Hunting the Hunters: Changing Rape Culture

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Today we’re going to talk about the Steubenville High rape case. This column is about why you really should take a minute from planning your Spring Break-palooza or whatever and care about it, even if you're not from Ohio. This is an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people, but it’s a topic that we need to talk about if we’re ever going to change things.

For those who don’t know, the story in brief:

  • Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, stars of Steubenville’s Big Red football team, went to a party.
  • There they found a very drunk , barely-conscious 16-year-old girl.
  • Demonstrating just extraordinary levels of douchebaggery, the boys penetrated her with their fingers and, if their own text messages are to be believed, did worse.
  • The boys took photos of the girl and sent them around their school where, predictably, everyone saw them.
  • Increasing national pressure and the release of this video finally forced an investigation, and the boys stood trial.
  • Both boys were convicted of rape, and Mays was also convicted of distributing a nude photo of a minor.
  • Because the boys are also minors, they can only go to juvie until the age of 21! Hurray, justice?

Probably the most exasperating part of this whole thing is that a significant amount of the news coverage has been focused on whether the promising young men’s futures are now ruined. The victim was mocked and threatened by her classmates for not letting the whole incident slide because she was hurting the future of Steubenville’s golden boys. Well, your humble writer wants to ask the same question: are their lives really ruined?

But, that’s not what we’re here to focus on. The reason I want to discuss this is because this case isn’t an aberration. Statistics indicate that one out of four women in college right now have been raped—and in 78% of cases they knew their attacker. One out of four. Ladies, think of your three best friends. Yeah.

And until we take this problem seriously, nothing is going to change. This isn’t about women needing to buy drink-testers or walk home in groups. This is about the fundamental right not to be violated. This is about women and men saying, “enough is enough.” This is about changing the culture.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and I don’t have the room to cover everything that we need to do. I encourage you to read more here. I will, however, drop just one idea, with spring break and end-of-the-year parties coming up soon.

You know the kind of guy who’s constantly bringing home the absolute drunkest girl he can find from a party, to whom we all say “come on, dude…”? You’re in college, so I’m sure you do. Having sex with someone when they aren’t coherent and can’t reasonably consent is rape, plain and simple. And that makes these guys rapists. I think it’s time we stopped laughing off this kind behavior and started calling things by their proper names. This is how you draw attention to an issue that desperately needs it.

And ladies. If things went farther than you wanted last night, it doesn’t mean it’s your fault for being too drunk or “leading him on.” It’s not your fault for not trying harder to stop it. It’s not your fault for not knowing what to do. I cannot stress this enough: that is not how this works. This is rape, and it is always the rapist’s fault—no one else’s. The sooner we can all wrap our heads around that, the better for everyone. Let’s take our campuses back.

If you are someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, don’t be afraid to get help. Check out the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

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