Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Rape Culture Inside CNN. We Are All Steubenville Football Players Today.

Content Warning:  Sexual Violence

This, my friends is rape culture.  I have been sitting on the fence about the general validity of the term, for various reasons, but CNN's coverage of the guilty verdict in the Steubenville rape case certainly tells us something about CNN's own rape culture.

Do watch the video at Raw Story.

Then consider how a similar story would have been reported if the two young men had been accused of, say, armed burglary or the severe beating of someone or other crimes deemed as real.

Huffington Post has more on CNN's determination to focus its sympathy on the perpetrators of this crime.

I would be the last person to argue that one shouldn't feel sorry for those who have been found guilty of crimes.  The consequences to them, when caught, are awful.  As the CNN coverage states:

Candy then asked CNN legal contributor Paul Callan what the verdict meant for “a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds.”
“What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?” Crowley wondered.
“There’s always that moment of just — lives are destroyed,” Callan remarked. “But in terms of what happens now, 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.”
“That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

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?

There are rape victims who never quite recover, who never quite trust anyone enough to let them come close.  There are rape victims who, years later, have no feeling in the pelvic area.  There are rape victims who resort to narcotics to self-medicate or who spend years in therapy.  Whether this case is one of those is something I cannot tell, but the point CNN almost ignores is that at least one life could have been destroyed even before this case came to court at all.

This article is a good general introduction to the case.  This post  at Jezebel gives an example of the lack of support surrounding the rape and the great enjoyment at least one person present had in discussing it.  Warning, the video at Jezebel can be upsetting.  And it certainly gives one example of a rape culture.

Here is an early article about the events with more examples of what is hard to see as anything but a metaphoric further rape of the girl in social media.  Rape culture in action, that is.