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A necessary reflection after the Steubenville trial

The “F” Word: Feminism

Last month, I wrote a piece about the Steubenville rape case and the grim reality of sexual violence prevention in the United States of America. However, on Mar. 17, Judge Thomas Lipps found the two Steubenville teens charged with raping a 16-year-old West Virginian girl delinquent (guilty).

Trent Mays, 17, was sentenced to at least two years in juvenile detention for rape and distributing a picture of the girl naked, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, was sentenced to at least one year.

This rollercoaster of a case is still far from over. More charges and attempts to appeal the rulings have surfaced every hour since that Sunday morning. The discourse on this case has been rigidly divided since the beginning, and the reactions are not any different.

All this information exists at the touch of a mouse, in case anyone has somehow managed to avoid this important story. But at this point, I ask that everyone just take five minutes today to do one thing: reflect.

“My life is over. No one is going to want me now.” —Ma’Lik Richmond

Richmond expressed this concern immediately after hearing the Judge’s sentence. Doesn’t something seem strange about the word ‘now’? The only difference for Richmond between now and before the trial is that he was convicted. He was a rapist from the moment he raped the victim, not from the conviction.

His reaction implies that the verdict is why “no one is going to want [him],” and not his previous actions. Richmond’s breakdown occurred after the verdict—not before. Perhaps Richmond was not crying because he felt serious remorse for what he did to the girl, but because he got caught. Now we must reflect.

The world cannot afford declaring rape a crime only by a conviction. It must be known as a crime from the moment it is thought of and committed. The consequences of raping a very drunk 16-year-old girl should not hit Richmond after the verdict but as soon as he created the opportunity.

If teenagers in the 21st century are as desensitized about rape as Richmond, then society has truly failed. An important lesson the world can take away from this case is that we need to talk more about rape and why it is a crime against humanity even before the rape happens.

“Many of the things we learned during this trial were that our children were saying and doing [things that] were profane, were ugly.” –Judge Thomas Lipps

Judge Thomas Lipps forgot to mention how disturbing this case was. Mays and Richmond were not the only ones to blame. What about all the teenagers who watched, laughed, contributed to, and did nothing while the crime occurred? Where was everyone’s concept of right and wrong?

Furthermore, some text messages found on Mays’ phone indicated the Steubenville football coach was involved in keeping the incident quiet. Several teenage girls were recently arrested for threatening the victim over social media. The victim experienced the first round of terror during the assault, the second before the trial, and now an additional round after the judge found her rapists guilty.

Until we learn to discuss rape as rape rather than rape as a category of sex, we will continue to blame victims. Mays and Richmond’s actions during the assault were atrocious, but the commentary after the crime and during the trial was even more appalling.

But in reality, the disgusting comments of those who belittled the victim and considered her at fault accurately reflect where the rest of the country is at when discussing rape. Some may look at the Steubenville case and show their disapproval, but what they also fail to see that Steubenville is everywhere.

“They treated her like a toy.” –prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter

Without a doubt, Mays and Richmond demonstrated to the world that on the night of Aug. 11, they did not value a human life.

The boys claimed the disturbing photo of them carrying the victim’s lifeless body by her limbs was just a joke they were all part of. Take a look for yourself. If that photo was a joke, then I do not want to know what those kids do when they are serious.

She was clearly intoxicated beyond the state of even being able to hold her head up. But apparently that meant the boys had full license to drag her around like a corpse. No, these rapists did not kill anyone, but taking advantage of a drunk girl and leaving her naked body in the basement of a stranger’s home did not exhibit any value in her life.

I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that consent was never even considered by Mays and Richmond. They truly felt entitled to do what they wanted to her. A woman is not a toy, let alone a drunken 16-year-old girl. We clearly have a drinking age for a reason, but alcohol cannot be to blame in this case.

Mays and Richmond would have eventually done this to another victim given the indifference to morality displayed through their text messages discussed in court. The defense attempted to argue that the girl was drunk, but was capable of giving consent.

Nothing that appeared in that case implied that Mays and Richmond were not boastfully overpowering her from the beginning of the night until the trial.

As usual, I advise everyone to learn more about the case. I will conclude with a text message sent from Trent Mays’ phone shortly after the night of the crime: “I shoulda raped her since everyone thinks I did.”

Ellen Kubit is a Political Science and English major. She intends to change the world for the better. If that doesn’t work, then she wants to travel the globe visiting castles.

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