Steubenville Rape Case: Does America Have an Unadmitted Rape Culture Problem?

In December, millions of Americans expressed outrage over the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in India. American journalists bristled over the number of Indian lawmakers who themselves, face charges of rape. Articles rightfully, criticized India's government and rape culture. As this story unfolded so too did another. 

The New York Times wrote a piece on a 16-year-old girl in Ohio who was allegedly raped and urinated on by multiple individuals while unconscious at a party back in August of 2012. Since the article was published on December 16th, much has happened. A subgroup of Anonymous —known as KnightSec, worked with the blog Localleaks to disseminate a 12-minute long video of a Steubenville High School baseball player discussing the girl and her assault. KnightSec continues to release information regarding involved parties.

On January 3rd, a California appeals court ruled that the case involving Julio Morales raping a sleeping woman, would have to be retried due to an archaic 1872 law. The law essentially states that the woman had not been raped because she was unmarried and therefore was not protected from rape by imposters.

The list of recent news stories involving American cases of rape goes on. But unlike the story involving the 23-year-old Indian woman, American media has been slow to paint a realistic picture of our own rape culture and institutionalized misogyny. 

Instead, what we see are instances like that in the Times piece that focuses the blame on "hero worship" in a small football town. But aside from some feminist bloggers, not once have we heard a mention of rape culture uttered as a contributing factor. When we hear stories of rape in America we focus on the individual or, at best, a group. 

When the word rape is used, what do we think of? Do we think of the person we know, the ones who we trust? No. We think of the masked offender, the violent offender. But this is not how the majority of people experience rape or sexual assault.

In America:

— Illinois is the only state that recognizes the right of an individual to rescind consent during the sex. 

— Only in 1993 did marital rape become illegal. 

— Out of every 100 rapes only 5 lead to felony convictions

What victims of assault are more likely to experience in terms of reaction to coming forward about their assault is articulated by this account of rape by a former Amherst College student. 

I challenge you to ask your friends what they do to "protect" themselves at night. Women are socialized to protect themselves. We pass dark allies with trepidation, we have our friends watch our drinks, and we walk in pairs. Ways to protect ourselves from would-be attackers are virtually everywhere.  

In 2011 we saw the GOP introduce anti-abortion legislation that would also redefine rape. We also saw dangerous, misguided statements on rape and abortion at least eight other times by leaders of the Republican Party.

After a 2012 report from the DOD released numbers saying that since 2006 there had been a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults, Fox News analyst Liz Trotta stated that women should "expect" to be raped working in such close proximity. 

The expectation of rape. 

That is what survivors must deal with our peers/media telling us.” They should have known something like that would happen." They deal with critique of clothing, character, past sexual history, and forced to relive the trauma.  

But it is only "bad men" who rape, right?

No. 

Reject that argument and its assertion. 

The article "Nice Guys Commit Rape Too" posted on the Good Men Project has come under fire in recent weeks. The article readily admits that a friend slept with a woman while she was sleeping, but the article defends him because the woman had been flirting and giving him "mixed signals."

After a backlash by bloggers, GMP defended their articles and published additional accounts by rapists. 

The arguments on GMP that these aren't "bad men" only men who have made mistakes, learned their lesson, and after all look at what the women did. Shouldn't she be to blame? Doesn't she hold at least some accountability? She had flirted with him for weeks...

But these arguments do nothing to help victims/survivors of sexual assault or rape. Instead, it plays into the notion that rape happens to people because they were doing something wrong. We didn't take enough precautions. But when we do, when we tell the world why we view men with trepidation, we are also criticized. 

That is what rape culture does. 

It perpetuates a society that asks victims to be accountable for their actions, but offer forgiveness for rapists. 

It's a society that believes rapes are made-up at much higher instances than they actually are.

It's a society that is so quick to judge an Eastern culture for its egregious laws and treatment of women, but overlooks its own. 

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Andrea Ayres-Deets

PM Politics Intern- M.A. in Writing from the University of Warwick. Lover of sci-fi, awkward situations, and coffee.

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