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There is More Than One Victim in Steubenville

8 Sep

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily convey the opinions of They are the independent thoughts of a writer who chose to remain anonymous.

Jane Doe of Weirton, West Virginia went to the wrong party in Steubenville, Ohio last summer. She attended a gathering where her ex-boyfriend was partying with one of the guys she trusted and thought that she would be safe. But, she had a little too much to drink, and then she blacked out until she was on her way home shoeless to her mother’s house. She had no explanation for how drunk she was or why she did not remember anything from the night. After two days of unanswered questions from her mother, multiple scoldings and derogatory comments from her friends, and the discovery of a plethora of embarrassing, lewd pictures of herself on the internet, Jane Doe and her parents went to the police to file claims of sexual assault against multiple boys at the party. Those boys were members of the Steubenville football program.

Jane Doe does not remember most of the night in question. She remembers drinking a mixed drink and a red Smirnoff Ice in a red Solo cup. But, then started to feel funny. She said that she felt more drunk than she normally would feel with that amount of alcohol. She followed Travis Mays, the football player who she was interested in and who she trusted to another party. That was the last thing that she remembered before she woke up surrounded by three other boys in an unfamiliar basement. She got up to get dressed, but no one could find her phone or her underwear. Jane Doe’s last memory of the night was being helped out of the party by two of her friends while they yelled at her for the horrible behavior that she did not remember engaging in the night before.

Unfortunately, this rape case has become a trial of two separate stories, the aforementioned summary of the events given by Jane Doe herself and one witness who is a member of the football team, and the succeeding assessment of the incident given in trial.

A few facts have been corroborated by witnesses in this case. Members of the Steubenville football team called themselves the “Rape Crew”. Travis Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were a part of this crew, and were seen inappropriately touching Jane Doe at the party. Mays exposed himself and Jane Doe on several different occasions, and was seen publicly penetrating her with his fingers. Richmond was also seen publicly penetrating Jane Doe with his fingers. At some point, Jane Doe became unresponsive and she was carried from several locations and exposed by the boys to people at the parties. There is no DNA evidence linking Mays and Richmond to the crime because no rape kit was taken. There are pictures that indict Mays and Richmond, however some of them are inadmissible in court because of how they were obtained. And finally, though these two kids were prosecuted by the law, several other kids participated in and stood by idly as these events occurred.

The Steubenville community is a tight-knit football town, and everyone in the community follows the Big Red program. Players drive the morale of the city. The town goes as the football team goes, and Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were the star quarterback and wide receiver for the team before this whole mess. The behavior of Mays and Richmond were deplorable and punishable by law, however in this case the punishment may be more harsh than the crime. There are so many issues with this case. Where were the adults of this community when this was happening? How did these children get so much alcohol? Did Jane Doe and the boys talk about having sex before she got drunk? Did any sexual activity happen before she became drunk? Would she admit to the prior sexual activity if it had happened? How drunk were the boys? Why did Jane Doe take two days to come forward (after goading from the police and pressure from her parents)? Why didn’t any of the kids stop this if so many thought it was wrong (sounds like people are trying to say the appropriate thing after a tragedy)?Is it fair to blame two children for the actions of multiple kids? Does the behavior of these kids warrant punishment for the rest of their lives (considering the lack of evidence)?

This is the overall tone of all the residents of Steubenville.

All of the above questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Though the boys are definitely guilty of substantial wrong-doing against Jane Doe, does calling themselves the “Rape Crew” preclude their innocence in this case? Adolescent boys say crass, inappropriate things about themselves and each other constantly. They call each other names. They say things amongst themselves that should never be said, and most adults would be shocked at what they heard in a boy’s locker room in a high school. None of these Steubenville kids were ever accused of anything remotely violent or abusive towards women prior to this incident. None of them had given any signs of being capable of the crime of which they are accused. Does any of this excuse their actions? Absolutely not. But, it should give some perspective. This incident is not the work of a crew of predators who stalked and violated a young woman. This is what happens you have inebriated, unsupervised children who have access to cars, access to private rooms, and have social media at their fingertips. The Steubenville case could not have happened just ten years ago. Camera phones and social media have given people access to candid moments that could not be publicly exposed at any other time in history. Pictures, opinions, and any other type of information, good or bad,  is on the world wide web within moments of it happening. And, kids rarely make proper judgements with their social media. Once the indecent pictures of Jane Doe were seen by her mother, the police were notified. Before the police were involved, Jane Doe allegedly had not given her mother a full explanation of the night’s events. Her hesitance to divulge what she could remember about the night could have been for a few distinct reasons. Jane Doe’s silence could have been caused by her own embarrassment about the rape (which is completely normal in rape cases), her embarrassment about the pictures, or her embarrassment about her actions. What solid proof do we have that Jane Doe was not at some point willing to have sex with these boys? No physical evidence points to rape. The only pictures that are posted on the internet show her fully clothed though she is being carried by two young men. Every year in urban and suburban areas of big cities, there are stories of young women in high schools and colleges who slept with multiple members of a local sports team at the same time. It is possible that she planned to have sex with them before things spun out of control. This scenario is fully conjecture and does not excuse the behavior of Mays or Richmond, but no one has the specifics about what was discussed between Jane Doe and the boys. Though they treated Jane Doe terribly and acted unconscionably, it may not be just to punish them for the rest of their lives for actions that may have been misconstrued. How many people are punished for the rest of their lives for a single bad act that they committed at the age of 16? These kids will have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. They will not be able to find stable jobs because of the events in Steubenville. Lists of sex offenders become public record. They will be ostracized for the rest of their lives for a mistake that they made in high school. The repercussions of this alleged sexual assault (whether it is completely founded or not) will dictate the paths of these two young men throughout their lives.

This article was not written to sympathize with rapists, to punish the victim of a rape, to be dismissive of a young victims claims, to make excuses for the kids’ terrible decisions, or to question the consequences of their actions. The bottom line is that these committed a crime that carries certain penalties, and they must punished. But, there is more than one victim of this crime. And, in a cruel twist of fate, the perpetrators of this indecency are also casualties of it.

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