It’s been a rocky road.
In December of last year, SexIs joined the national media in covering the horrific Steubenville Rape trial; in which it was alleged that a 16-year-old girl was violated by members of the Ohio town’s football team while she was unconscious – being carried, naked, from party to party and being used like a piece of meat.
What made the story even more disturbing was that every moment of this disgusting crime was documented; in photographs, Tweets and texts sent by dozens of witnesses who took the time to record the sexual assault – but didn’t step in to try and prevent it.
And in the ultimate act of obscenity, when word of this rape came to light in the days following the party, the football-crazy people of Steubenville didn’t demand justice; instead they closed ranks to try and protect their football team from any possible repercussion of their despicable acts.
And they might have succeeded, if it wasn’t for Alexandria Goddard; a blogger who originally hails from Steubenville and who took it upon herself to see that justice was done.
After hearing word of the arrests in Steubenville, she scoured social media for evidence of what had happened; and found more of it than anybody would have expected. Photographs of the seemingly comatose girl being carried wrist-and-ankle by strangers, Tweets suggesting she’d been raped and sodomized, and even frequent references to her being “dead”.
Goddard amassed this information into a blog post, which then received a deluge of traffic from Steubenville residents who had been trying to find out more information about the two teenagers who’d been arrested – and had been stonewalled by police and local sources.
Some have suggested that the “powers that be” in Steubenville would have successfully swept the rape under the carpet if it wasn’t for Goddard’s efforts in turning a national spotlight on a small town secret.
But now the secret is out… what about the aftermath?
Following a disturbing trial, in which Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond were faced with a mountain of evidence indicating their culpability (not to mention their efforts to destroy the evidence and silence witnesses afterward) justice would appear to have been done… but has it?
On the one hand, you can simply argue that they got the best result that could have been expected. Given the circumstances, it was very difficult to prove any of the alleged offenses. There was a mountain of evidence indicating that the victim, “Jane Doe”, had been at the mercy of these boys; but very little evidence of what actually happened.
One witness Tweeted “you don’t sleep through a wang in the butthole”, suggesting that the victim had been anally raped – but hearsay from a possible witness is not enough to convict anybody. In the texts following the arrest of Mays and Ma’Lik, there were rumors that they’d raped the victim, but they themselves denied it.
In the end, the only thing that the prosecution could prove to any degree was that Mays and Ma’Lik had penetrated the victim with their fingers while she was unconscious – a technical definition of rape, but a largely underwhelming one according to many keeping track of the trial. Trent Mays was also convicted of circulating photographs of the girl; adding an extra year to his sentence.
Some argued with the mechanics of the trail itself – how (because the two boys were being charged as minors) there was no jury; only a judge to reach a verdict and decide on sentencing. Others argued that the sentencing was far less than the boys deserved; again a result of the two accused young men being minors; and how the only provable sexual assault was, by some vocal supporters of the two boys, barely deserving of the term “rape.”
But as far as due process and the rule of law goes, the prosecution got as good a result as they could have expected; especially in light of how many in the town continued to support the boys throughout the trial (victim blaming was in full effect; with many arguing the victim brought what happened upon herself by drinking and flirting before she fell unconscious.)
But more pointed criticism has been lauded against the media; who some have accused of “taking sides” during the trial; and even trying to mitigate the accusations made against Mays and Ma’Lik.
Thinkprogress.org argued that CNN, in particular, had tried to paint the boys as overly sympathetic “promising students” whose lives would forever be colored by being forced to register as sex offenders, something that would “haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
They also targeted the Associated Press and USA Today for focusing too much on how the victim was intoxicated; arguing that describing her as a “drunken 16-year-old” somehow implied that she was partially responsible for what happened to her.
TheLesbian Mafia.com was not so nuanced in their response. In their attack against the media, they spat:
“What we hated more than anything was how the media keeps talking about the TRAGEDY that happened today in court. The TRAGEDY was not today nor did it happen in court. The TRAGEDY already HAPPENED and it was when these two raped that lil girl, dragged her around like a sack of meat, left her naked and violated, then posted pics of all the fun they had. Today was a piss poor version of JUSTICE. Two perpetrators were prevented from graduating high school and going to college and creating MORE rape victims. Today more TRAGEDY was PREVENTED. These rapists are getting locked up for half a minute so they won’t be able to create more RAPE TRAGEDY!”
What do you think? Did the boys get the punishment they deserved? Or should they have been tried as adults (and received, as the judge even admitted during sentencing, “many years in prison.”)?
And what of the media coverage? Fair and balanced? Or where the criticisms leveled at how the press handled the trial justified?
We’d love to know your thoughts. Please comment below and let us know what you think!