In the wake of the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, you may have seen this image…
…or watched this video:
The next video, while made two years ago, is extremely relevant.
(Interestingly, ABC addresses the Onion video and the problematic media coverage.)
Discussing rape culture in the context of the perpetrator(s) is one thing, but the trend of glorifying them because of their athletic ability—or any other “promising” talents, for that matter—takes the issue to a whole new level. The CNN reporters talk about the tragedy of the criminals, not the victim. As Reddit user bunnybunnyhophop explains, this doesn’t have to be a bad angle:
I dunno. I saw it more as “it’s a shame to see young people with such promising futures throw their lives away like that.” Because it really is a tragedy that this girl was raped, and also a tragedy that these boys destroyed their own lives when they didn’t have to.
CNN specifically stated in their report that they don’t discuss sexual assault victims publicly, and that their focus would be on the boys because their attorneys had spoken about them publicly.
I’ve been raped, and personally if my rapist was prosecuted I would have preferred the message of “it’s a shame he ruined his own life” rather than “that poor girl, he ruined her life”. Because my life wasn’t ruined. I’ll recover from being a rape victim. He’ll never recover from being a despicable rapist.
However, as user OrwellianIconoclast points out, this angle doesn’t have to be so sympathetic to the rapists.
Even if we ignore the media coverage, the rape culture is all-too biased against the victim when the perpetrator(s) were supposedly model citizens, promising athletic stars, or just good kids. Several people Tweeted harsh words at the victim, claiming she was ruining the boys’ lives. This sentiment reminds me of the protests that came after the Penn State scandal; herds of Penn State students praised Joe Paterno’s coaching while ignoring his failure to report a sex scandal.
When someone so revered is found to be at fault for a serious crime, people tend to defend and seek explanations for their actions. Chris Brown may be one of the most recent examples of this, but we also see evidence of this with John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, and others. Celebrities are infamous for being able to use their power to make their fans forget about their crimes.
We can put the blame of this rape culture on many facets of society: poor parenting, expanding social media and its misuse, and so on. Unfortunately, none of this blame targets the problem at its source. We must educate students about informed consent and the severity of rape and sexual assault. Many acts are difficult to comprehend without having experienced them, and these forms of sexual violation are no exceptions. We cannot continue to glorify those who commit such horrible crimes. If we do, we set the example that it is okay for younger people to do so and to sympathize with the perpetrators, not the victims.