On the media coverage of the Steubenville and Delhi Rape Cases
Over the past several months, two rape cases have received widespread media attention. While the media could have used these cases as an opportunity to educate people and condemn the crime of rape, the media has instead reinforced rape culture.
The first case is the Steubenville Rape Case. On March 17, two Ohio high school students, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were sentenced to Juvenile Detention in Steubenville, Ohio for raping a sixteen-year-old girl. What I find most disturbing about this case is that a number of the rapists’ friends knew about this rape and yet didn’t think the rapists had done anything wrong and failed to speak up about it.
When the judge found the two young men guilty, neither of them apologized. In fact, their complete lack of regret was noted in the media: one even remarked to his lawyer: “My life is ruined.” A group of young men testified that they knew and saw Mays and Richmond commit these acts and were given immunity for speaking in court.
Mays and Richmond will go to a Juvenile Detention Center, but they will not have to face the kind of condemnation that the girl they raped will. She will be ostracized because she sent the two star players of the beloved school football team to jail and people will use the fact that she was drinking as justification to blame her for a horrific crime committed against her. These young men may have been found guilty, but their power and status as stars will persist and the young woman will be forever marked in the small Ohio town as the person who destroyed their future. In fact, two teenage girls were recently arrested for making death threats towards this girl. It’s doubtful that this case would have ever even gone anywhere if it weren’t for people outside of the community: notably, protestors and a rogue hacking group who did the police department’s job when they wouldn’t.
The second case occurred last December in Delhi. A young woman was riding the public bus with her male friend when a group of young men attacked the male friend and then viciously gang raped her. Her injuries were so horrific she had to be flown to a hospital in Singapore to receive medical attention. She died two weeks later. Rape in India is widespread and women are often ignored when they come forward. The rape of this young woman is a tragedy, but what is worse is that her case has only been highlighted in the media because of the extent of her injuries, not because the act itself was an anomaly. Another similar rape case was recently reported in India on March 15: a Swiss couple was camping when the husband was attacked by group of men and the wife was gang raped. By focusing on these cases, the media essentially sends the message that gang rapes are more traumatic and/or notable.
It’s clear from these cases that a victim blaming mentality still exists – not just in our day-to-day lives, but in the media as well. CNN was rightly criticized for reporting that the rapists Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond’s lives were ruined, but they weren’t the only media outlet to make such an ignorant, insensitive comment. Why aren’t we asking the men who are convicted of rape why they committed these acts? Why did two teenage boys in Ohio think that they could do what they did? Why did the two groups of men in India who raped two women think they could commit rape? Why don’t we have educational policies to combat this mentality or stronger law enforcement against such reprehensible acts? These are the questions we need to focus on answering: questions about the rapists, not the survivors of such horrible acts. It would be great if the media could work towards that progressive goal rather than reinforce a regressive victim blaming mentality.
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