I am going to start this post by including a trigger warning; this post involves many references to rape and victim shaming. It includes quotes from people supporting the rapists in the Steubenville rape case and from those blaming the victim. For my general thoughts about rape culture and the friend zone, click here
I’m sure that you’ve heard about the Steubenville rape case by now. If not, a quick Google search will explain everything you need to know about it. Hell, it has its own Wikipedia page for those of you who want a brief summary without jumping from page to page.
Having read about the case, I was disgusted. I assumed that everyone else who read about it would be disgusted too. I assumed that any semi-decent person out there with the tiniest shred of dignity would see who the victim of this story was. Apparently, I was wrong.
CNN’s coverage of the story was despicable, to say the least. The reports were framed so as to make it seem like Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, i.e. the two rapists, were the victims of some gross injustice. Poppy Harlow, a CNN reporter, described the sentencing as:
“Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.”
Not only was this completely ignoring the fact that these boys raped someone repeatedly, took videos and pictures of the rape and then posted these online, but it ignores the fact that the girl they raped was an actual human being, with her own hopes and prospects for the future. It also conveniently ignored the fact that both of the rapists were given the minimum sentence possible.
In a country where Aaron Swartz could have faced up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine for illegally downloading academic papers that he, according to the New York Times, was entitled to access for free. In the end, Swartz killed himself before his case went to trial. His lawyer claims that he was told that Swartz would have to serve at least six months in prison, even if he cooperated fully. If he refused to cooperate, he would likely have served seven years.
So why is it that Ma’lik Richmond receiving one year and Trent Mays being sentenced to two, the extra year for his part in filming and distributing child pornography, in a juvenile detention centre so horrific? Is society so out of touch with the problem of rape that people somehow think the rapists were hard done by?
While not everyone in society felt this way, enough people did that one of the world’s largest news companies, CNN, thought that their viewers would be sympathetic in this way. Here are some of the disgusting tweets that went up in the aftermath of the sentencing:
And here is the worst of all:
No Josiah, they didn’t…
And here is the moment when Fox News had a greater level of not just journalistic integrity, but human decency, than CNN: