Over the weekend, two teenaged football players from Stubenville, OH were found guilty of the August rape of a 16-year-old female during a drunken party. A grand jury will convene to investigate if all parties responsible for the assault have been held accountable.
Traci Lords, a pornographic actress also from Stubenville, recalled her own experience of rape at the age of 10 by a 14 year old, speculating that her assault was what led her into pornography. Lords spoke out about the current case and pointed to a culture within her hometown that treats women as second-class citizens. If that accusation is correct, had the town fostered a permissiveness to overlook this incident as the work of unruly teenagers instead of what it truly was — a sexual assault against a young woman captured for social media?
The most recent case had divided the town and made national headlines. The football-crazed culture within Stubenville was blamed for the lack of evidence in the case of the two teenaged football players. Enough time had passed after the victim in the case came forward to the police so that any DNA evidence could have been washed off. It was another week before charges were brought against the victim’s attackers. The evidence obtained was largely from social media, pictures taken of the events, text messages from other teens at the party where the assault took place, and confessional video posted to YouTube where the assault in question was laughingly recalled.
One piece of testimony from a prosecution witness who admitted witnessing the rape said he did not try and stop what was happening because he did not know it was rape as it was "not violent."
It may be startling to some that that the majority of sexual assaults occur not from strangers but by people known to the victim of assault. The Center for Disease Control estimates that only 13.8% of rapes occur by a stranger; the rest are by acquaintances, friends, dates, or family members.
Stubenville is not an isolated incident where the legitimacy of a victim’s stories are questioned. These are familiar stories and are often swept out of sight; it is time to examine education and information about what constitutes rape and sexual assault — especially in the digital age, when more and more is captured for the world to witness.