Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
Last week we read Prof. Turley’s article concerning a bill proposed in New Mexico that attempts to make it unlawful for a rape victim to have an abortion because it would be akin to destroying the “evidence” of the rape claim. While that bill is an insult to women and right thinking men everywhere, I submit that it is further evidence that the longest “war” on record, is still going strong in this country. One of the most controversial examples of how women in general and rape victims in particular, can be turned into the criminals by the public and even the police and prosecution is the case of an alleged gang rape in August, 2012, in Steubenville, Ohio.
The victim was a 16-year-old girl who after passing out at a party from drinking and/or date rape drugs was allegedly repeatedly raped and abused by members of the Steubenville Big Red football team. The details of what the victim endured are both heartbreaking and disgusting. I apologize in advance for the lurid details, but they are necessary to fully understand how egregious the attacks were and how egregious the post crime attacks on the victim and her family were.
“Across the river, in a well-kept two-story colonial house in a solidly middle-class West Virginia neighborhood, the 16-year-old girl told her parents that she was going to a sleepover at a friend’s house that night. She then headed off to those parties, too. She is not a Steubenville High student; she attended a smaller, religion-based school, where she was an honor student and an athlete.
At the parties, the girl had so much to drink that she was unable to recall much from that night, and nothing past midnight, the police said. The girl began drinking early on, according to an account that the police pieced together from witnesses, including two of the three Steubenville High athletes who testified in court in October. By 10 or 10:30 that night, it was clear that the dark-haired teenager was drunk because she was stumbling and slurring her words, witnesses testified.
Some people at the party taunted her, chanted and cheered as a Steubenville High baseball player dared bystanders to urinate on her, one witness testified. About two hours later, the girl left the party with several Big Red football players, including Mays and Richmond, witnesses said. They stayed only briefly at a second party before leaving for their third party of the night. Two witnesses testified that the girl needed help walking. One testified that she was carried out of the house by Mays and Richmond while she was “sleeping.”
She woke up long enough to vomit in the street, a witness said, and she remained there alone for several minutes with her top off. Another witness said Mays and Richmond were holding her hair back. Afterward, they headed to the home of one football player who has now become a witness for the prosecution. That player told the police that he was in the back seat of his Volkswagen Jetta with Mays and the girl when Mays proceeded to flash the girl’s breasts and penetrate her with his fingers, while the player videotaped it on his phone. The player, who shared the video with at least one person, testified that he videotaped Mays and the girl “because he was being stupid, not making the right choices.” He said he later deleted the recording.
The girl “was just sitting there, not really doing anything,” the player testified. “She was kind of talking, but I couldn’t make out the words that she was saying.” At that third party, the girl could not walk on her own and vomited several times before toppling onto her side, several witnesses testified. Mays then tried to coerce the girl into giving him oral sex, but the girl was unresponsive, according to the player who videotaped Mays and the girl.
The player said he did not try to stop it because “at the time, no one really saw it as being forceful.” At one point, the girl was on the ground, naked, unmoving and silent, according to two witnesses who testified. Mays, they said, had exposed himself while he was right next to her. Richmond was behind her, with his hands between her legs, penetrating her with his fingers, a witness said.” New York Times
It is hard to imagine that anyone could see these details and view the online videos and not be disgusted and not feel for the victim and her family. However, in Steubenville, Ohio the victim and her family have been attacked while many in the community have backed the alleged perpetrators. You have heard the comments before. She lured them into repeatedly abusing her at several public parties and in the back seat of a car. What was she wearing that caused this reaction by our boys?
While repeating that these young men are innocent until proven guilty, what is extremely upsetting to me is the way the coaches and townspeople have attacked the young women and her family and anyone else who has come out against the alleged perpetrators. It is also alleged that the police and a local prosecutor may have tried to dissuade the victim and her parent from pressing charges.
“Jane Hanlin is a Jefferson County prosecutor and is also a member of the school board and her son was a member of the football team. “When the family of the victim went to file the charges, Jane Hanlin was present. She strongly discouraged them from filing. Hanlin frightened not only the victim, but the parents as well. Telling them that her name was going to be dragged through the mud, she will be in and out of court for well over two years, the press wouldn’t leave any of the family alone once the crime was made public. Scared out of their wits, the parents said they didn’t want that and Hanlin then said not to worry just leave it up to her and the detectives on the case.” Radionewz.net
I ask you to imagine what the outcry would have been if the alleged victim had been a boy and had been beaten and probed with fingers and allegedly urinated on? Is this evidence of the need for the Violence Against Women Act that has languished in Congress? Do you think that 16 year football players who allegedly abused and carried the unconscious young women to multiple public locations to continue their alleged abuse should be charged as juveniles? Why won’t more of the students at the parties in Steubenville that night cooperate with authorities to allow them to get to the truth? Do communities give too much deference to athletes at their schools? This is a very sad case that, in my opinion, evidences the continuing battle women have in getting justice in assault and rape cases. What do you think? (Revised)