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Mar 17 2013

More About Justice and Less About Revenge: On Reading the Steubenville Coverage Too Early in the Goddamn Day

[Content note: sexual assault]

I don’t want to hear anything more about the “ruined futures” of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond. The verdict did not ruin their futures. They ruined their futures, when they made the decision to rape someone.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how you shouldn’t drink if you don’t want to get raped. One could get blackout drunk every single day for a lifetime and they still wouldn’t get raped unless someone decides to rape them.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how Jane Doe didn’t “affirmatively say no” and how Mays and Richmond thought they had consent. They said, ”She is so raped right now.” They knew exactly what they were doing.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how Jane Doe has been known to lie. Her rape was caught on video.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how it’s only rape if there’s a penis involved. It’s rape if someone is made to participate in sexual activity without their consent.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how hopefully girls and women will “learn from this.” No. Hopefully those who think they can assault others with impunity will learn from this.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how hopefully Mays and Richmond will get raped in prison. This is rape culture.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how “dangerous” partying is for young women. 40% of rapes occur in the victim’s home; an additional 20% occur at the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor. Only 24% happen in the early morning hours between midnight and 6 AM.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how “remorseful” Mays and Richmond were. They cried and begged for forgiveness only after the verdict came down. Sorry, that really doesn’t mean much.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how we need to crack down on teenage partying. Sure. But what we really need to crack down on is rape culture, violent masculinity, and the glorification of sports.

I don’t want to hear anything more about where Jane Doe’s parents were looking while she was out partying. Where were Mays’ and Richmond’s parents looking? Where was their coach looking? Oh, right, he said he “took care of it.”

I don’t want to hear anything more about how Mays and Richmond were ”just kids.” Kids may not be ready for adult responsibilities and rights, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing when they assault someone.

I don’t want to hear anything more about how Mays and Richmond are just ”sick,” how they’re ”monsters,” how nobody you know would ever do something like that.

I don’t want to hear anything more about justice being served. I mean, yeah, let’s give credit where credit was due. But what will happen in just a few years when Mays and Richmond are released? Will they have changed? Is Jane Doe getting the help she needs? Are we doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again? That would be justice. Our work is not done.

Here’s what I want to hear more about:

What will this community do to support Jane Doe? What will it do to impart better values not just to its children, but to its adults? What will it do to ensure that being a football player gets you absolutely no special privileges? What will it do to try to help Mays and Richmond become productive members of the community without letting them off the hook for what they did?

I want to hear more about rape culture, violent masculinity, and the glorification of sports.

I want to hear more about how rapists rape because they know they’ll get away with it, not because the victim was ”asking for it” or because men are too pathetic and driven by sexual urges to control themselves.

I want to hear more about what makes you a rapist and less about what makes you a victim, more about structures and less about individuals, more about justice and less about revenge.

39 comments

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  1. 1
    unbound

    Well said

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    (applause)

  3. 3
    Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

    Oh hey, I forgot one: I don’t want to hear anything more about how this case should teach us about the “dangers” of social media. It should teach us about the dangers of raping people.

  4. 4
    tigtog

    I want to hear more what makes you a rapist and less about what makes you a victim, more about structures and less about individuals, more about justice and less about revenge.

    Fantastic rant and a perfect conclusion. Thanks Miri!

  5. 5
    sheila

    I remember seeing the psychologist who ran the Stamford prison experiment interviewed when Abu Ghraib hit the news. He made the point that sometimes it’s not so much one bad apple spoiling the barrel as a toxic barrel. Not to excuse the rapists, but Steubenville seems to be a particularly toxic barrel. Most of the world suffers from rape culture, but Steubenville seems to be almost as bad a Delhi.

  6. 6
    A Hermit

    Well said Miri!

    I was watching CNN when they came on with the “breaking news!!!!11!” of the verdict. I’ve been hearing a lot about rape culture lately, but watching that coverage and realizing it was all about the rapists and how sad it was for them to have this verdict, and almost nothing about the victim really brought home just how pervasive that culture is.

    I was somewhat encouraged later to hear the Ohio AG declaring that he will be convening a grand jury to look into the circumstances around this case. He didn’t use the words “rape culture” but he was clearly talking about it.

  7. 7
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    This whole thing inspired me to make a meme that I’ve been thinking about creating for quite some time:

    http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3teped/

    Warning: It doesn’t work nearly as well if you’re under 35 yo.

    1. 7.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Sadly, that did indeed go completely over my head. Hopefully someone else will get it, however. :P

    2. 7.2
      Carol Lynn

      Oh dear. I am old. I snorted when I read it.

      1. 7.2.1
        somebody42

        Me, too! Old and proud;)

        Wonderful post, Miri. I want to send it to everyone talking about this.

        1. 7.2.1.1
          blondie

          Oh, Madge.

    3. 7.3
      SkepticRD

      Madge!!!

    4. 7.4
      ChariD

      Got it — and it’s been said before. :)

  8. 8
    twodactyls

    Thank you. This post is so thoughtful and compassionate.

  9. 9
    EllenBeth Wachs (@EllenBethWachs)

    I cannot believe how many people were upset about the boys and not talking about THE VICTIM! I also get furious when I hear people cavalierly made remarks about prison retribution not realizing that this adds to the climate of rape culture. I don’t care if the remark is made in the heat of the moment or in anger, it doesn’t excuse the attitude it conveys regarding rape as a weapon.

  10. 10
    delagar

    Thank you for this. It cheered me up (just a little).

  11. 11
    laurin4475

    This is a phenomenal post, thank you!! sharing for sure – this is the stuff that needs to be heard.

  12. 12
    doublereed

    How come people don’t talk about the future of those boys in the context of the women they would probably rape if they weren’t removed from society?

    1. 12.1
      LykeX

      Fuck yeah! The “bright future” that was ruined was likely a future liberally strewn with other rape victims. Hopefully that future has been well and truly derailed.

      1. 12.1.1
        Katy Kay

        Spot on……and without education who else will they violate now?

  13. 13
    Robert B.

    Only 24% happen in the early morning hours between midnight and 6 AM.

    … and the winner is: The Null Hypothesis! Let’s give it a round of applause.

    Seriously, though, great post. You’ve captured my own feelings better than I had myself.

  14. 14
    Decius

    There’s no possible justice for the culture that created the rape. We
    Need to prevent more victims in the future, and if destroying two people helps get the message out that it isn’t ok, we should destroy their lives.

    1. 14.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Do you really think that would help?

      We already see all this discourse about meanie rape victims who ruin their rapists’ lives, so clearly people are aware that if you get convicted of rape, things can be pretty tough for you. And yet rape is pervasive. Clearly the threat of jail time isn’t helping.

      1. 14.1.1
        born in east LA

        in some circles prison time can even be a badge of honor—sick but true

  15. 15
    ladyatheist

    Well said! And crip, I already saw your meme on Facebook. It’s gotten around fast!

  16. 16
    circesmith11

    Yes! Thank you for this post.

  17. 17
    Katy Kay

    Beautifully expressed and very important piece needed so desperately now to put out the real issues at the heart of our violent culture, women and girls. Glad you are out there sharing your important ideas.

  18. 18
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Yeah, I’m with you right there.

    1. 18.1
      Katy Kay

      I hope millions, no, billions of others are with this sentiment, also. Here we are, 21st century, who still thinks we don’t need feminism and re-training of young males on how to behave towards women. We are not chattel, we are not, have never been, though treated as such, raped, oppressed, beaten down, by men, determined to hold power over women. Down with Patriarchy and hideous violence in all areas of society.

  19. 19
    Maritess Zurbano

    Outstanding. Keep up that unfettered writing, we’re with you all the way.

  20. 20
    rq

    Awesomely written post, Miri! I love the conclusion, too, and I agree whole-heartedly.

    sheila @5, that attitude right there – ‘a particularly toxic barrel’ – is exactly the attitude that supports rape culture, because we always turn a blind eye to our own backyard: Our neighbours would never be like that. We live in a nice town. John is such a nice guy, she must be mistaken!
    The trouble is, people everywhere are still people. Towns in America are still towns in America, soaked in that same rape culture, and nobody believes it will happen in their own backyard, until it does. And then their own little town is suddenly a ‘particularly toxic barrel’, when it’s still exactly the same as all those other towns across the country. So, no, no free excuse for being somehow ‘different’ or ‘more toxic’. It just happened to be a really public case, but plenty more similar ones probably occur, and never see the light of media at all, quietly swept into the rest of the mess that is rape culture…

    1. 20.1
      Cactus

      Exactly. After I was raped (by someone I was very close to), I got that same bullshit: “I know him. He’d never do that.” Well guess what, so did I, and he did. Guess we’re dealing with someone who’s great at hiding their true nature? I hate that line of reasoning.

  21. 21
    1. 21.1
      glodson

      Reading your link, I saw this comment:

      My dad has said the same kind of thing many times. It’s the main reason I didn’t report my rape. I was afraid that if I did report it, it would be as good as sending my dad to prison for murder.

      Which hit me hard as I have a very young daughter. This reaction, the presumed reaction of this person’s father, may have been a part of a reason not to report the crime. Making the need for violent retribution a part of the problem.

      How many victims didn’t report the crime to protect their family? It could be a father or mother, a sister or a brother.

      Reading that comment, and this entry, will hopefully drill it into my head that retribution and revenge isn’t justice. Nothing will change. I never thought about how this drive, this near bloodlust in reaction to hearing about a rape could drive rape culture.

      It was a good article to read, but that comment stuck out to me.

  22. 22
    doublereed

    @5

    I’m not sure why you think Steubenville is unique in its toxicity. The only thing I found particularly disturbing about this case was the vast amounts of publicly available photographic/video evidence of the rape. That’s the only thing really separating this from other rape cases.

    If there wasn’t that, then this probably would have been successfully swept under the rug.

  23. 23
    Ariel

    Miri asked some good questions. Among them:

    (1) what will happen in just a few years when Mays and Richmond are released? Will they have changed? (2) Is Jane Doe getting the help she needs? […] What will this community do to support Jane Doe?

    About the second question, those of you who live in the US may know more. From what I can see on the net, there is indeed this angry crowd ready to shout “bitch!”, eager to put the blame on her and to sniff for blood. One might hope that she will be sheltered somehow, but I wouldn’t count on this. She will know and she will pay dearly. I heard opinions that the most basic thing one can do is to say clearly “it was not her fault”. Right. It was not. But she will pay anyway.

    As for the first question, I’m afraid that nothing good will happen either. As I understand, they are going to be put on public sex-offender registry, right? Well, I have just read this. In view of what I found there, the second part of Miri’s question (“Will they have changed”) looks pretty irrelevant. What will happen? Civil death will happen. Even in thirty years from now, no work for them, no flat to rent, people throwing feces at their door. They should never marry or have kids, otherwise their families may suffer. Killing them would be more merciful.

    Anyone wants to say something optimistic for a change?

    1. 23.1
      Cactus

      I’m not sure you’re right about their fates. That’s probably the case for some sex offenders, but these guys still have people defending them and trashing the victim. They’ll likely be able to trade on that to get jobs, and there are plenty of women out there who have no problem dating rapists.

  24. 24
    slc1

    The prison sentences these miscreants get is only the start of their punishment. After they are released, they will have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives and, in many jurisdictions, they will be limited in where they can live (e.g. more then 1000 feet from a school, etc.). These sex registries are posted on the internet where anyone can find about them. If they move to a new jurisdiction and fail to register, that’s a felony and they will be inviting another stretch in the slammer. Most colleges and universities will be loath to admit them as students, thus greatly restricting their future employment possibilities to menial labor. All in all, not much to look forward to but, as they say, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

  25. 25
    Sarah Warren

    I love you a lil bit right now. Saving this for future references.

  1. 26
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  7. 32
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