Why The Steubenville Rapists’ Guilty Verdict Matters — To Me & To You

Steubenville-rape-verdict

Yesterday, the two young men who raped a 16-year-old girl at several parties last summer were convicted of their crimes. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond face at least one year in a juvenile detention facility, with Mays adding an extra year onto his sentence for distributing nude photos of a minor. Both will be required to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives, as tends to happen when you rape somebody and are found guilty of such a crime. And honestly, while I feel they absolutely deserve to require registration, I almost feel like they don’t need to: the Steubenville rape case has garnered so much national attention, I have a feeling thousands of people absolutely have their faces memorized and branded.

“My life is over,” said Richmond, sobbing.

Yes, Richmond, your life may become incredibly difficult now, and the permissive attitudes you were shown may finally change, but I don’t feel sorry for your life sucking. Not even a little bit. Not at all. Not when, if you were just a few years older, you would be facing a punishment considerably more severe (well, hopefully, but our justice system is ridiculously lenient on rapists so who knows?). A year in juvenile detention and then being forced to register as somebody who sexually assaults people? Yeah, that hardly seems like a fitting punishment, but c’est la vie. I, and many people I know, are trying to look on the bright side: the boys weren’t forgiven for their crimes.

This ruling shows change that has been a long time coming, and has by no means totally arrived, but certainly gives hope to the masses who have spent lifetimes waiting for it.

While much of the coverage surrounding this trial has been questionable, at best (ABC News hoped to get some juicy coverage by interviewing Ma’lik for his Blind Side life story and CNN just went with the “awww poor rapist football players!” route), anybody who has half a brain and a quarter of a heart knows that the most significant person in this entire situation is the young woman who survived the rape that these two boys put her through.

Here is to whom else this matters.

Rape Victims

I do not speak for all rape victims, because we’re all different human beings with different opinions. From my perspective and the other people I’ve spoken to regarding this case who have also been sexually assaulted, this was the sort of case you don’t just cross your fingers for; it’s the kind you want to punch a wall for upon hearing any bad news or negative perspectives or further horrifying evidence.

While the sentencing was light due to the defendants’ ages, it is still significant that they were convicted nonetheless. Each time a person who has sexually assaulted somebody is declared guilty, it’s another point for the incredibly low conviction rate of rapists — and another step towards more victims feeling comfortable (or, rather, less terrified) of coming forward to report crimes that have happened to them. And anything that involves rape survivors being able to feel less threatened and terrified is a good thing, in my book.

“Imperfect” Victims

For all those who were drunk or high, or for those who suffer from mental illnesses, or for those with an active sex life — really, anybody who is not considered believable because of outdated societal standards placed on primarily women, but ones that absolutely affect male victims, as well. Each time somebody calls a victim a liar or uses the “rough sex” defense, whenever the defense team tries to discredit the victim by going through her sexual history or stating that she does drugs, it’s just another way of saying, “Live your life according to our standards, or else nobody will come running when something terrible happens.”

So when a young woman who was raped after choosing to drink, and then her rapists are punished, it sends a message: Yes, ladies, you can drink if you want to (well, once you’re 21, but the message still applies) without being responsible for whether or not somebody attempts to rape you because it is that person’s choice, not yours. In sexual violence, the victim does not give permission for the act to occur, thus making it inherently not her fault because the only person who chose for the act to happen was the rapist. It doesn’t matter if she was drunk or high or has bipolar disorder or was wearing a fishnet bodysuit; the choice was the rapist’s, not the victim’s, and responsibility falls with that person, even if they’re football stars with great academic records.

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    • Boosker

      Here’s a really great way to NOT get registered as a sex offender: don’t sexually assault someone.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

        But but but THAT’S CRAZY TALK.

    • http://www.facebook.com/karen.valdivia Karen Valdivia

      I think it’s really outrageous that many ones are saying oh poor guys, they had a bright future, they were athletes with good grades, what a shame they will be registered sex offenders.

      And what about her? Does her life somehow got better after the rape and trial? I don’t think so. I wish that girl can get over the trauma, get her life back togheter and achieve her goals.

      Hopefully more rapists get convicted in the future. This case was a baby step to get all rapists convicted and get the victims feel safe and that someone has their back. I wish one they the entire world changes their views on rape and women being objects.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

        Agreed on so many levels. It’s horrible that people are feeling sorry for these vile men and completely disregarding the actual victim here.

        I will say that many survivors are able to get their lives back together and achieve their goals, but I also think that given how many angry, threatening and hurtful things people have done and said to this girl, it could potentially be more difficult. Hopefully, she is at least able to know that there are thousands and thousands of people who are out there thinking of her wellbeing and hoping she’s all right…it might not be a huge comfort, but who knows? I just wish that issues like this didn’t need to receive national attention in order for the victims to receive justice, ugh.

    • mrseryates69

      My question is why these boys did get more time,sound like a cover up to me.How many time have any one found guilty of rape and only got one year,it never ever happen before.