Rape culture invades social and mainstream media
“I have no sympathy for whores,” tweeted Twitter user cody_saltsman.
“So you got drunk at a party and two people take advantage of you, that’s not rape, you’re just a loose drunk slut,” tweeted another user under the account name romano_santino.
User fellerSuter posted, “I would lay my life on it she (the Steubenville victim) was more than willing, almost inviting.”
This is how Americans talk about rape.
On March 14, two high school football players were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party in Steubenville, Ohio last August. Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were sentenced to serve a minimum of two years and a minimum of one year respectively. Mays’ distribution of a nude image of the victim accounts for his harsher sentencing.
At the time of her assault, the victim was unconscious from intoxication and first learned about her rape through images distributed on social media.
Various public responses have questioned the validity of the victim’s claim, which has been scrutinized in part because of her presumed relationship with one of the boys. Her state of intoxication has been another point of criticism.
“Sex without consent is rape, whether the people involved know each other or not,” said Director of Counseling Gaither Terrell.
Several media outlets have received criticism in their coverage of the Steubenville case. In a report that caused widespread outrage and accusations of rapist sympathizing, CNN focused on the “promising futures” of the two rapists.
The behavior of the convicted boys has faced little analysis.
“Where was their (Mays’ and Richmond’s) compassion?” asked Mark Justad, director of the Center for Principled Problem Solving and former president and board member of the American Men’s Studies Association, a pro-feminist academic organization that promotes the critical study of men and masculinities.
“Why wouldn’t you look at someone who was passed out like that and think, oh my god, is she OK? Why weren’t they overwhelmed with empathy? Why did they see it as an opportunity to take advantage of someone?”
The case has sparked discussions of rape culture and masculinity.
“Our culture is too invested in the eroticism of domination,” said Justad.
Justad cited three steps men can take to help challenge a culture of sexual violence, “One: re-affirm that it’s wrong; two: believe that it happens; and three: be part of the conversation of what healthy sexuality looks like.”
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that between the years 2005 and 2010, “78 percent of sexual violence involved an offender who was a family member, intimate partner, friend or acquaintance.”
Unfortunately, negative stigmas attached to rape and sexual assault can often deter victims from coming forward with a complaint.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 54 percent of rapes and sexual assaults in the U.S. are not reported to the police. This may be a result of the scrutiny that women face when they do report a sexual offense.
In a flurry of tweets posted after the verdict, hundreds of social networkers expressed sympathy for the rapists and outrage towards the victim.
“Why don’t we have a Dumb F—— Whore Registry? Now that would be justice.”
“The girl asked for it and wanted it, in my opinion. They gave it to her. No crime.”
“Those poor boys … All because the pictures and texts made that lil whore decide to play victim after it was over.”
“How could we even have that conversation?” asked junior Grayson Schmidt, member of Sexual Assault Awareness, Support and Advocacy. “This woman was brutally attacked.”
“Rape happens all the time but doesn’t get media attention,” said Schmidt.
Indeed, RAINN reports that every two minutes, someone in the U.S. in sexually assaulted.
The public has utilized social media outlets to speak out against the bias coverage of the Steubenville case, naming the media’s role as a promotion of rape culture and calling for accountability from those who continue to perpetuate victim-blaming mentality.