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Opinion & Editorial

Prosecuting the Guilty, Bystanders Included

Last summer, a 16-year-old Steubenville girl, under the influence of alcohol and unconscious was allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted twice at a party.

She was raped while her peers witnessed the events and snapped photos and videos on their phones. One photo of the events shows her being carried by the wrists and ankles while completely limp.

Almost  all of the crimes appeared on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. The girl’s mother even stated her daughter did not know the full extent and details until a local newspaper covered the attack the next day.

A disturbing,outrageous video was leaked by activist hacker groups (who have suggested police cover-ups) shows young men joking about the girl’s rape, with one saying she was “deader than Trayvon Martin.” They also said they “peed on her in the middle of the street,” proving she was dead.

The two 16-year-old offenders are set to face trial for the alleged rape, but the most heated topic is whether social media offenders should also be held culpable. Online records of her violation and kidnapping branch into social media and are often anonymous and difficult to identify.

Once the girl’s parents reported the trauma to police, news spread quickly and the vast majority of the posts disappeared, but they remained etched in the very permanent surface of the internet and were quickly recovered. It is highly disturbing that many others witnessed the rape of an underage girl unable to give consent and instead of preventing it, they encouraged, aided, and publicized the events.

Corrupt morals are not necessarily illegal, and even if they were indecent human beings for not helping her, they cannot necessarily be charged.

Within Steubenville, some have said the rape was a fabrication told to her parents as an excuse for staying out and drinking, and she has received threats and is under police protection. Through social media, her peers referred to as a “train whore.”

This further victimization has prompted both the prosecution and defense to urge judges to bar the public from the case. The mass media coverage of it has brought more criticism to the victim and threatened the right of the defense to a fair trial. Potential witnesses are fearful of the implications if they were to speak up. The prosecution also worries the victim will lose her anonymity in the highly publicized but very sensitive, traumatic events.

Another massive conflict is the two alleged rapists are part of the massive and storied “Big Red” football team, and coaches have blamed her for making up the story just to shame the highly valued and glorified football program.

Only the two alleged perpetrators are being charged with the crimes, but many maintain everyone present should be be judged as aiding and abetting. Indeed, those spreading photos and comments via the media should be held as legally responsible.

Written by Claire Glass’15


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