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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.