by Josey Ross
For a lot of people, the Steubenville rape case appears to be the first time they’ve really thought about rape, rapists, and rape survivors. This is challenging a lot of people’s Law and Order: SVU view of a rapist as an evil stranger in the park, someone we can point to as a bad guy, someone we can confidently assert we don’t know, and we wouldn’t know. Oh, my boyfriend/brother/teacher/friend would never do that. He’s a good guy.
These two young men’s friends are still saying that, still coming up with excuses. They are threatening the victim with death. They are crying over the halted futures of these bright stars.
Nobody in the mainstream media seems to be crying for this brave 16-year-old girl who has just had her life destroyed. That is what rape does; it destroys lives. It breaks people. It shatters your ability to trust others and, more tragically, to trust yourself. It forever strips that piece of you that naively believes in the concept of “safety”.
None of this is coincidence. The wretched events of Steubenville are not an aberration. They are not a culmination of things gone wrong. They are a system working as it should.
This system teaches young men that women are theirs for the taking, that women incapable of consent are not only ripe for violation but have brought it upon themselves. It teaches that rape doesn’t even require concealment, but that you can celebrate and joke about it across social media platforms.
And this system teaches young women to hew to a system of male dominance. If going to a party with your friends is excuse enough for rape and mass humiliation, what the hell happens to those who stand up to the patriarchal system? What happens to those who say: “I deserve to walk without looking over my shoulder” or “I deserve to take up space”?
We’re in the 21st century and we are still teaching young men that women are less than human. We’re in the 21st century and we are still ensuring that women who forget that, who dare to think they deserve safety and opportunity, are put in their place, whether subtly or violently.
The events of Steubenville are not a bug in the system, they are a feature of it.