If you’ve been anywhere near the news lately I’m sure you’re familiar with Steubenville. I’ve been blogging about the situation unfolding around the rape of a young girl last summer – the ensuing investigation, finger-pointing, Occupation, lawsuits, trial, convictions and public and media reactions – for six months now and the underlying issues just won’t go away.
I’m compelled to write today because of the recent controversy caused by tennis star Serena Williams’ comments in a Rolling Stone article and her subsequent apology. Serena Williams is the number-one tennis player in the world. In the article, she is described as “the most dominant figure in sports today”. I wonder about her sense of perspective from her now-priveliged position.
"Lots of my friends have been telling me lately that I’m spoiled," Serena says with a baffled look on her face. "And I’m like, ‘Really? I’m not spoiled.’"
Let’s take a look at what she actually said:
"Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know."
I was stunned to find out that the activist responsible for initiating #OpRollRedRoll – essentially a publicity campaign in support of the Steubenville Jane Doe – had been raided by a SWAT team and was under investigation by the FBI. Stunned, but perhaps not surprised.
The man known to me previously under various online aliases as KYAnonymous has since been named as Deric Lostutter, a 26-year-old from Winchester, Kentucky. According to his story, he potentially faces a sentence that could eclipse those being served by the rapists he helped to expose.
I choose my words carefully here because I do not want to perpetuate the myth that the rape only came to light through the alleged hacking exploits of KYAnonymous and JustBatCat (because it did not) or through Alexandria Goddard’s blogging (because it did not).
Yes, there was hacking: a website in connection with the local high-school football team was temporarily defaced then knocked offline; some email accounts (notably that of the fan website’s administrator, Jim Parks) were hacked and the contents leaked and publicised.
And yes, blogging and tweeting helped to spread awareness about the case and stimulated a global debate about rape culture with a focal point in the USA.
And now, Deric Lostutter is the first of the “good guys” to take a hit.
Again, I choose my words carefully here because I do not want to perpetuate the myth that there are “good guys” and “bad guys” when in fact there are simply people, who all do things that they and others perceive as being good or bad to varying degrees.
Rehtaeh Parsons – her name is Heather spelled backwards, a name her mother thought was pretty – was 15 years old when she was raped by four teenagers. After a year-long investigation, police concluded that there were no grounds to charge the four boys.
[One of Rehtaeh’s attackers] “denied being a rapist even though the photo shows him smiling as he has sex with Rehtaeh, who was 15 at the time, whilst she drunkenly vomits out of window.”
Rehtaeh’s mother said that one of her daughter’s accused rapists took a photo of the alleged assault, circulating it among friends. Rehtaeh became the center of vicious, relentless bullying when the photo went viral.
[The bullying] “lasted a staggering 17 months even though she switched schools and moved house.”
Rehtaeh hanged herself in her family’s bathroom on Thursday, April 4, after months of torment. At 11:15 PM on the evening of Sunday, April 7, her parents took her off life support.
Her father, Glen Canning, gave this statement on his blog:
"My daughter was three years old when we went to watch Babe: Pig in the City. There’s a part in the movie when Babe knocks over a goldfish bowl and the fish falls onto the floor and starts flopping around. When this happened Rae suddenly stood up on her chair in the movie theatre and started screaming for someone to help the fish. She cried for it as I tried to reassure her Babe would help (thank God he did) and that the fish would be alright.
Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a naturally occurring substance found in nearly all animal tissue, in some fruits, and in wine. It was first synthesised in the 1920s, it and was used as a general anaesthetic in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently it has been used by bodybuilders in the hope that it would promote fat reduction and muscle development, until being banned for sale as a supplement in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1990.
More commonly, it is known as a central nervous system depressant and date rape drug.
It has no odor, tastes slightly salty, and is almost undetectable when mixed in a drink.
“[TW: rape jokes] So here’s the real reason that rape jokes are troubled territory - Because rape victims say so. They get to say that. They get to feel that way. On this, they get to set the cultural rules. It’s not about right or wrong, or logic versus emotion, or arguments of over sensitivity or hypocrisy - you have the free speech to make whatever jokes you want or talk about rape in whatever way you feel is illuminating. But they get to be upset about it. And call you on it. And be hurt by it. But consider this: You get to not be a rape victim. They, however, are not afforded that luxury. Ever again.”
— Chuck Wendi
It is true that rape jokes are hurtful and upsetting for rape victims.
By understanding these reasons we can better understand what is and isn’t appropriate to joke about.
The “Steubenville rapists” started their sentences this week and we can all breathe a sigh of relief, right?
A small group of people with intimate knowledge of the events surrounding the rape believe that Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were victims of a conspiracy, if you will, or a revenge plot gone wrong, if you won’t.
A particularly tragic example of revenge gone wrong hit the headlines across the UK this week, with Mick Philpott being found guilty of manslaughter. His crime? He and his wife Mairead hatched and carried out a plan to set fire to their own home in an attempt to frame Mick’s former lover, Lisa Willis, who had walked out with their four children three months earlier. The fire started hours before Philpott was due to face Willis in court for a custody hearing. In the months prior, Philpott had spread rumours that Willis wanted to firebomb the house. The plan was for Philpott to rescue his children and for Willis to be prosecuted for arson but the carefully crafted revenge plot went horribly wrong, resulting in the deaths of five of Philpott’s own children and Mairead’s son from a previous marriage. They were assisted by Philpott’s best friend, Paul Mosley, who joined the couple in a threesome on the family snooker table mere hours before the children died.
These three did not get away with murder.
But those who might ultimately be responsible for setting in motion the tragic events that unfolded that August night in Steubenville may well still get away with rape…