Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CNN Report on Steubenville Rape Case Shows Sympathy for Rapists

Yesterday in Juvenile Court, Judge Thomas Lipps found two young men guilty of raping a young girl in Steubenville Ohio, and taking photos of her naked and spreading them round the internet. “In this case…um…you know…regarding the charges of rape, both defendents, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, are committed to the department of youth services for a minimum period of one year and a maximum period until you’re twenty-one.”

Three eyewitnesses testified against the accused. The first said he was in the car with the two boys and the girl. He saw Trent Mays use his fingers in sexual activity. He photographed it on his iPhone for a couple of minutes then deleted it the next morning. The second eyewitness said they drove the girl to a basement, where Ma’lik Richmond did a similar act, then took photos of her naked. The third eyewitness said the girl wasn’t talking, she wasn’t moving, so obviously she wasn’t participating. 

The girl woke up the next morning, still naked. That the eyewitnesses weren’t charged for complicity, and that nobody has even mentioned their wrong-doing is mind-boggling.

This incident has created huge debate and practically been tried on social media, with some, incredibly, actually believing the young men were innocent and others baying for their blood. CNN’s reportage of the judgment show quite blatantly on which side of the line they stood.Candy Crawley, on CNN, spoke with CNN reporter Poppy Harlow (the two pictured above), who has been covering the case.

I expected the focus of the judgment and CNN’s reporting on it to be about the details of the crime – that the boys carried her around like a pig, urinated on her, raped her, took photographs of her and put them on the internet - and about what that had done to the girl and her family, how she was coping. And whether the sentence was commensurate with what these two boys had done.

Candy Crawley introduced Poppy Harlow with “I cannot imagine…how emotional that must have been sitting there in the courtroom.” Emotional for who? The victim? As it happens, she was referring to the perpetrators and their families. This is what Poppy Harlow had to say in reply.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy.” She spoke about how moving the two young boys were, how they apologized with great heart, and broke down in tears. She showed a clip of them doing so. To my mind Trent Mays (who took the photos) he looked more scared than anything else. Ma’lik Richmond did seem truly remorseful, but it’s easy to be in floods of tears and say sorry when you’ve got caught and the whole world is watching you. There were no tears and there was no remorse before the court case.

More shocking than anything else was Poppy Harlow’s clear sympathy for the two boys who were football stars at their school, and whose careers, she said, were over. “They literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart…One of them, Malik Richmond…collapsed in the arms of his attorney…[saying] ‘my life is over, nobody is going to want me now’.”

That is not remorse about what you’ve done to your victim. It’s remorse that you got caught and have to pay the consequences. Which point eluded Poppy Harlow. She painted a very tragic and dramatic picture of the two poor boys and that they would carry the term “sexual offender” for life. Their plight and their ruined careers seemed to bother her more than what they had done, and what being raped, carried round like a pig, urinated on and having photos of it all spread around the internet did to the young girl and her family. In fact, Poppy didn’t even mention that part. And Candy Crawley didn’t point it out.

And this is the 21st century. Two empowered women, one of whom, Candy Crawley, has a lot of clout. She mediated one of the debates between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the run-up to the last election. 

Piers Morgan showed more sense. He discussed the case with Tracy Lords (the two are pictured above), who was raped at age 10, and who has spoken out about insanity of the debate. “Young kids” said Piers, by way of introduction, “do behave badly. I’m not going to carry on saying the same thing but they do behave in a ridiculous manner when they’re intoxicated. They all seem to be deeply regretful about what happened and the taking of pictures is a modern-day curse if you like. It’s what they all do. With everything. Do you have any sympathy for these two young boys?”

Tracy Lords replied “Absolutely not. They treated her like she was an animal. They [carried] her around like she’s a pig. They urinated on her. What they did, it’s hard for me to believe we’re even talking about children, it’s so ugly, it’s so…beyond…There’s zero respect…It’s our sisters, it’s our daughters, it’s our mothers. This conversation needs to become much louder…I want to be part of this conversation. Not only because it’s happened to me but because it needs to be screamed from the tallest buildings. This needs to stop.”

Savagery amongst young boys. The debate was mostly fuelled by the fact that the young girl was blind drunk. The argument is that girls mustn’t get drunk because guys might rape them. What about the argument that guys mustn’t get drunk because they might rape a girl? 

The culture that girls and women must take responsibility for themselves but boys and men don’t have to is still alive and kicking. It is tragic that boys are still growing up in it; that these two will carry a stain for the rest of their lives. But so will the girl.