Two Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players were found guilty of rape yesterday by a Juvenile Court Judge. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richardson were two of the high school students involved in the Steubenville rape scandal that went viral after the activist group, Anonymous, dedicated an entire blog to exposing evidence of a heinous series of events perpetrated by students of the high school and enabled by adults of the town.
When the guilty verdict was announced, the collective mainstream news media went on an emotional binge and threw a giant pity party for the rapists. CNN reporter Candy Crawley said she “could not imagine how emotional it was in the courtroom,” prompting her correspondent, Poppy Harlow to go on a spiel about the tragedy of the “star football players” and “very good students,” and the influence of alcohol at parties as a “huge” contributing factor to their crimes:
“I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional, 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… when that sentence came down, [Ma’lik] collapsed in the arms of his attorney… He said to him, ‘My life is over. No one is going to want me now.’ Very serious crime here, both found guilty of raping the sixteen-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August. Alcohol fueled parties; alcohol is a huge part of this.”
Next, CNN correspondent Paul Callan commented about the harsh reality of the men having to register as sex offenders and the impact it will have on their futures:
“Well, you know, Candy, we’ve seen here a courtroom drenched in tears and tragedy… The most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law… That will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Employers, when looking up their background, will see that they’re registered sex offenders. When they move into a new neighborhood and somebody goes on the Internet, where these things are posted, neighbors will know that they are registered sex offenders.”
After the verdict was read, Ma’lik Richmond broke down, saying “I had no intention to do anything like that.” Trent Mays’ “apology” was more like a realization that “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken.” Although it’s difficult to imagine that rape could happen by accident and without intent, it’s even more difficult to imagine that the media could prompt us to feel sorry for two young adults who literally dragged an unconscious victim from house party to house party, violating her multiple times and in varying fashions while they and teammates posted pictures and videos, tweeted, texted, and facebooked details of their crime, referring to the victim as a “slut,” “whore,” “sloppy drunk bitch,” and a “dead body,” as if it were all extremely funny.
What’s sad here is not the fact that the rapists may spend a year or two in juvenile detention or that they may not get to play college football, or that they’ll have to register as sex offenders. What’s sad here is that so many adults from their hometown and all over the internet have either blamed the victim or attempted to cover up or dismiss the crime. What’s sad here is that this case is reflective of a society in which rape is not seen as a crime but a misstep, and where women are being blamed for the way they behave or dress rather than men being taught that rape is wrong and that there are no grey areas or extenuating circumstances.
What’s sad is that other students who witnessed and/or participated in this crime, like the psychopath, Michael Nodianos, may never face any consequences. What’s sad is that, had it not been for the extreme arrogance and sheer stupidity of the perpetrators, who posted so much damning evidence on social media, this case may never have reached a courtroom.
Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.