I don’t want to write about Steubenville.

If reading a discussion of rape culture will trigger you, please respect your own limitations. If you need to talk to someone about any sexual assault or abuse that you or someone you love may have experienced, please call RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

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I don’t want to write about Steubenville.

I don’t want to write about Steubenville because unless you’re in the relatively small group of people who are directly affected by that particular case, Steubenville is not the problem.

It, and everything surrounding it — that is: not just the rapes, abuse, and humiliation the survivor underwent, but also the unwarranted support her rapists, abusers and their accomplices have received and continued to receive, the efforts to paint her as guilty of her own rape, the efforts to paint her abusers and their accomplices as not-that-bad-really, the entire ugly thing — all of it is a symptom. Not the problem, but a symptom.

Men and boys have always and forever gotten away with raping women and girls, and, it should be noted, men and boys as well. Whoever you rape, as long as your victim doesn’t enjoy significantly more social power than you do, you’re pretty much going to get away with it. We should not be in the least surprised that members of Steubenville’s football team thought they would get away with it, too.

In a society that continues to say that women who get drunk, wear attractive clothes, flirt with men, don’t flirt with men, leave their drink unattended, go out at night, stay home where that uncle can find them, etc and so on (and on and on) are are asking for it — in such a society, neither should we be surprised that these boys didn’t see anything wrong in assaulting a drunk girl.

In a culture that urges men to score, that everywhere suggests methods by which women can be influenced to give in to sexual pressure, that treats alcohol as a means to get into a woman’s pants, that laughs at rape, a culture in which rapists can and generally do think that rape is, in fact, a normal behavior — in such a culture, we shouldn’t be surprised that these boys used a girl as a portable sex toy and many of their friends thought it was hilarious.

Here’s what I want to write about: I want to write about the fact that I know — and if you think about it, you know it, too — that someone else was raped in Steubenville that very same night. And if not in Steubenville then right next door.

Someone was raped down the street from where you live that very same night. Someone was raped down the street last night. Someone is being raped right this minute. Possibly many someones. On average, someone is sexually assaulted in America every two minutes of every day.

Like in the Steubenville case, where the survivor left a party with one of her rapists “because she trusted him,” about two-thirds of all rapes are committed by people the survivor knows. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), 38% of rapists “are a friend or an acquaintance.” And 97% of rapists “will never spend a day in jail.”

Steubenville will have its writers. The people in that story — the rapists, the abusers, their accomplices, the parents who failed to raise their boys to respect the humanity and dignity of women, the parents working to help their daughter heal — all of them will get more coverage than any of them will ever want. America will know them and talk about them for the rest of their natural lives.

I want to write about the women and girls, the men and boys, the families and communities who have been shattered by rape — but no one knows their names.


  1. Thanks to the Twitterverse, I found the following article by Dan Wetzel to be as succinct about the whole situation as I think is possible without being sensational or boorish:


    • Thank you for this. I’m actually very grateful for all the changes I’ve seen in society since I first became an activist on this issue – I recently noted how many men (such as yourself, good Newt!) have become vocal allies of women in this struggle, a fact that is simply overwhelming to me – but it’s not enough, it can never be enough, until girls are not raised to live in fear and blame themselves.

      • I have an 8-year-old daughter, and I don’t intend to stand idly by and allow her to grow up in a world where she is seen as a casual vessel for the libidinous debauchery of men. I sure as hell don’t want anything like that to happen to any other woman I know. What really burns me is how the idea does not create utter revulsion in anyone who claims a spiritual bent, but then the same could be said for any kind of suffering (poverty, disease, want). That such a large segment of our society can so easily turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering caused by the myopic and maladjusted behavior of men toward women (or anyone toward anyone) staggers me like a blow from a hammer. When I read Dan Wetzel’s story, and realized that not only did no one stop the rape, but when the poor girl was outside, exposed to the elements, disheveled and disposed of, that none offered to help her, it made me wonder just what children are taught anymore, at home or in school. Is The Golden Rule no longer mentioned?

        Beneath, in my darker depths, I am seething, despite my admonition against violence. I want to slap those boys, I want to wring the necks of every person who walked by that then-pitiful girl and did nothing but taunt her. I want to knock their heads together, batter them into jelly, string them up… it’s all I can do to remind myself to breathe. That a town so easily allows this kind of thing to be an everyday occurrence sickens me to the pit of my stomach.

        • Neocortex

           /  March 19, 2013

          …it made me wonder just what children are taught anymore, at home or in school.

          Unfortunately, rape and cruelty, including by kids, aren’t recent inventions. And society’s attitudes are actually progressing on rape, albeit abysmally slowly, through the work of activists. The idea that kids, or at least teens, should be taught what consent is, is starting to make strides, ever so slowly.

  2. Emily, thank you for sharing this. I, too, don’t want to write about this particular instance and have not, but it is seething in a corner of my mind, like a pressure cooker about to blow.

  3. Great article, those are pretty much my thoughts as well. There has been a lot of over-sensationalism surrounding this story, when the real problem we’re facing is rape culture and cyber bullying.

  4. Egalitarian

     /  October 6, 2013

    As usual, you incorrectly imply that only men rape, and only men and boys need to be taught not to rape. Take a look at this post, which has plenty of sources that show women often commit sexual abuse: http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2013/09/04/the-startling-facts-on-female-sexual-aggression/

    The typical statistics vastly understate female perpetrators because these cases are rarely reported to the police, and because rape is typically incorrectly defined to require the victim to be penetrated and excludes being made to penetrate, which excludes most rapes of males by females.

  1. Steubenville: Poor Little Rapists | julietjeske
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