In the past week, there have been outcries over the media’s coverage of the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial.
Several have expressed justifiable outrage over the decision by some mainstream media outlets decision to name the victim.
However, a story which has gotten less attention is that two teenagers aged 15 and 16 were arrested and charged the day after the attack, for alledegedly threatening the victim the day after the verdict was read. What is even more disturbing is that the teens are girls.
Many are asking how these girls could have done this? After all, isn’t rape one of those things that all people—but especially girls and women—are unequivocally against?
While Amanda Marcotte suggests that “Women, like men, don’t want to believe that they actually know rapists.” I think there is more to it than that.
First, these girls are hardly women—they are kids. Second, I believe that the real reason may have more to do with their age and many of the myths surrounding rape and rape victims.
While many girls of today reject the idea that a woman is asking for it if she dresses in revealing clothing, there is still an idea of who and what constitutes a “true victim” and a “true crime.” If you ask if a victim was was asking to be raped if alcohol was involved, then the results are different.
Thinking back to my own teenaged years, I remember believing at 15 or 16 years old that I would be safe from being raped if I was “smart.” By smart, I meant not putting myself in situations where bad things could happen.
Looking back, this thinking was not only incredibly naive, but also amazing offensive to boot. However, in my defense, I was a kid; I thought that nothing bad could ever happen to me unless I let it happen.
I also thought that this was true with other people.
I remember that I was not alone in this, nor was this thinking only restricted to high schoolers. My sophmore year in college, a couple of girls on my hall said they had “no sympathy” for the silly girls who put themselves in bad situations and got raped.
In addition to this kind of thinking, there is the way that rape victims are typically portrayed in the media. Even Law & Order: SVU—a show that I love and regualarly watch—rarely portrays a rape victim who is not somewhat likeable and relatable. The idea that so called “mean” or unlikeable people can also be crime victims is unthinkable to many people.
I also marvel at the number of times I have heard in real life (or in movies), times when a rapist is convicted and sentenced to jail—and people gleefully hope that the rapist gets raped in prison by other inmates.
While I certainly believe in karma, I do not think that taking delight or wishing anyone—even a rapist—to be raped, is a good thing. If anything, violence only seems to beget more violence and rape, despite what many think, rape is actually a crime about violence and power rather than sex.
In the case of the Steubenville victim—and all rape victims—her background is irrelevant when it comes to the crime that was committed on her.
However, based on the reaction of many in the town, it seems that it’s been decided that she is somehow “unworthy” to be a true victim.
Again, whether this is based on any reality or is just 100% conjecture is besides the point, but the fact is the victim was raped—and has the unenviable task of trying to put her life back together.
While the threats against her are disgusting and deserve to be called out as such, merely beating our chests and condemning those that are attacking her will not help us prevent rapes or attacks on victims by other girls/women from happening.
Only by trying to understand where this type of thinking comes can there be any true progress.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise