The decision came down from Judge Lipps in Steubenville, OH yesterday: the defendants have both been found delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on two counts of rape, and one count of distributing nude pictures of a minor. As a result, the two young men will spend at least one year, up to their 21st birthdays in juvenile detention, with one spending an extra year for the count of distributing the nude photos.
The Defense That Didn’t Work
With a pile of damning texts from 17 different phones, and testimony from witnesses describing the victim’s state, the defense didn’t have too much going for it. So two things went on trial: first, the victim; then, the concept of active, cognizant consent. Luckily, neither of these approaches worked.
Attacking the victim’s character, dress, or actions is a common response among rape apologists, and a major contributor to rape culture. The fact that someone tried to present this bizarre concept as a legal argument is appalling. It’s a major understatement to say that I’m relieved it didn’t work. Because it doesn’t matter if I’m naked—that doesn’t justify rape. It doesn’t matter if I’m a drunk—that doesn’t justify rape. If people think I’m “slutty,” or I’ve been relentlessly flirting with someone—none of this stuff justifies rape.
And consent? The defense tried to claim that because the victim willingly went to a party with her perpetrators, had been expressing sexual interest in them at one point in time, and had drank alcohol of her own will, somehow that all added up to consent. Umm…what? They even admitted that she was “impaired” while the assaults happened, but claimed that impairment—definition: having weakened human function—somehow didn’t apply to her ability to consent to sexual contact. That’s some serious nonsensical rubbish, and now a judge has confirmed it as such. Thank goodness.
The lesson here: consent is real and required. Learn it. Teach it. Use it.
Did They Not Know it Was Rape?
No doubt the defendants knew what they were doing was wrong. Deplorable. Indefensible. But if they are anything like some witnesses in the case, they may not have recognized it was rape. According to Ohio state law, it was.
Interesting/horrible factoid? What happened to the victim may not be classified as rape in some states, because there was no sexual intercourse and rape definitions vary from state to state. Additionally, it seems like a lot of states don’t require a “yes,” only an absence of or inability to say “no.” (Though that would have been enough in this case, since the judge decided she was too intoxicated to give consent.) If we’re going to be able to ward off and punish rape in its many forms, we need to have a common definition of what it is in the first place. Click here to find out how rape is defined in your state. It might be time to contact your representative. It would be FABULOUS if each state adopted the FBI’s very thorough definition of rape.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I’m relieved to see the judge stood by common sense definitions of rape and consent, and acted accordingly. I’m still appalled by the actions of these young men, the witnesses of the rape, and especially the coaches of the defendants.
I hope from here two things spread: knowledge and fear. Knowledge about what is and isn’t rape. (And for that matter, knowledge about how not to be a douchy creep.) And fear that your actions have real and lasting consequences. And I hope that heady combination will keep at least some young people from growing up to be rapists.
More excellent stuff on the topic:
A petition to get high school coaches trained in and required to teach sexual violence prevention