The recent Steubenville rape case brings up some very disturbing issues regarding the attitude in this culture of males in this culture seeing females as objects of sexual gratification and consumption that they can abuse and prey upon—urinating, forcing oral sex, digital penetration and rape on—all because she drank too much and lost her ability to protect herself, fight back or even say no.
In the Steubenville case the girl who was raped is said to have became drunk at a party held by one of the assistant football coaches—a party which she left totally inebriated and vomiting. This alone begs questions of criminal culpability for an adult member of the community—a coach—who was reportedly serving alcohol to minors and failing to protect those who became drunk as a result.
Moreover, the Steubenville boys who committed the crime so strongly believed they were immune to being held to task that they bragged about, texted, tweeted and photographed evidence of their crime—cruel actions that thankfully later incriminated them.
But these boys were not the only ones lacking in empathy and compassion—none of her peers who learned of it through social media—even while it was ongoing, and afterward did anything to stop or report it to the authorities. Even when adults learned of it—they did nothing. And perhaps most shocking of all—the perpetrators allegedly believed their coach would protect them against her, and make their crime “go away”.
While most of us want to see this as an aberration, the truth is—as the District Attorney reminded us—this is a phenomena that is all too tragically happening every Friday night and perhaps every night, all across America.
We still live in a culture where boys and men believe that a “mistake” made by a woman of being alone, unguarded, dressed sexually or inebriated allows them to dehumanize and sexually assault her. And girls also apparently believe it—as too many of them wake up the next morning traumatized from what happened—and too terrified to press charges the next day—fearingthey versus their rapists will be blamed for getting drunk.
Even today in our modern society young girls still fear that they will be blamed and labeled as at fault, and even as a “slut” for having put themselves in a vulnerable situation. And they know that we still live in a culture where they will be put through a process—just as the young girl in Steubenville was—where wide swathes of the community will lack compassion and empathy for the victim and instead close ranks around and protect the rapists. Girls and women in our society know that we still live in a culture where parents, teachers and men and boys still believe it’s okay to rape—when a girl is vulnerable and unable to say no—thinking of it as a “boys will be boys” or “men will be men” phenomena.
Steubenville is not an aberration. Other cases very similar to it are well documented and countless others never see the light of day.
It’s time our society rallied around rape victims—as the wider country did this time in behalf of the Steubenville victim—to stand up for the rights of girls and women to be vulnerable in states of drunkenness, undress, solitariness and in any other way unprotected—to still be protected by a community that says an unequivocal, loud, resounding and firm NO to excusing rape and sexual assault of any human being—man, woman or child—under any circumstances.
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Georgetown University Medical School and author of Fetal Abduction: The True Story of Multiple Personalities and Murder and Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & “Martyrs”