Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Stuebenville Rape Case...and Ultrarunning

Many people have been following the case in Stuebenville, WV, where two teenage football stars were just found guilty of raping a 16-year old girl.  The case involved alcohol, posting nude photos on the Internet, a culture of conspiracy to excuse and cover up, ruined lives, etc.  All in all, a sad case.  You can read more about the details here if you wish.

But one of the saddest upshots of the case is how it highlights what many feminist writers have been calling a culture of rape and how society treats this crime in a different manner than other crimes.

A great example is Echidne's blog and her posts of 19 March and 17 March.  She provides the following summary graphic, which illustrates the culture of rape skewed to focus more on the "ruined lives" of the football players than the assaulted young lady.  And an observation:

...think whether such things would be reported about someone who got his wallet stolen while inebriated, or about his hypothetical young attackers.

Let me repeat that in italics so you can appreciate the skewed viewpoint:

...think whether such things would be reported about someone who got his wallet stolen while inebriated, or about his hypothetical young attackers.
Here's a more detailed discussion by Echidne of the subtle and not-so-subtle aspects of rape culture:
But note that the rape didn't somehow grab these young men or force them to act in a certain way. They did it. Just as young men sometimes commit burglaries or robberies. A rape is a crime. But the way CNN approached it was qualitatively different from how they would cover the sentencing of a teenager who, say, robbed a bank. We would not then hear how a young life is ruined and so on.

I can see no reason for the difference except for something which must be called a rape culture. A rape is not deemed a serious enough crime for the punishment the two young men received, despite the fact that the actual punishment ranged from one to two years; not a terribly heavy sentence.

Indeed, underneath this treatment squirms something truly nasty: The idea that these school athletes shouldn't have been taken to court at all, that the crime they committed cannot justify the sentence they were given. That they should have been forgiven for the greater good. Which does not apparently include rape victims.

I also get that CNN wants to pull all the emotional strings it can, for the sake of those viewership figures, and because the victim is unavailable those emotions must be obtained in other ways. But something really is wrong when we are asked to extend our sympathies to those found guilty with only a fleeting comment about the victim's life, too, having been severely damaged if not ruined, and that in the hands of the two football players, not as a consequence of the crime they themselves committed.

And what about the victim and our sympathies for her? Will she be perfectly fine tomorrow morning? Did CNN report that her mother earlier told how her daughter stays in her room, doesn't want to go to school and cries herself to sleep, night after night? That her daughter feels alone, except for her family, and ostracized?
As a male, unless I consciously think about it, I never have to be concerned about my personal safety when I do my running excursions into the backcountry.  It's simply not a risk I must worry about...unlike my female counterparts.  But as a husband, father and grandfather, it has to be on my radar screen, because I'm concerned about the safety of my loved ones when it comes to this topic of rape. 
Part of that concern must now necessarily focus on how society views the crime, because that's obviously part of the problem (I've previously blogged about rape a couple times, here and here).

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