On March 17 two high school football players from Steubenville, Ohio, were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl at an "alcohol-fueled party," and today a Grand Jury will begin deliberating whether coaches or school administrators knew of the rape but failed to report it. The coaches and administrators are suspected of knowing of the crime, as indicated by a series of text messages introduced at trial. Ma'lik Richmond, 17, and Trent Mays, 16, have been sentenced to one and two years in juvenile detention for the rape. However, the three teens who witnessed the event and made a disturbing video showing Michael Nodianos joking about it were granted immunity from prosecution to allow them to testify against Richmond and Mays.
This is the latest in a series of high school abuse cases in which high school athletes have abused younger girls, publicized the actions on the internet, and often been protected by school administrators. In April, the National Women's Law Center filed a complaint alleging that the principal of a school where a girl was sexually assaulted by a star basketball player in 2010 discouraged any investigation into the allegations.
Days after the Ohio convictions, two 18-year-old Connecticut high school football players were convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in a crime which also had a social media component. "I wanna know why there's no punishment for young hoes," one student tweeted.
These cases highlight troubling phenomena in our societies: firstly, allowing a double-standard for high school star athletes, but also the growing trend of using social media to amplify the suffering of rape victims. Last week I published a story discussing this tragic practice of social media harassment in an Illinois rape case where three teens allegedly filmed their assault of a 12-year-old and posted it on Facebook.