Some thoughts before the Steubenville Ruling
I haven’t been following the Steubenville trial very closely. Mostly on purpose, because I know it’s going to get me pretty riled up. But I’m going to be watching the ruling this morning, and I can’t stop thinking about how even if the judge finds them guilty, there’s no real winner.
I mean, look at Jane Doe. What she did- reporting her assault and sticking with it even after the prosecutor tried to talk her out of it- is amazing on its own. But if you look at the kind of abuse that she and her family have taken since then, I can’t help but think that their life in Steubenville may be over. And it seems ridiculous that it’s up to the survivor to relocate to get away from it. Her name’s been used in the news, even though reporters have traditionally kept the victim’s name out of the press. She deserves some respect here. Some privacy. Some opportunity to be anonymous.
And what about all the guys who watched it, tweeted about it, saw the videos, took pictures? I know there are the two guys who testified in exchange for immunity, but how many others like them are just getting away with their actions in this case? Are they going to get the messages that what they did is seriously, SERIOUSLY wrong and that they got lucky? That it’s never okay to do this again? That they were responsible for what happened too? What kind of education’s going to happen in and around Steubenville (hopefully everywhere, especially places with this kind of sports culture) to send the message that it’s NOT okay?
The guys responsible? Let’s say they’re found guilty and get the maximum sentence- until they’re 21. Have they even learned their lesson? I know that the defense’s case has basically been “this was consensual”. Do they really believe it? Are they going to be locked up really believing that they’ve been persecuted and building resentment towards women for their incarceration? How do they learn about what they did? How do we make sure that they don’t do it again? There’s a four year window where someone might be able to get through to them- I hope that’s what they’ll try to do.
What about other victims? Even if the guys are found guilty, it seems to me that their punishment is way less than that of the victim. Is this going to keep other women from coming forward? Quite frankly, I wouldn’t blame them if seeing this process would make them think twice. And if they guys aren’t found guilty, I hate to think what this may mean for other victims. What if they hear these messages about this case being consensual and actually believe that what happened to them doesn’t “count” as rape?
And the football team. Ah, the football team. These guys are used to being in a world where exactly what they did was normal. One of the few articles I did read had one of the witnesses saying that it wasn’t the first time he’d seen this particular football player engaged in sexual acts. Is this what the football team thinks is normal behaviour? I mean, they showed up at one of the coaches homes that night with Jane Doe, and while he told them to leave, he didn’t do ANYTHING to see if she was okay. Let’s step back for a second. Let’s say that at this point, she hadn’t had anything to drink, hadn’t been drugged. You have a 16-year-old girl alone in a car with four football players she doesn’t really know. Wouldn’t it make sense to see if she was okay, even then? WTF was going on with this guy that he didn’t realize how messed up a situation might have been going on?
What are the football players, coaches, schoolmates, and people in the town going to learn? Is this ruling going to affect them? How is this trial going to change things? If they’re found guilty, is it going to be forgotten quickly and things go back to normal? Or is it going to continue to divide the town, with people thinking she had no business pressing charges? Is the message to the players going to be “it’s time to learn how to treat others with respect and what consent means”, or is it going to be “seriously guys, don’t film it next time.”
I have so many concerns about what a not guilty verdict might mean, even more than if they get a guilty verdict. That’s why I’m watching the ruling. But if the media coverage is any indication of what happened in this trial, there are no winners to be found here.