After the Steubenville Trial: Pity the Poor Victimizers

cnnIf you’ve spent any time on social media today, you’ll have heard about the dreadful coverage of the Steubenville rape verdict by some news outlets and TV networks. The prime target of ire has been CNN, which focused attention right away on the two perpetrators who were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old young woman last summer rather than on the rape survivor. Here’s what CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow reported to CNN anchor Candy Crowley from Steubenville, right after the verdict was read.

I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional—incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.

One of—one of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to me, ‘My life is over. No one is going to want me now.’

But even that wasn’t enough sympathy for the guilty young men. Crowley “brought in” CNN legal contributor Paul Callan and asked him about the terrible emotional toll on the convicted rapists.

You know, Paul, a 16-year-old now just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, still sound like 16 year olds. The other one, 17. A 16-year-old victim.

The thing is, when you listen to it and you realize that they could stay [in juvenile jail] until they’re 21, they are going to get credit for time served. What’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Candy, we’ve seen here a courtroom drenched in tears and tragedy and, you know, Poppy’s description, I think, you know, sums it all up. But across America scenes like this happen all the time.

I know as a prosecutor and defense attorney, when that verdict is handed down, usually it’s just the family and families of the defendants and the victims, there’s always that moment of just lives are destroyed. And lives have already been destroyed by the crime. And we got a chance to see that.

But in terms of what happens now, yes, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law and, by the way, the laws in most other states now require such a designation in the face of such a serious crime.

That will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Employers, when looking up their background, will see they’re registered sex offender. When they move into a new neighborhood and somebody goes on the Internet where these things are posted. Neighbors will know they’re a registered sex offender.

It’s really something that will have a lasting impact. Much more of a lasting impact than going to a juvenile facility for one or two years.

Finally, Crowley remembers the young woman who was raped.

CROWLEY: Paul, thanks. I want to bring Poppy back in—because, Poppy, there’s—you know, the 16-year-old victim, her life, never the same, again. And I understand you have been talking to some of the families involved.

HARLOW: Her life never the same again. Absolutely, Candy. The last thing she wanted to do was sit on that stand and testify. She didn’t want to bring these charges. She said it was up to her parents.

But I want to tell our viewers about a statement that her mother just made, just made in the court after the sentencing. Her mother just said that she has pity on the two young boys that did this. She said human compassion is not taught by teachers or coaches. It’s a God-given gift, saying that you displayed a lack of compassion, a lack of moral code, saying that you were your own accuser throughout this for posting about this all over social media. And she said she takes pity on them.

The point made here wasn’t that the rape survivor and her family might be haunted and scarred by this experience–which was shockingly publicized with photographs and vile tweets on social media–but that she supposedly didn’t want to press charges. And that she, too–like the newscasters–feels such pity for the young men.

Several petitions have now been circulated demanding that CNN apologize for this perpetrator-centered coverage–which many have called an example of rape culture at work–including this petition from Change.org.

The Steubenville story is hardly over. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced he will continue investigating the case, considering charges against those who watched or became aware of last summer’s attack but failed to speak up. That could include other teens, parents, school officials and coaches for the high school’s football team. Stay tuned.

Photo of CNN center in Atlanta by Flickr user tanjila under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. These people are not journalists. There are graduates just out of school now with more awareness, sensibility, and understanding than these fools. It’s astounding that CNN has not fired these people.

    • Brian Patrick O'Gorman says:

      Mr. Waldman,
      I, too, have noticed a serious lack of professionalism overall in the media. However, I believe that the problem is institutional rather than based on corporation. ALL of the major media outlets seem to cater to one group or another. But in this case, I believe that the lack of insight is due to the quality of individual as you stated. However, I think that for obvious reasons, you can’t have your “Star Reporter” on every single story. Sometimes, you must send the photographer trying for the promotion. Yes. Horrible reporting. But with other things going on, can you really blame them?

    • Well put, George. I thought the very same thing. They don’t even understand what their job is.

  2. I am so sickened by the news media and rape culture. These young men were not “labeled” as sex offenders. They ARE sex offenders. I followed this story yesterday and somehow missed that CNN brought in a defense attorney to lament these boys’ ruined futures. Why isn’t there a psychologist discussing the emotional and psychological toll for the victim? Why aren’t they talking about what’s wrong with a culture that sends death threats to a young victim of sexual assault? Why aren’t they reporting on rape statistics across the country? I’ll tell you why. Patriarchy. It’s disgusting.

  3. Dear Ms., Where were you for this trial? This was a monumental case for teenage girls that were raped. Do you know how many are coming out now about their rapes? There was no presence for that girl except for Anonymous and a few locals and women that came from other states to support her, because they were not supported. There were only two women from OAESV and NSVRC. Women’s groups and supporters were no where to be found.
    So CNN may be a joke as far as a news source but you are just as big of a let down.
    And thanks for missing the rape in the military issue as well.
    theusmarinesrapecom

    • We’ve had about 5 blog posts on the Steubenville rape and trial. We’ve extensively covered rape in the military in Ms. magazine and on the blog and will have another post up about it quite soon.

  4. Not true, George. Candy Crowley is a journalist with 20+ years of experience. Recall the hoopla when she was selected to moderate one of the presidential debates last year. In fact, that hoopla (a female moderator! Oh, and ah!) makes her complete FAIL here even worse.

  5. Edith Ayala says:

    These young men actually ruined their own future, when they took the decision in their sound mind, to commit such acts. The issue here is not what future they were pursuing, instead they chose to sacrifice that future, to injure and violate this young woman’s physical and emotional well being. Would their parents approve of this, if they had been victims of any type of violation. Unfortunately they themselves were not worthy of a future, if they preferred to harm someone, rather than controlling their lust, without taking into consideration their future or the harm they were causing another human being. These acts are outrageous, from any human being, and thus proves these young men were not focused on their future but rather were spoiled and had little values, which would manifest in this act or any other act of violence in the future. They got what they deserved. What about this young lady? Even though these young men get sentenced, nothing is forever going to erase from her mind, that fatal event. Which will haunt her forever. So they did not only destroy this girls emotional health and future, but their own along, with this terrible actions they manifested. And the media should be more responsible, on how they address such a delicate matter, focusing on the victim and not the perpetrator, cause this young girl, could of been their own daughter. Who is the victim here? I believe they should be supporting the victim and the offenders, regardless of their age or social status, they were the offenders and put themselves in that position. If reporters are going to support offenders because of a social status, where is society headed. Another words, poor young men and what about the victim. They made a choice to act violently and brake the law and violate another human beings human rights and reporters are taking their side, like they are the victims here. This totally unethical and unacceptable. They should be removed from their positions, since they are not ethical at all.

  6. When I signed that Change.org petition yesterday, there were 25K signatures. I just took a look and saw that there are over 128K now! Can we dare hope that CNN will pay attention??

  7. Rockerbabe says:

    While I do not condone rape or other violence against anyone, this young girl was beyond stupid and reckless with her own life. Any sixteen year old who gets stinking, falling down drunk gets what they gets and, even in the company of “friends”, letting one’s self go to this extreme is bound to meet with unwelcome as well as tragic circumstances. Minor children should have be charged with underage drinking and even public drunkenness for their part in making themselves so vulnerable as to invite this type of violence into their lives. There is no excuse for this type of conduct from a minor child and certainly not from an adult. All actions have consequences and hopefully, this young woman will not put herself in this position again.

    As for the young men who raped her, well, maybe they should look seriously as their attitudes towards drinking and females in general. I’m sure they will have plenty time in jail to contemplate their actions and the consequences.

    • Excuse me, but any human, male or female, should not be afraid of bodily harm while intoxicated. I get so damn tired of these excuses for rape. No one should fear being violated, period.

  8. “Any sixteen year old who gets stinking, falling down drunk gets what they gets and, even in the company of “friends””

    “gets what they gets” & “even in the company of “friends”"

    It almost sounds like you consider “forced sex,” you know, ‘rape,’ acceptable under “certain” circumstances, even though you started with, “While I do not condone rape or other violence against anyone.” Maybe you should get into detail with those two troubling parts of your quote.

    • Rockerbabe says:

      You seem to not understand the law of unintended consequences. All people do things that have not been will thought out and since we do not live in utopia, one has to take responsibility for the decisions one makes. The boys have been convicted and will do time for their gross error in judgement. Now, what has t he victim learned? Is she going to continue to get drunk and act in a reckless manner? Or is she going to get sober, stay sober and learn from her mistakes? There is nothing troubling about my comments. If more women would just exercise a bit of good judgement and not temp fate [even when they think they are safe and can get away with bad behavior], then a lot of the violence that women experience would not be visited upon them. I learned years ago to not drink when I repeatedly observed my alcoholic father loose control and say things he did not mean. It eventually cost him a much needed job. I have seem friends who where there own worst enemy and just would not listen. The continued with their provocative and often destructive ways and found themselves at the mercy of a not so nice person. If this young girl in Ohio was not falling down stinking drunk, she most likely would not have been raped . . . She needs to “woman up” and take responsibility for her actions in all situation and not rely on “friends” to shield her from her own bad behavior.

      • You cannot be serious. Rape is NEVER a “consequence”. It’s a CRIME. Your rationale is pathetic. Do you blame people who are walking out in the dark for being held up because they were out “at the wrong time and in the dark”? Or are they a victim of a crime? I’m sorry that you come from an abusive household but that is not an excuse to bash rape victims and tell them to “woman up”. We are NOT responsible for a perpetrator’s bad behavior when we are the victim of a crime, period.

      • I hope, for your sake, you never do anything foolish and end up in a “compromised” situation where someone can harm you or your loved ones.

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