Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Long Reflection on the Guilty Verdicts for Seubenville High School Footballers. Mal’ik Richmond and Trent Mays. Rapists Sentenced to do Time.

On March 18th, Steubenville High School footballers Mal’ik Richmond and Trent Mays raped an unconscious 16 year old girl as she was to different parties. For now and maybe for always, the girl is Jane Doe. She has requested that her name not be released to the public. Ms. Doe was digitally penetrated by the while party goers, did nothing. The boys shot photos via cell phone and then posted on Instagram and Twitter. One of these photos shows the girl unconscious and naked in a basement with semen from one of the defendants on her. Doe woke not knowing what had happened to her.

Rather than expressing remorse, Trent Mays complained to the girl via text message that she was going to ruin his football career. After a four day trial, Mal’ik Richmond and Trent Mays were found delinquent. This legal term translates to a guilty verdict in a juvenille case. The two have been sentenced to a minimum of one year each in a juvenile facility with an additional year given to Trent Mays for the creation and distribution of pornographic content containing a minor.

Knee-jerk reactions to the sentencing immediately followed. Admittedly, I was one of them. I felt that these boys needed to do more time, so that they could understand just how wrong their actions were. The question of doing time always lingers with me when I witness a jail sentencing.

How much time is enough? Is there every a case of too much?

Spoken word artist, and former Black Flag front-man, Henry Rollins, pondered this throughout his last website blog post.

I wondered if the years in the facility will “help” them. What, exactly does one “learn” in one of these places? That is to say, after five years locked away, does the idea of assaulting a woman seem like the wrong thing to do, more than if you were incarcerated for one year? Would you be “more sorry” about what you did? Is that possible? Or, would you just be more sorry for yourself about where your actions landed you? At what point do you get “better”, how many years in one of these places does that take?

Rollins makes no excuse for the boys, and expresses his disgust for their actions. He comes to no conclusions but offers up a platter of food for thought.

What's unfortunate is that there are many who are sympathetic to the boys' sentencing and have focused not on Doe, but rather the loss of the boys' football careers, and the fact that they are now registered sex offenders.

It seems that there is worry that the consequences are especially profound being that they are young men who had the rest of their lives ahead of them. Would they receive this vote of sympathy if they were older? Why should age matter?

On top of that, there is a camp who believe that Jane Doe should have known better. Certainly women need to be careful when partying, but women also must be careful in broad day light. Is anyone pausing here? Can't we all take a moment to understand that it is unfair that women need to be careful of their surroundings? Isn't it shattering that women must make certain that their drinks are not spiked, that they walk in numbers at night, and that they check the backseat of their cars before entering?

I think we take these protective measures as a given, which is to say, we don't think beyond the fact that this is just what women are supposed to do. Are there any men who have to take such care for themselves? A man needn't feel guilty for his privilege, but he must be aware of it.

There is a reason that women must be careful and the reason is dangerous men. If patriarchy didn't exist,  women wouldn't have to be so caustious. It is that, what we should be focusing on.

I'm a woman who does not drink and is not promiscuous. That does not lessen my chances of rape.

Clementine Ford of Daily Life, writes:

The Steubenville case has the potential to significantly influence how America (and perhaps the world) addresses rape culture and its attitudes towards offenders. The time for shrugged shoulders and platitudes about how boys behave when they get together is over. It’s perhaps unfortunate for Mays and Richmond that their particular crime became the poster case for a tougher approach to casual rapists, but it will hopefully set a precedent when dealing with similar violations of the law whose most tragic personal reflection is that they got caught. If you rape someone, you’re not making a mistake. You’re breaking the law.  You don’t get to go home at the end of it and chalk it up to one of life’s quirky moments of truth. 

I don't Tweet but I came across a Tumblr account that posted some of the defending comments of the rapists.


Below -- comments from Reddit.


The above quotes are a blaring example of what Pasadena City College, gender studies professor, Hugo Schwyzer, brilliantly refers to as, The Myth of Male Weakness. Schwyzer has used this pithy phrase continuously to describe the idea that men simply cannot help themselves when it comes to misogyny.

The Twitter  and Reddit comments assert the idea that Ms. Doe had it coming to her. Women are so often blamed for how they dress, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, for the company they keep and, how much alcohol they consume.

In fact on the day of the boys' sentencing, I was praised by two men who found it impressive that I do not drink alcohol. They insinuated that a woman who consumes alcohol in the presence of men should know better. So, rather than blaming rapists for raping; women are blamed for being raped.

My hope is that our culture will shift, in that we do not only avoid rape, because it is against the law, but because it destroys the lives of the victims and the mindset of the attackers. How is it that anyone would desire the act of perpetrating rape? There is a special brand of sickness there.

 Anti-racist author and educator, Tim Wise, echoed my sentiments in his March 20th, blog post.

You digitally violated (or as you and your boys likely prefer to exclaim amid appropriately bro-worthy high fives, finger-banged) a young woman who you knew full well, given her inebriation, was incapable of consenting to any form of sex act. That is rape, first by law, and then, according to any decently calibrated notion of morality, the latter of which concept I realize remains horribly perplexing to you. And if you didn’t know that such behavior constituted a crime before that night, well that’s too bad. 

In a different breath, Wise goes on to say:

And so we need to expect more from them than to simply go away, to be disappeared into a justice system, juvenile or otherwise, from behind which edifice we may merely put them out of sight, out of mind. We must demand of them that they, beginning now, step up and become peacemakers by challenging other men like themselves, be they jocks or not, about rape and their own fractured understanding of the humanity of women and men alike. They should be expected to spend time not only being counseled on these matters, but then counseling others, to serve as living examples of both the terror of sexual violence, but also the possibility of human redemption. They should be expected, right now, to tell their peers in Steubenville to cease with their blaming of the victim in this case. To apologize in court is not enough. Now they must take the lead in demanding a change of thinking in the culture that nurtured them, or rather, perhaps, failed to. None of this will erase the damage they have done. None of it is intended to make it okay. But unless we expect this, and more, from them, nothing will change.

Wise credits diarist/blogger UnaSpenser from on dailyKos for presenting a doable plan for moving forward.

The parents of the boys could meet with the parents of the girl and ask them how they can support them. They could meet in private and discuss ways in which the families could support each other, but particularly what can be done to help the girl heal, gain emotional strength and a sense of safety in the world.

The coaches of Steubenville — all of them — could be required to get training about how to guide students regarding a culture of consent. Since what appears to be so important to everyone in Steubenville was that these boys were football players, it seems that the sports teams are accorded a higher status in Steubenville than other citizens…So, the first place to instill a culture of consent is at the top…The coaches need to be trained and need to adopt a culture of consent. It needs to be a part of their required coaching curriculum to instill this culture in their athletes.

The town could inject a “culture of consent” curriculum into their entire school system. From teaching toddlers not to hit people, to teaching elementary children not to mock each other or take lunch money, to teaching middle- and high-schoolers that sex without consent is assault.

The town could offer parenting courses on how to model a culture of consent at home and teach the principles of consent to their children. Parents of Steubenville could start a foundation to support rape victims and restorative justice. Victims could receive counseling, college scholarships, or whatever they find that they need. Those who have committed rapes could receive counseling, be given community service to perform and be guided through a process of apologizing and offering restitution to their victims.

I love men. For whatever reasons I've always gotten along better with men than I have women. But what a chore and burden it is to love men and simultaneously feel guarded. Men and women alike succumb to the notion that men are slave to their hormones. It is this belief that prompts the guys will be guys mentality: a belief that narrows the concept of masculinity. Men our are fathers, grandfathers,brothers, husbands, boyfriends, and strangers among us. I'd like to think more of men. I do.

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