A sad commentarySomething seems to have shifted in our society. After decades of effort to dispel myths surrounding sexual assault, we’re seeing more and more examples of victim blaming and efforts to protect perpetrators from accountability.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Something seems to have shifted in our society. After decades of effort to dispel myths surrounding sexual assault, we’re seeing more and more examples of victim blaming and efforts to protect perpetrators from accountability.
Recently two boys, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, both of Steubenville, Ohio were tried as juveniles for the sexual assault of a 16- year old girl. All three were at a party where the girl passed out after drinking too much. Perhaps emboldened by the fact that the girl was unresponsive, the boys took advantage of her state, with Mays admitting that he took pictures of the assault. The pictures were shared widely on social media and among other students, some of whom were at the party but did nothing to stop the boys. In fact, text messages flying back and forth treated the incident – the crime – as something of a joke.
Mays and Richmond were found delinquent, the juvenile court equivalent of guilty. Some saw the verdict as a victory for the victim, although she had endured months of questions and depositions, not to mention sitting in an open court with the perpetrators, their families, her family and onlookers who saw and heard every detail of the crime.
Some people rejoiced that a rape had been successfully prosecuted. Most sexual assaults go unreported and those that are often are not picked up for prosecution. Rape cases can be difficult to prosecute. The victim says it happened, the accused says it didn’t, or that the act was consensual. Evidence may be scant or there may be DNA evidence, but no proof of force. A perfect storm of evidence and witnesses is rare and prosecutors can be reluctant to put a victim through the process of building a case and going to trial if there are questions about the outcome.
Still other observers were outraged. They lamented the conviction as the tragedy. They felt sorry for Mays and Richmond, both of whom were talented football players with their whole lives ahead of them. Each was sentenced to serve time for their crime — Mays to two years and Richmond to one year in Ohio’s juvenile system. The court has the discretion to keep them until age 21. After the verdict was read, one of the boys was heard to say: “My life is over.”
Some blamed the victim saying, she wouldn’t have been raped if she’d been sober.
I’ve heard the comments; maybe you have, too, about sexual assault: “She was asking for it because she was wearing (or wasn’t wearing) _______.” Or “What did she think would happen when she got into that guy’s car?”
Why is there is any justification for violating another person’s body and safety? Why is mode of dress or any other condition or circumstance considered relevant ? The answer lies in the messages that bombard our culture. Every day we learn the real truth about our value as human beings.
Women’s bodies are used to sell everything from sports magazines to tortilla chips to fishing line. At the same time, girls and women are told in thousands of different ways that they are not good enough. They’re too fat, too thin, too opinionated, too provocative, too shy, incapable of making their own healthcare decisions and undeserving of equal pay for equal work, common respect and a place at the decision-making table. Don’t believe me? Just watch an hour of television, peruse women’s ( or men’s) magazines, read some of the legislation currently being debated by state governments around the country. Women are not just considered the weaker sex, but also the lesser sex. How great a leap is required to view women as property or as free for the taking?
We can deny it, but thousands of women are raped every year. The trafficking of girls and women around the world is epidemic. Why? Because we don’t value them enough to change the culture that sees them as a commodity or a play thing.
We’re still a society that can hear about the rape of a 16 year old girl who was unconscious – incapable of consent – by two young men, and blame her for the crime.