Here’s what happened in Steubenville, Ohio on August 11 after a neighborhood party.
An unconscious girl, a teenager, drunk out of her mind and completely blacked out, was raped repeatedly. Pictures were taken, then passed around, just as she was recklessly passed around that night. According to the New York Times, some folks in Steubenville including most of the football team said she was a slut and that it was “her fault” because she “put the football team in a bad light.” Two 16-year-old football stars were arrested about a week later.
Blame it all on social media. You can’t hide a rape if it’s photographed by multiple people in all of its horrendous and gritty detail. I saw a photo of the unconscious girl–16–she is literally being held by two boys like a dead carcass; one boy holds her arms while the other boy holds her feet. Said Steubenville Police Chief William McCafferty to the Times:
“The thing I found most disturbing about this is that there were other people around when this was going on. Nobody had the morals to say, ‘Hey, stop it, that isn’t right.’
“If you could charge people for not being decent human beings, a lot of people could have been charged that night.”
It sadly reminds me of The Accused, you know, that Jodie Foster movie about a woman who was gang raped? The one where the bystanders were charged for doing nothing to stop it? I wonder why, after reading this below paragraph, and more testimony like it, that their coach didn’t bench ALL boys involved. Boys watching. Boys taping. Boys allowing a girl to be treated in this manner–like garbage. States the Times:
At that third party, the girl could not walk on her own and vomited several times before toppling onto her side, several witnesses testified. Mays then tried to coerce the girl into giving him oral sex, but the girl was unresponsive, according to the player who videotaped Mays and the girl.
The player said he did not try to stop it because “at the time, no one really saw it as being forceful.”
But no. That’s not what’s happening. You see, Steubenville, and their football team, Big Red, is a Friday Night Lights kind of town. It’s go Big Red or go home. And hey, that’s fine. Until there’s a rape as public as this one. And it doesn’t matter what those boys do as long as they PERFORM. The assistant coach thinks she “made it up.” (Yes, even with the photos!) Coach Reno Saccoccia benched the two players charged–one, Mays, was not only a star football player but also one of the top basketball players in the state. Does this remind you of Sandusky, just a touch? It’s the same we all go down together and don’t say a fucking word mentality, isn’t it? Here’s what the exchange between Coach Saccoccia and a reporter looked like:
When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.
“You made me mad now,” he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.
Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”
The principal said he entrusted the coach to discipline the players. And this is how rape culture gets perpetuated. Principals do not take a stand for their students. Coaches protect their boys. Teenagers take photos and blame the girl for being wasted. She shouldn’t have been so wasted. Why doesn’t she have any girlfriends? And oh, did you hear she’s a slut? The only way for this culture to stop, is for an unlikely person to stand up and take action. One person did. A crime blogger, Alexandria Goddard, who broke the case wide open on Prinniefied.com. Goddard, who grew up in the town, didn’t trust the local police would take action against a star Big Red player. Now one of the football players is suing her for “defamation.” Click here to see the screen shots of the texts from one of the boys “documenting” the rape that night and who actually tweeted “The song of the night is “Rape Me” by Nirvana.” He’s suing HER?
In 1989, I was a senior in high school living in the mostly blue collar town of Clifton, New Jersey. Just two towns down was Glen Ridge. A more upper middle class town. A place with wide, tree-lined streets and historic houses. In Clifton we mostly had highways, kids smoking on the corner (like me), ginormous electrical towers where farms used to be and split level houses. You didn’t expect bad things to happen in Glen Ridge because that’s where the good kids were.
Just in case you haven’t seen the Eric Stoltz Lifetime movie about this, in 1989 seven Glen Ridge High School boys–all members of the football team–gang raped a girl whose IQ was equivalent to that of a second grader. They raped her with a broomstick. A plunger. A baseball bat. At first the police chief was all, boys will be boys. And they were all, she wanted it. And all, she was so promiscuous. Well, after town decided that they didn’t exactly agree with the boys will be boys mentality, and after a fired-up detective named Sheila Byron charged the investigation, seven boys were prosecuted. Sheila Byron later became police chief and is still chief now.
I know this not because I looked it up–but because I live in Glen Ridge. The town is filled with people I respect, and when we discuss the history of the town, we discuss in the way you do around traumatic events: never again.
Yet, this kind of story in Stubenville is a constant reminder about athletic adulation and what it was like in 1989. It’s the reminder of a mentality where a culture chooses the rights of one human being over another. He’ll lose a scholarship. It’ll ruin his life. We’ll lose the game. The community of Steubenville shouldn’t tolerate these boys who stood by “not being decent human beings.” They should be held accountable for it as well. This is more than a mistake. This is a sickness.
(Image: The Cleveland Plain Dealer)