As a rape survivor myself, when I was an 18-year-old girl, it still, some 37 years later, brings tears to my eyes, and a gut wrenching pain to hear of cases like this:
In my case, I was not a 16-year-old girl who was passed out drunk, or drugged. I was an 18-year-old virgin who was raped by a young man I had gone out on a date with. Some things match, though. He was popular. By the time my case went to court, my family had received many phone calls from people in his family asking what it would take to “just make this thing go away”. The prosecuting attorney pushed me to allow a plea bargain, saying that my little brothers had to go to the same school with this guys younger siblings and their friends, and life would be made difficult for them. I finally agreed, but then, his attorney decided to continue the trial and force me to cross-examination. It was one of the most traumatic times of my life.
When he began cross-examination, I was asked by the defense attorney while I was on the stand, why I had allowed him to take me out, if I had no intention of going to bed with him. I said, under oath, that my mother had not raised a prostitute, and that taking a girl out is not payment for sex. I was asked if anyone in my family had known I was going out with a guy who was black (both of my parents, and my little brothers, were at home when he picked me up, so yes, they did).
The defense attorney tried in every possible way to shake my testimony, and failed. He was, in fact, overheard saying to his client that if he had to rape someone he shouldn’t have chosen someone who could hold her own on the stand. After that, he came back and said they were taking the plea deal, which turned out to be legal at that time. I don’t know if it would be now.
The biggest difference in these two cases is that in the Steubenville, OH case, the rapists were star athletes, the girl was either drunk or drugged, she was unconscious, and there were tons of witnesses, who took video and still pictures of the entire crime, who posted these images to the internet, tweeted them, and did further unspeakable things to humiliate this girl.
In my case, I was an 18-year-old virgin, who fought back, and was had finger print bruises around my neck for weeks afterword from being choked.
In the Steubenville case, a girl went to a party with the “popular” kids.
In neither case was rape in any way excusable.
No, she should not have been drinking, or at a drunken party. But you know what? that is NO excuse for what was done to her! Staying out of a situation like that, dressing in a way as to be completely unnoticed as a female, etc . . . does NOT protect you from being raped. I was not dressed immodestly at all, when it happened to me.
Rape is NOT a crime of passion, or of lust. It is a crime of violence. It is a crime of power. It is a crime of control over another person.
No matter what choices this girl made, to go to a party, to drink, or whatever, these boys had no right whatsoever to do what they did to her, and it is SHAMEFUL that of all the other young people there, not even one tried to help her, tried to stop these boys. That an entire school system, and apparently at least half a town, would be so afraid of going against the popular star athletes to do what is right, speaks volumes.
Parents, please do not JUST teach your girls to stay away from situations where they can be raped. They can be raped in ANY situation, including going from a store to their car, or having their home broken into while they are there. Provocative dress does not make a girl or a woman “responsible” for a crime of violence being perpetrated upon her. If that’s all it took, old ladies and little children would never be raped. I would never have been raped. Being drunk doesn’t make her responsible, either, in fact, under the law when one is drunk or drugged, one cannot legally give consent to anything.
Yes, I still think we need to teach daughters to be careful, and to be wary. We still need to teach them not to advertise their bodies. Not to keep boys or men from attacking them, but because it’s right for them to not advertise their bodies to anyone to whom they are not married.
However, we also, at least as much, if not more so, need to teach our sons to RESPECT girls, for then they will respect women. We need to teach them that they too, would best be served by waiting for intimacy until they are married. That they need to respect THEMSELVES enough not to think a girl is “easy” just because she may wear something a bit tight, or a bit short. We need to teach them what is biblically right, that they are to PROTECT women, not take advantage of them (which, by the way, includes taking advantage of the fact that a girl is being deliberately provocative, which yes, of course, is sometimes the case). We need to teach them that REAL men do not take advantage of women, or girls. Real men are not afraid to stand up and say NO! when their peers are victimizing someone like this. REAL men risk losing the popular crowd, but REAL men are the men we should want our sons to be, and should want our daughters to end up with. A boy who would do what these boys did, and get away with it (as many do), will be a man who abuses his wife and children, if he ever has them.
The responsible parties here are these “star athletes”, along with the coach and the town that raised them on such a pedestal that no matter what they did, or who they hurt, it became better to punish the VICTIM, instead of expecting them to face up to their own choices. And yes, what they did was a CHOICE. It was also a CHOICE for the coach, the school system, the other “kids”, and a good part of the town, to demonize the victim of their attack, and to defend the criminals. This trial did not ruin the criminals’ lives, the very choices they made ruined their lives. And I believe that any and all people who took videos and pictures and posted them to the internet, should be on trial as well, along with each and every person who threatened the survivor of this vicious, violent attack.
I pray this girl gets help, and that one day, like me, she will come to see that she is a SURVIVOR . . . but society needs to understand, we all need to understand, what was done to her will NEVER leave her. It has been 37 years for me, and I still have fears that hit me, which are directly attributable to what was done to me . . .