It started at a back-to-school party on August 11, 2012 in the small town of Steubenville, Ohio. Innocent enough until two teenagers, both football players at the small town’s high school, allegedly raped an unconscious 16-year-old girl.
The two teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, both 16, reportedly raped the victim, who has not been identified, while she was drunk.
What happened next could be the key to charging both teens with the crime.
Partygoers instagrammed and tweeted about the attack, posting lewd comments about the victim and joking about the nature of the incident.
According to CNN, one of the Twitter accounts said:
“Song of the night is definitely “Rape Me” by Nirvana.”
Two days later, the incident was reported to the Steubenville police, and a few days later the boys were charged.
But details emerging about that night have been igniting the media and tearing the small football town apart.
May’s defense attorney, Adam Nemann, contends that the victim sent a text message to one of the teen boys that said the following:
“I know you didn’t rape me,” it read, according to Nemann. He declined to show CNN the message.
When asked why he thought the alleged victim might send such a message, Nemann answered: “Because I don’t think she thinks she was raped.”
The defense has asserted that the girl was conscious enough to consent to sex, but that text has yet to be confirmed. But when a photograph showing the teenagers carrying the limp body of the victim surfaced, a firestorm of protests started about the way the case was being handled.
According to CNN:
Robert Fitzsimmons, attorney for the alleged victim, declined to comment on the alleged message and the widely circulated photograph.
However, he stressed the girl was unconscious and cited a common saying: “A picture speaks a thousand words.”
The case hit a pinnacle when the activist hacker group, Anonymous, posted an unpublicized video of partygoers cracking jokes about the rape. Comments included the following:
“They raped her harder than that cop raped Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.”
“They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson raped that one girl.” (0:50 mark)
In response, the New York Times published an eight-page investigation into the assault in December about how social media has played an interesting role in the case. They also divulged disturbing details about the rape that were previously unpublicized.
Twitter posts, videos and photographs circulated by some who attended the night long set of parties suggested that an unconscious girl had been sexually assaulted over several hours while others watched. She even might have been urinated on.
Defense attorneys lashed back, saying that the social media content has been taken out of context.
The divide comes on the heels of many rape cases in the media, questioning society’s tolerance of rape and violence against women. Town residents have voiced concern, both on the side of the victim and of the alleged rapists. While some believe that the rape brings negative attention to the small town, others say that nothing would be done about the rape had it not gained national attention.
It is also worth noting that Steubenville, a city of about 18,000, dotes on its Big Red high school football team. Activists and protestors believe that the two teens are getting special treatment for the crime because they are football players. They also contend that while Mays and Richmond are clear suspects in the crime, others should also be charged for allowing the rape to take place.
That group — Anonymous — and other critics have accused community leaders of trying to paper over rampant misconduct by team members, and have suggested that other students took part in the assaults or failed to do enough stop them. Authorities have declined to say whether anyone else could be charged.
The group is enraged by the “cover-up” by the authorities and school officials in the town where “football is king.”
In an effort to sift through the information from the case, the police chief and City Manager Cath Davison set up a blog dedicated to “disseminate the most accurate information” about the case.
According to the LA Times:
The city’s blog also took the unusual step of distancing investigators from the video purporting to show students mocking the rape victim, at one point slipping into italics to mark its repugnance.
“Nothing in Ohio’s criminal statutes makes it a crime for someone to ridicule a rape victim on a video or otherwise say horrible things about another person,” the blog says. “Further, nothing in the law allows someone who says repugnant things on Twitter, Facebook or other Internet sites to be criminally charged for such statements. Steubenville Police investigators are caring humans who recoil and are repulsed by many of the things they observe during an investigation.”
Over the weekend more than 1,000 town residents gathered to protest the way the charges are being handled and to call for more charges to be brought against the teens in the video. Protests also focused on the social media aspect of the crime, prompting investigators to take a serious look at what role, if any, the teenagers had in the rape.
The Sheriff announced this weekend that no other arrests will be made.
Back in October, the victim’s mother said that she has been ostracized since the attack and she cries at night. No other information has been released about the victim.
The trial is set for Feb. 13.
Rape should certainly not be tolerated, no matter the clout that these football players have in their town. This story is developing.