Steubenville’s Many Tragedies

(Partially in response to: On Rape, Cages, and the Steubenville Verdict)

I think, in a way, Mia McKenzie, is saying similar things as to what the CNN reporters were saying. She is, without a doubt, saying it much more eloquently, though that may be in part the luxury of a well thought out and executed blog post vs. a quickly produced breaking news video segment.

Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, both football players, were convicted of digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, and Mays was also found guilty of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. The boys will serve their sentence at a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21.
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, both football players, were convicted of digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, and Mays was also found guilty of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. The boys will serve their sentence at a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21.

What happened to that girl is disgusting and despicable and those responsible should pay. However, it is a disgrace that there was a moment in their lives when they thought violating an incapacitated girl was okay and it’s a shame that they were raised in a society that taught them that. I think what people, though misguided, were trying to say was that Trent Mays and ​Ma’Lik Richmond were not Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold. They were not loners or weirdos, ostracized by their peers. By all accounts they were not ticking time bombs waiting to explode.  They were smart, popular, seemingly well adjusted athletes. Not “bad kids.” And now, kids, whose lives were presumably on the right track, have been derailed.

But they were bad. They were horrible, despicable. Their actions elevated them to the level of Dylan and Eric. And they should have to pay. Though, as McKenzie points out, prison is not necessarily the best way to accomplish this, and by imprisoning him, we are damning Richmond to be just another statistic, another black man jailed before he got a chance to make anything of himself and contribute to society. 

The same society that created him and his partner in crime. The same society that taught them to do what they did. To see that girl has nothing but a series of holes, a sexual object for their amusement. Not a person, but a thing to be played with and then discarded. They are not the first people in history to treat a woman this way. They did not come up with these ideas out of thin air. Years of systematic conditioning taught them to do that.

That is the tragedy here. Second only to the crime itself, the tragedy is that for nearly two decades these boys were taught to value women less than men. Were given privilege because of their gender and athletic prowess (and in Mays case, because of his race). Their whole lives were building up to that moment, all the pieces were already in place.

And when they emerge from prison in one, two or five years, they will not be, as McKenzie points out, better prepared to treat women as equals. This will only damage them further, only make the cycle repeat itself.

It’s a tragedy because justice has not been served. I hope, with my whole being, that the victim has ignored the CNN commentators and all the hatred that has come her way and that she does feel she has gotten justice, at least in a small way.

But the fact is that this does not change anything. In the larger sense, it exposed how we as a people and the media we both criticize and rely on, continue to blame and shame victims and perpetuate rape culture. And on the small scale, these boys will likely not be rehabilitated, will only be made worse in prison.

This has been a tragedy on many levels and focusing on what media commentators said or didn’t say won’t change any of it.

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