One story that has captivated our staff and nation in recent months is the tale of a sixteen-year-old girl from Steubenville, Ohio who was raped by two high school football players last summer. Yesterday morning, an Ohio court found the two teens charged in the case, Trent Mays (17) and Ma’lik Richmond (16), guilty and sentenced them to at least one year in juvenile jail. They could be held until they are 21 years old. Mays was sentenced to an additional year for a charge related to distributing nude images of a minor. More details on that can be found here.
As you can probably imagine, the reaction to this conviction has been loud and divided, with many turning to their internet to vent. One of those people, punk legend Henry Rollins, posted a lengthy blog yesterday afternoon focusing on the verdict and what the case means on a much larger scale. You can read his words below.
For the last couple of hours, I have been thinking of the verdict that was reached in what is now known as the Steubenville rape case.
Since all involved are minors, I won’t use anyone’s name. Two juvenile males were found delinquent of the charges and will be, as far as I understand, incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility until they are twenty-one years of age.
There is, I guess, cell phone generated video content of parts of the crime. It went “viral” on the internet and brought attention to the events.
I got through a few minutes of it but was too disgusted to watch the rest.
The case, the verdict and the surrounding circumstances open up a huge conversation.
These are a few of the things that I have been thinking about.
After reading several posts online, I was not surprised at the vast range of sentiments expressed. Many of the postings were of outrage that the two found delinquent were not tried as adults so they would face much longer sentences. You might not know, but in some states, this sentence would be decades long. Many of the posts spoke of the damage done to the victim and the life she will have now. One person suggested caning the two young men. Many others were angered at the deification of high school football players and how they often receive special treatment. You can read this stuff all day if you want.
After reading posts for quite awhile, I thought first about the two young men. I wondered if the years in the facility will “help” them. What, exactly does one “learn” in one of these places? That is to say, after five years locked away, does the idea of assaulting a woman seem like the wrong thing to do, more than if you were incarcerated for one year? Would you be “more sorry” about what you did? Is that possible? Or, would you just be more sorry for yourself about where your actions landed you? At what point do you get “better”, how many years in one of these places does that take?
What made these young people think that that what they did was ok? What was in their upbringing, the information and morals instilled in them that allowed them to do what they did, minute after minute, laughing, joking, documenting it and then calling it a night and going home? Out of all the people who were witness to what happened, why wasn’t there someone putting a stop to it?
What I am attempting to get at, and I apologize if I am not being clear enough is that this is a failure on many levels. Parents, teachers, coaches, peers all come into play here. I am not trying to diffuse blame or lessen the awfulness of what happened but I want to address the complexity of the cause in an effort to assess the effect so it can be prevented.
Some might say that the two going to the youth facility are as much victims as the young women who was assaulted. I do not agree. The two are offenders. What they did was obviously wrong. That being said, we cannot end the discussion at that point and expect things to change.
I have yet to say anything about the damage done to the young woman involved. It is ironic and sad that the person who is going to do a life sentence is her.
As a testament to the horrific power of sexual assault, I encourage you to see, yet cannot recommend the documentary The Invisible War about sexual assault in the military. http://invisiblewarmovie.com/. The reason I say that I cannot recommend it is that it is so well done, so clear and devastating that it will put you through quite a wringer. I do hope you see it but damn, it’s hard. In the interviews with women who have been assaulted by fellow members, the damage that has been done to these good people is monumental.
Many people are angry that more time was not given to the offenders. This seems to be the prevailing sentiment. I understand the anger but don’t know if adding a decade onto their sentences would be of any benefit. To me, the problem that needs to be addressed is where in the information chain were the two offenders made to understand that what they did was not wrong on every possible level? You can execute them both tomorrow but still, there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
It’s a situation where you would like to be able to point a finger and say, that’s the reason and be done. You have to be careful when you do this because it’s easy to miss.
I think to a great degree, we humans still divide ourselves into two species, even though we are monotypic. There are males and females. We see them as different and not equal. Things get better when women get more equality. That is a bit obvious but I think it leads to better results up the road. If it’s a man’s world as they say, then men, your world is a poorly run carnage fest.
It is obvious that the two offenders saw the victim as some one that could be treated as a thing. This is not about sex, it is about power and control. I guess that is what I am getting at. Sex was probably not the hardest thing for the two to get, so that wasn’t the objective. When you hear the jokes being made during the crime, it is the purest contempt.
So, how do you fix that? I’m just shooting rubber bands at the night sky but here are a few ideas: Put women’s studies in high school the curriculum from war heroes to politicians, writers, speakers, activists, revolutionaries and let young people understand that women have been kicking ass in high threat conditions for ages and they are worthy of respect.
Total sex ed in school. Learn how it all works. Learn what the definition of statutory rape is and that it is rape, that date rape is rape, that rape is rape.
In the spirit of equal time, sites like Huffington Post should have sections for male anatomy hanging out instead of just the idiotic celebrity “side boob” and “nip slip” camera ops. I have no idea what that would be like to have a camera in my face at every turn, looking for “the” shot. I know what some of you are saying. “Then why do they wear clothes like that unless they want those photos taken?” I don’t know what to tell ya. Perhaps just don’t take the fuckin picture? Evolve? I don’t know.
Education, truth, respect, equality—these are the things that can get you from a to b very efficiently.
It must be an awful time for the parents of all three of these people and their relatives and I hope they all get to a better place soon.
What else? That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading this. Henry