April 2013 I wrote about the dark side of social media in ‘When social media is no longer social’, one of the examples I used was the Steubenville case. This case not only threw the unsocial side of social media into the limelight but also the unhealthy relationship some American towns have with their football teams and players. The lengths residents of certain towns will go to protect their star footballs players regardless whether their actions are right or wrong, including vilifying and humiliating the survivors, hoping their social media trolling behaviour will be enough to beat the survivors into submission and not fight back against their attackers.
The rape of an intoxicated 16 year old girl by two high school football player wasn’t enough for the town’s people of Steubenville to be outraged and disgusted by the actions of those they had held in such high esteem. No, their outrage was directed at the survivor and those who supported her for not keeping quiet and not sharing in the rest of the town’s adulation of these rapists.
Despite the obstacles created by some of the town’s people, including the football coach who was aware of what had happened, the criminal act was brought to light, mostly due to the arrogance and stupidity of the rapists who placed evidence implicating them online. This case eventually had its day in court though the sentencing did not reflect the nature of the crime with one defendant given a two year sentence, though other, 1 year. Both serving their time in a juvenile detention centre.
This week I read that the attacker serving the 1 year sentence had been released after a mere 7 months and has been allowed back at the same school and wait for it…allowed to play football. He will have to continue to sign the sex offender register every 6 months for the next 20 years but ‘His name will not be included in public websites, and he can request to have the classification removed after completing rehabilitation, according to Time.com.’
We can be outraged by the early release of this individual but what does it say about the school and those around him? That football has a much higher value than the lives, in this case of the survivor and her attacker? I feel no sympathy for the rapist, he may play high school football and try to return to the pedestal he was once placed upon but for now he is also a registered sex offender. No doubt he will request to try have his name removed from the register following rehabilitation, whether his request will be granted is another matter.
There are a number of things with this story that are a cause for concern. I’m not going to discuss the attack, there is nothing that can justify the actions of the football players. It’s the reaction of those who too should have shocked and outraged by their star football players behaviour, but weren’t.
This case only further intensified the ugly side of social media not only from the distribution of the degrading images of the attack but also the way it was used to abuse and verbally attack the survivor.
This case highlighted the fickle and shallow side of the human race. That winning is all that mattered, no matter the cost. Bad behaviour not matter how heinous it is will be forgiven as long as you bring home that trophy.
This case showed that a town was ready to forgive a rapist so easily so that he can return to normal life, but showed little regard to what the survivor went through.
According to the little information out there, the survivor is working towards forging a happy fulfilling life.
Her attackers, whether they are truly sorry for their actions or not they will have to live with what they have done, being reminded every time they have to sign the sex offenders register or have to declare their criminal past.
For Steubenville, their high school football team will get new players to gazed at adoringly by their fans. Those players too will begin to believe they have god like statuses, that as long as they are star players they are untouchable. Will history repeat itself or will it be a case that the powers that be will just do a better job of covering it up next time?