By MELISSA WELLHAM
TRIGGER WARNING: This article deals with an account of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.
It’s the rape case making headlines all around the world.
Late last year, a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, went to a party, got drunk and left with a number of popular footballers from a nearby school. The footballers then took her to two more parties — by which point she was unconscious.
A photograph from the evening shows the girl being carried out of a party by her hands and ankles, her head lolling back dangerously.
This week a court found that these young men, then raped her.
Football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were accused of the crime soon afterward the events. The case has shocked many; both because of the atrocities committed against the girl, and because of how publicly advertised the atrocities were.
Mays and Richmond flashed the girl’s naked body as a joke, penetrated her digitally on numerous occasions, coerced her into oral sex, and exposed themselves to her. Other students on Twitter and YouTube claim to have seen people urinating on the girl and anally raping her.
Often rape trials become a matter of ‘he said, she said’ but in this instance, there was an overwhelming amount of physical evidence because the perpetrators of the crime had boasted about it on social media.
Explicit photos and videos of the assault were shared by the footballers and their friends online. The young men sent tweets and shared Facebook statuses that included the word “rape”. You can read about the details of the case here.
Shockingly, after the details of this incident came to light, the community of Steubenville rallied together in support of the footballers. High-schoolers and community leaders alike shared messages on social media shaming the girl, and suggesting that she had consented to the events that took place that night.
Despite the fact she was clearly unconscious in many of the photos.
This week, Mays and Richmond were found guilty.
They were tried as juveniles, and have been sentenced to time in a juvenile correctional facility. Their sentence was for a minimum of one year. A maximum sentence of until they are 21-years-old.
And here is where it gets worse.
The defense team for the boys argued that the young girl did not “affirmatively say ‘no’”, and thus had not been raped. They essentially argued that silence – or rather, being unconscious — counts as consent.
After the boys were convicted, the case was covered extensively in American broadcast media, and the coverage itself has become controversial. CNN in particular has been criticised for their commentary, with online activists accusing the network of ‘sympathising with rapists’ instead of the victim.
Some soundbites from the coverage include: