Steubenville Rape Case: Sexual Assault Prevention Starts With Men

The belief that the epidemic of sexual assault in college sports has no vaccine is being contested by Carmen Rios, a young feminist advocate, and Connor Clancy, a student athlete, who have teamed up to raise awareness about the issue. They are urging the National Federation of High School Associations, whose task is to accredit coaches, to join forces with national anti-violence organizations to develop a strong sexual assault prevention program. In their blog post, Rios and Clancy stress the importance of targeting coaches to curtail the plight of sexual violence in sports. There is a remedy. And it begins with educating young men:

“Empowering coaches, who are mentors to young men, to begin difficult and complex conversations about sexual violence could create long-lasting change in communities across the nation and lead to curbing, and even ending, sexual violence.”

Their petition has already garnered the support 27,243 people, including public figures like political analyst Zerlina Maxwell. The young campaigners are hoping to shed some light on the issue of rape culture in the athletic community. Rios, who is also a SPARK activist, produced a compelling essay about the importance of enlisting men as allies in the struggle to eradicate violence against women. She speaks about the recent backlash against Zerlina Maxwell, the prolific writer and rape survivor, after she appeared on Fox News stressing the importance of teaching men not to rape.

Following her appearance, she received an onslaught of death and rape threats, many racially charged. Her rebuttal to the intimidation is as poignant as it is powerful, and as it is blunt:

"Many of us would rather advise women on the precautions they should take to avoid being raped as opposed to starting at the root of the problem: teaching men and boys not to be rapists in the first place.”

Indeed, as Rios points out, “Rather than become angry about rape, we’d like to lash out at women frustrated by rape culture […] We need boys and men to take responsibility for their part in a rape-free world, and we need to make sure that their role models and heroes are committed to making that happen.”

The horrific Steubenville gang rape case that shocked the nation is set to begin on Wednesday. According to reports, the attorney representing the alleged rapists will rely on questioning the legitimacy of date rape as a defense strategy. This is no exaggeration. The defense attorney, Walter Madison, will literally argue that because the victim didn't say no, she probably meant yes. In case Madison has no eyes, ears, or Internet, images of the rape were broadcast on Instagram where the victim was visibly unconscious, held up only by her hands and her feet by her alleged rapists. If the the images themselves are unpersuasive, there was a follow-along commentary broadcast on YouTube of a friend of the alleged rapists who pointed out (while laughing) numerous times that she looked "dead"  and that "she is so raped right now." What about violating a girl’s unthinking body seems like misleading consent to you, Mr. Madison? 

Well, in his words:

"There's an abundance of evidence here that she was making decisions, cognitive choices, […] She didn't affirmatively say no."

In his words, silence is consent.

Let’s find some new words.

There is a vaccine to sexual violence. And it’s common sense. Let’s start educating young men not to grow into the tradition of willful blindness that still permeates our narratives about rape.

Sign the petition to express your outrage, and use the hashtag #educatecoaches to join the conversation on Twitter to spread the word.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Elizabeth Plank

Elizabeth is a Senior Correspondent at Mic and the host of Flip the Script.

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