Friday, March 22, 2013

In Case You Didn't Know About Rape Culture, or, Steubenville

I'm going to try to keep this short, because there are already great sources of information to share with you, and anything I could add would turn into a rant very quickly.

The Steubinville trial is over, and the accused were convicted of rape.  We can all be thankful for this all too rare conviction.  Certainly no one would dare suggest a wrongful conviction under the circumstances: the evidence included photos and videos of the atrocity committed shot by the perpetrators.

So there it is.  The evidence is in, and the criminals involved were convicted.  Surely the victim is receiving love and support from an apologetic community, right?  Wrong.  She has been receiving death threats throughout the trial, and now that the trial is complete and her name was released, she's receiving more of them. Surely the community is outraged by the actions of two of their star football players.  Surely there's a backlash against the coach who knew at least a big part of what went on, and only benched them for one game, instead of assisting the investigation.  Nope.  The community is rallying around their 'friends', whose lives have been destroyed by this drunk, 'slutty' girl who 'cried rape.'

It's not just the local community, who can be understood on some small level since they had known the rapists for years, and had always thought of them as fine, upstanding citizens, and these neighbors, friends, and family are victims of rape culture also.  No no, in case you somehow missed it, here's how CNN's reporters responded to their conviction and sentencing (an incredibly lenient sentence, by the way: as little as ONE YEAR in a juvenile detention facility).

Watching them sob, you are reminded that they are humans, and children, not monsters, which only makes this all the more sad. They were victims of rape culture as much as the victim herself, though they were NOT victims of rape, and do not deserve sympathy for receiving the consequences of their actions.  They destroyed their own lives through their wrong choices.  The victim's life was destroyed without her consent.  I'm glad to see them so upset.  They should be.  I can only hope their apologies are genuine, and they're crying out of remorse, and not just because they're being punished.

So, what have we learned?  That rape culture is a real thing: a monster that is alive and well making us question women strong enough to report their rapes, defend people accused of rape, that keeps hospitals from preforming rape kits upon request, that makes policemen question statements, lawyers focus on how sexually active a woman has been in the past, instead of the events in question, that makes reporters sympathize with convicted rapists instead of victims, AND, that makes young men think that because they're otherwise good people, it's ok to put their fingers in the vagina of an unconscious girl, and drive her around from party to party, continuing to rape and abuse her. One woman, a former resident of Steubenville, started looking around twitter when she heard the event had happened, and it's thanks to her diligence that a great deal of evidence was included in the case.  The things these 'promising young men' posted in a public forum about this woman and what they were doing to her are deeply horrifying. You can read about her contribution, and the death threats, and absurd lawsuits she's being threatened with as a result of her work, here.

How can we raise our children to know that these atrocities are wrong?  That we must not commit them, and we must not stand by and let someone else commit them?  One Billion Rising is holding a panel discussion about this incident and the public's reaction to it in New York City this Tuesday.  You can read more about it, and register to attend here.

Turning our world into a place where everyone can expect to be treated like human beings deserving of respect is going to take every one of us.  We need men as much as women in this fight, because without men willing to give back their privilege (among so many others, the privelege to rape) so that we can be equal, it's going to be a much longer, more uphill battle.

Live Omily,

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