Steubenville, Ohio. Population: 18,659. Home to one of the most successful high school football teams in the United States, The Big Red. As of late, our nation has been watching the small town of Steubenville closely with a question on our minds: Is this little town home to big corruption?
It started in August 2012. A 16-year-old girl from West Virginia filed charges of rape against two Big Red star football players. There was shocking evidence against them: photos, videos, and text messages. The photos showed the two boys carrying the unconscious girl out of a party – by her hands and legs. The video showed a witness to the rape making obscene remarks about the victim and her state of intoxication. There were text messages between the victim and some witnesses about what occurred after the rape, because she did not remember it happening. She reported the crime two days after it occurred.
Local police seized phones and other electronic devices from people who allegedly had knowledge of the crime. The police claimed to have analyzed the devices and not find much evidence pertaining to the rape allegations. Ten days after the rape occurred, the two boys were arrested and placed into juvenile custody.
This is where things get messy (if it wasn’t crazy enough already).
The ‘hactivist’ group Anonymous became involved. They uncovered many confusing details about the people involved in the rape, in an attempt for people to see the truth about what actually occurred that night in Steubenville. They uncovered possible corruption and many dark secrets about the Steubenville community. They threatened to reveal personal information about those who were involved in the rape if they did not step forward. They hacked into the Steubenville Police Department websites and into private emails of influential people of Steubenville, discovering some very disturbing secrets.
The boys have since been found guilty of rape. They are 16 and 17-years-old and were not charged as adults. The maximum sentence they will serve is until their 21st birthday in a detention facility.
The victim has been blamed. The victim has been bullied. This girl is so brave for stepping forward, especially in light of discovering and helping other victims. Yet we still see examples of victim-blaming such as two of the victim’s female classmates who went as far as threatening her with physical harm. The rape culture surrounding this case is astounding. The Steubenville Case has the possibility of changing rape culture forever. This girl did nothing wrong. She was not asking for it. No one asks for to be sexually assaulted. No one deserves to be sexually abused. It amazes me that this has to be explained in 2013.
Information online is confusing. Everyone should be educated about these issues. The Steubenville Police Department created their own blog in efforts to keep the public informed. Anonymous does have a blog about the case, but it has been suspended and blocked multiple times.
Is Steubenville a corrupted town? Are influential people hiding some very dark secrets? No one can be positive at this point, but you can be informed and you can decide for yourself. The victim should no longer be blamed or bullied. She was abused and hurt enough. Although the Anonymous group committed illegal acts, they (as well as many other influential social figures, including Henry Rollins, Roxane Gay, and The Believer) are bringing strength and support to the victim and other victims in similar situations. They are changing rape culture and it’s up to us to stand beside them to make this change our reality.