The Steubenville Rape: A Fatherhood Issue

Gang rape is not just a problem in India.


Last summer, in a small town in Ohio, two teenage boys allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl who was intoxicated into oblivion.


The boys, accompanied by others members of the local Big Red football team who called themselves “The Rape Crew,” carried the girl to and from a series of drunken parties occurring in different homes.  There is speculation that she was slipped a date rape drug on the way to the first party - the victim has no memory of any events that happened after getting picked up.


After the victim and her parents reported the crimes, local law enforcement appeared reluctant to charge local athletic heroes for such callous acts; nine months later, only two boys have been prosecuted. Many members of the 19,000 person small town still say publicly that the female victim was to blame.


This is an old  and very sad story.  One that has happened too many times to recount, in India, the United States and around the world. Maybe it even happened to you or me.


Two quirks make Steubenville standout.


One, the rapists and the Rape Crew tweeted and posted comments, pictures and videos  on Facebook and Instagram about the sexual assaults, as they were occurring and in the days afterwards.  You’d think this would make criminal prosecution easier, especially because not reporting a crime, or using a computer or cell phone to transmit a nude or sexual image, are crimes themselves.


Not necessarily.


Two, a group of outraged hacktivisits, calling themselves Anonymous, followed the case closely.  In December, Anonymous reposted the tweets and Facebook comments, along with a list of the boys who had allegedly committed and witnessed the rapes.


Anonymous thus used technology to clarify the victim’s innocence and the perpetrators’ guilt, making even more public the acts these boys initially made public themselves.


Welcome to Sexual Assault 2.0, a world where cell phones and computers are used to further humiliate rape victims, and where the same cell phone and computer technology can be used to turn the tables against the victimizers.


The Steubenville rape, which I recently discussed on an NPR roundtable, makes clear that, even today, many people frame violence against women as a “women’s issue.”  Really?  When the vast majority of rapists are men and over 85% of violence against women is committed by men?


I call that a men’s issue.