and again in the trial that the victim was drunk this is not an excuse for her to be violated.
If she was too drunk to say no than she was certainly too drunk to say yes.
Rape victims often feel shame and guilt over the experience and blame themselves for what happened.
Evidence of the night’s events were widely distributed, including a 12-minute video that mocked her inebriated and unconscious state.
It was her mother who, along with other relatives, took her to the police with a flash drive containing the images and social-media evidence they hoped would be enough to find and charge the perpetrators.
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.
After the arrests, the case was furiously debated on blogs and social media, with some people warning of conspiracies and conflicts of interest.
The team coach has been accused of failing to report the incident and there are talks of a cover-up by the school but throughout this case there has been an over-whelming sympathy for the perpetrators.
The victim has been threatened, accused of lying and been blamed for the rape herself.
There is no reasoning behind a rape. It doesn’t matter what someone wears, the way they act or how drunk they.
This crime is often ignored but this has to change.
Victims deserve justice for the traumatising ordeal that they have endured and the perpetrators deserve to be caught and tried, not only for justice but to prevent future attacks.
No means no.
(Text originally published in An Focal 23 April 2013)